Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Anspaugh|
|Produced by||Carter De Haven
|Written by||Angelo Pizzo|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||C. Timothy O'Meara|
De Haven Productions
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh. It tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It is loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 state championship.
Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a new coach with a spotty past. The film co-stars Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, whose role as the basketball-loving town drunk earned him an Oscar nomination. Jerry Goldsmith was also nominated for an Academy Award for his score.
Norman Dale arrives in the rural Indiana town of Hickory to be a high school teacher and basketball coach. He is a hire of Cletus, the Hickory principal and a longtime friend. He had lost a previous collegiate coaching position after striking a student, so the job is something of a last chance.
Like much of the state, Hickory's community is passionate about basketball. Dale is questioned rather pointedly and intensely at an impromptu meeting at the town barbershop. People are aware that the best player in town, Jimmy Chitwood, does not intend to play on this season's team due to his attachment to the previous coach. Faculty member Myra Fleener warns Dale not to try to persuade Jimmy to change his mind; she believes he needs to focus on school work in order to get a scholarship to attend college and have a better future. Dale has no intention of going after Jimmy; in fact, Dale meets with Jimmy and tells him that playing on the team is ultimately his choice and that he doesn't care if Jimmy eventually joins the team or not.
The school enrollment is so small that Dale has only seven players on his squad. At his first practice, Dale immediately dismisses the acting coach, one of the townsmen. The man threatens Dale not to "screw up" the team. Minutes into addressing the players for the first time, he dismisses two, Buddy Walker and Whit Butcher, from the team for not paying attention when he speaks. He then begins drilling the remaining five players (Rade Butcher, Merle Webb, Everett Flatch, Strap Purl, and Ollie McLellan) with fundamentals and conditioning but no scrimmages, much to the players' dislike. Townsmen intrude the practice and demand to know what Dale is doing. Whit's father intervenes, however, and makes his son apologize to Dale and ask for another chance. Mr. Butcher then shows his support of Dale by dismissing the townsmen. Later, Mr. Butcher will join Dale on the bench.
Built on a four-pass offense, Dale remains steadfast when Rade Butcher disobeys him and shoots without passing, keeping him on the bench and playing with four players after another fouls out. Rade later jumps to Dale's defense in an ensuing game when an opposing player threatens him. After the brawl, Cletus, who has been assisting Dale in coaching, decides his heart cannot take the tension.
The coach alienates the community with a slow, defensive style that does not immediately produce results and also by losing his temper, which causes him to be ejected from more than one game.
With Cletus laid up, Dale invites knowledgeable basketball fan Shooter Flatch, the alcoholic father of Everett, to join him on the bench as a new assistant. This, too, confounds the town, including Everett. The coach has just one condition, that Shooter must be sober at all times around the boys.
By the middle of the season, an emergency town meeting is called to vote on whether Dale should be dismissed. Fleener appreciates the coach's staying away from Jimmy and sides with him, but the town votes him out. At the last minute, Jimmy enters the meeting and asks permission to speak: he says he's ready to begin playing basketball again, but only if Dale remains as coach. Fleener's mother calls for a re-vote, and the town almost unanimously votes for Dale to stay as coach.
From this point, Hickory becomes an unstoppable team. Along the way, Dale proves Shooter's value to the townspeople (and to Shooter himself) by intentionally getting himself ejected from a game and forcing Shooter to show his coaching ability. Shooter does just that by diagramming a play by which Hickory wins the game on a last-second shot. Despite a setback in which Shooter arrives drunk to a game and ends up in a hospital, the team advances through tournament play, with contributions from unsung players, such as the pint-sized Ollie and devoutly religious Strap.
Hickory shocks the state by reaching the state championship game. In a large arena and before a crowd bigger than any they've seen, the Hickory players face long odds to defeat a team from South Bend, whose players are taller and more athletic. But with Chitwood scoring at the last second, tiny Hickory takes home the 1952 Indiana state championship.
- Gene Hackman as Norman Dale
- Barbara Hershey as Myra Fleener
- Dennis Hopper as Shooter Flatch
- Sheb Wooley as Cletus
- Maris Valainis as Jimmy Chitwood
- Brad Long as Buddy Walker
- Steve Hollar as Rade Butcher
- David Neidorf as Everett Flatch
- Kent Poole as Merle Webb
- Brad Boyle as Whit Butcher
- Scott Summers as Strap Purl
- Wade Schenck as Ollie McLellan
- Fern Persons as Opal Fleener
- Hiliard Gates as announcer(he also announced the 1954 Milan championship game)
The film is very loosely based on the story of the 1954 Indiana state champions, Milan High School (// MY-lən), but the term "inspired by a true story" may be more appropriate, as there was little the two teams had in common.
In most U.S. states, high school athletic teams are divided into different classes, usually based on the number of enrolled students, with separate state championship tournaments held for each classification. At the time, Indiana conducted a single state basketball championship for all of its high schools, and continued to do so until 1997.
Some elements of the film do match closely with those of Milan's real story. Like the movie's Hickory High School, Milan was a very small high school in a rural, southern Indiana town. Both schools had undersized teams. Both Hickory and Milan won the state finals by two points: Hickory won 42–40, and Milan won 32–30. The final seconds of the Hoosiers state final hold fairly closely to the details of Milan's 1954 final; the final shot in the movie was taken from virtually the same spot on the floor as Bobby Plump's actual game-winner. The movie's final game was shot in the same building that hosted the 1954 Indiana final, Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse (called Butler Fieldhouse in 1954) in Indianapolis.
Certain aspects of the film obfuscate the racial reality of 1950s small-town southern Indiana and its many sundown towns.
As one Indiana resident relates, "All southern Hoosiers laughed at the movie called Hoosiers because the movie depicts blacks playing basketball and sitting in the stands at games in Jasper. We all agreed no blacks were permitted until probably the '60s and do not feel welcome today." A cheerleader for a predominantly white, but interracial Evansville high school, tells of having rocks thrown at their school bus as they sped out of Jasper after a basketball game in about 1975, more than 20 years after the events depicted so inaccurately in Hoosiers. - Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen
African-American students sitting in integrated bleachers at home or visiting school gymnasiums in Southern Indiana towns before the 1950s was a rarity if not entirely fictional. Afro-American barnstorming basketball players did appear in Jasper gyms long before the 1950s. The professional New York Renaissance lost a game to the host Jasper Coca-Colas in 1936. Legendary Southern Indiana black basketball pioneer David "Big Dave" DeJernett took his integrated barnstorming ICC AllStars to Jasper for a 1935 game against the Cokes, splitting a home-and-away series.
During filming on location at Hinkle Fieldhouse, directors were unable to secure enough extras for shooting the final scenes even after casting calls through the Indianapolis media. To help fill the stands, they invited two local high schools to move a game to the Fieldhouse. Broad Ripple and Chatard, the alma mater of Maris Valainis who played the role of Jimmy Chitwood, obliged, and crowd shots were filmed during their actual game. Fans of both schools came out in period costumes to serve as extras and to supplement the hundreds of locals who had answered the call. At halftime and following the game, actors took to the court to shoot footage of the state championship scenes, including the game-winning shot by Hickory.
Speculation exists that the character of Norman Dale was named for Norm Ellenberger, whose middle name is Dale. A longtime college assistant coach, he once played basketball for coach Tony Hinkle at Butler.
The film's producers chose New Richmond to serve as the fictional town of Hickory, and recorded most of the film's location shots in and around the community. Signs on the roads into New Richmond still recall its role in the film. In addition, the old schoolhouse in Nineveh was used for the majority of the classroom scenes and many other scenes throughout the movie.
The home court of Hickory is located in Knightstown and is now known as the "Hoosier Gym."
Pizzo and Anspaugh shopped the script for two years before they finally found investment for the project. Despite this seeming approval, the financiers only approved a production budget of $6 million, forcing the crew to hire most of the cast playing the Hickory basketball team and many of the extras from the local community around New Richmond. Gene Hackman also predicted that the movie was going to be a "career killer." Despite the small budget, dire predictions, and little help from distributor Orion Pictures, Hoosiers grossed over $28 million and received two Oscar nominations (Dennis Hopper for Best Supporting Actor and Jerry Goldsmith for Best Original Score).
|Hoosiers (Best Shot)|
|Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith|
The music to Hoosiers was written by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith used a hybrid of orchestral and electronic elements in juxtaposition to the 1950s setting to score the film. He also helped tie the music to the movie by using recorded hits of basketballs on a gymnasium floor to serve as additional percussion sounds. Washington Post film critic Paul Attanasio praised the soundtrack, writing, "And it's marvelously (and innovatively) scored (by composer Jerry Goldsmith), who weaves together electronics with symphonic effects to create a sense of the rhythmic energy of basketball within a traditional setting.
The score would go on to garner Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score, though he ultimately lost to Herbie Hancock for Round Midnight. Goldsmith would later work with filmmakers Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh again on their successful 1993 sports film Rudy.
Until 2012, the soundtrack was primarily available under the European title Best Shot, with several of the film's cues not included on the album.
Track listing (1987 release):
- "Best Shot (Theme from Hoosiers)" - 4:25
- "You Did Good" - 7:02
- "Coach Stays" - 2:42
- "Pivot" - 3:29
- "Get the Ball" - 1:49
- "Town Meeting" - 4:47
- "Finals" - 15:19
|Hoosiers (Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith|
Track listing (2012 release):
- Theme From Hoosiers - 4:02
- Main Title - Welcome To Hickory - 3:47
- Chester - 1:23
- First Workout - 1:55
- Get It Up
- You Did Good
- No More Basketball
- Town Meeting
- The Coach Stays
- The Pivot
- Get The Ball
- Last Foul
- Free Shot
- Someone I Know
- Empty Inside
- The Gym
- The Finals
Hoosiers received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 88% based on reviews from 43 critics, with an average score of 7.5/10. The critical consensus is that "it may adhere to the sports underdog formula, but Hoosiers has been made with such loving craft, and features such excellent performances, that it's hard to resist."
special is not its story, however, but its details and its characters. Angelo Pizzo, who wrote the original screenplay, knows small-town sports. He knows all about high school politics and how the school board and the parents' groups always think they know more about basketball than the coach does. He knows about gossip, scandal and vengeance. And he knows a lot about human nature. All of his knowledge, however, would be pointless without Hackman's great performance at the center of this movie. Hackman is gifted at combining likability with complexity — two qualities that usually don't go together in the movies. He projects all of the single-mindedness of any good coach, but then he contains other dimensions, and we learn about the scandal in his past that led him to this one-horse town. David Anspaugh's direction is good at suggesting Hackman's complexity without belaboring it.
Ebert closed his review with the comment, "It's a movie that is all heart."
The New York Times' Janet Maslin echoed Ebert's sentiments, writing, "This film's very lack of surprise and sophistication accounts for a lot of its considerable charm." Washington Post critics Rita Kempley and Paul Attanasio both enjoyed the film, despite its perceived sentimentalism and lack of originality. Kempley wrote, "Even though we've seen it all before, Hoosiers scores big by staying small." Attanasio pointed out some problems with the film: "some klutzy glitches in continuity, and a love story (between Hackman and a sterile, one-note Barbara Hershey) that goes nowhere. The action photography flattens the visual excitement of basketball (you can imagine what a Scorsese would do with it);" but he noted the film's "enormous craftsmanship accumulates till you're actually seduced into believing all its Pepperidge Farm buncombe. That's quite an achievement."
Time magazine's Richard Schickel praised the performance of Gene Hackman, writing that he was "wonderful as an inarticulate man tense with the struggle to curb a flaring, mysterious anger." And Variety wrote that the "pic belongs to Hackman, but Dennis Hopper gets another opportunity to put in a showy turn as a local misfit."
Pat Graham of the Chicago Reader was the rare dissenter, writing of the film that "Director David Anspaugh seems only marginally concerned with basketball thematics: what matters most is feeding white-bread fantasies (the film is set in the slow-footed 50s, when blacks are only a rumor and nobody's ever heard of slam 'n' jam) and laying on the inspirational corn.... Bobby Knight would not be amused, though Tark the Shark might've had a good laugh at the naive masquerade."
Awards and honors
Hoosiers was ranked number 13 by the American Film Institute on its 100 Years... 100 Cheers list of most inspirational films. The film was the choice of the readers of USA Today as the best sports movie of all time. In 2001, Hoosiers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten" — the best ten films in ten classic American film genres — after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Hoosiers was acknowledged as the fourth best film in the sports genre.
A museum to commemorate the real life achievements of the 1954 Milan team has been established.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers - #13
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - #4 Sports Film
- Review: "Touchback" is an inspiring drama that will make you smile. WOOD-TV. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
- "Hoosiers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
- Merron, Jeff. "'Hoosiers' in reel life". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- "The 1954 Milan Indians The Real "Hoosiers"". Sports Hollywood. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- Sundown Towns - A Hidden Dimension Of American Racism by James W. Loewen, pg. 196
- "Cokes Down Renaissance; Celtics Next". Jasper Herald (Jasper, Indiana). 13 January 1936.
- "Big Dave's AllStars Capture Contest, 40-35". Democrat (Washington, Indiana). 29 March 1935.
- ESPN the Magazine Movie Spectacular - An oral history of "Hoosiers," an iconic sports movie - ESPN
- Hoosiers soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com
- Attanasio, Paul. "Hoosiers," Washington Post (Feb. 27, 1987).
- Hoosiers soundtrack listing at Intrada.com
- "Hoosiers (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- Ebert, Roger. "Hoosiers," Chicago Sun-Times (Feb. 27, 1987).
- Maslin, Janet. "Film: Gene Hackman as a Coach in 'Hoosiers,'" New York Times (Feb. 27, 1987).
- Kempley, Rita. "Hoosiers," Washington Post (Feb. 27, 1987).
- Schickel, Richard. "Cinema: Knight-Errant Hoosiers," Time (Feb. 9, 1987).
- Variety Staff. "Hoosiers," Variety (Dec. 31, 1985).
- Graham, Pat. "Hoosiers," Chicago Reader. Accessed Mar. 27, 2012.
- "Best Sports Movies of All Time". Moviefone. March 23, 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "The 25 Greatest Sports Movies Ever". New York: NY Daily News. May 29, 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "Page 2's Top 20 Sports Movies of All-Time". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "The 50 Greatest Sports Movies Of All Time!". Sports Illustrated. August 4, 2003. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "Greatest Sports Films". FilmSite.org. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "Top Sports Movies - Hoosiers - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- Shulman, Calvin; Kidd, Patrick (February 13, 2008). "The 50 greatest sporting moviess". London: The Times. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- American Film Institute (2008-06-17). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- "Librarian of Congress Names 25 More Films to National Film Registry" (Press release). Library of Congress. December 18, 2001. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
- "Top 10 Sports". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "Milan '54 Museum". Milan '54 Museum, Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot