Monte Walsh (1970 film)

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Monte Walsh
Monte Walsh VideoCover.jpeg
Directed by William A. Fraker
Produced by Hal Landers
Bobby Roberts
Written by David Zelag Goodman
Lukas Heller
Starring Lee Marvin
Jack Palance
Music by John Barry
Cinematography David M. Walsh
Edited by Richard K. Brockway
Ray Daniels
Distributed by National General Pictures
Release dates
  • October 7, 1970 (1970-10-07)
Running time
106 min.
Country United States
Language English

Monte Walsh is taken from the title of a 1963 western novel by Jack Schaefer. The movie has little to do with the plot of Schaefer's book. It was directed in 1970 by cinematographer William A. Fraker in his directorial debut, and starred Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau and Jack Palance. The movie was set in Harmony, Arizona. A made-for-TV remake was set in Wyoming and directed by Simon Wincer, with Tom Selleck and Isabella Rossellini playing the parts of Monte and Martine. The story has elements of a tragedy.


Monte Walsh (Lee Marvin) is an aging cowboy facing the final days of the Wild West era. He and his friend Chet Rollins (Jack Palance), another longtime cowhand, work at whatever ranch work comes their way, but "nothing they can't do from a horse". Their lives are divided between months on the range and the occasional trip into town. Camaraderie and competition with the other cowboys fill their days. They seek work and take a job at the ranch of Cal Brennan (Jim Davis), where they meet an old friend, Shorty Austin (Mitchell Ryan), another ranch hand.

Monte has a long-term relationship with an old flame, prostitute and saloon girl Martine Bernard (Jeanne Moreau), who suffers from tuberculosis. Chet, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Mary Eagle (Allyn Ann McLerie), a widow who owns a hardware store. As barbed wire and railways steadily eliminate the need for the cowboy, Monte and his friends are left with fewer and fewer options. New work opportunities are available to them, but the freedom of the open prairie is what they long for. Shorty loses his job and gets involved in rustling and killing, gunning down a local lawman. Then Monte and Chet find that their lives on the range are inexorably redirected.

Chet marries Mary and goes to work in the store, telling Monte that their old way of life is simply disappearing. Caught up in the spirit of the moment, Monte asks Martine to marry him, and she accepts. Monte goes on a drinking binge and rides a wild horse through town. A rodeo owner, Colonel Wilson (Eric Christmas), sees him and offers him a job. Monte considers the high salary, but decides the work is too degrading and refuses. Eventually, they all must say goodbye to the lives they knew, and try to make a new start. When Shorty shoots and kills Chet while trying to rob the store, Monte, distraught after the death of his beloved Martine, goes after him.

Shorty arrives and Monte chases him. Shorty shoots Monte, but runs off when the shot only hits his arm. Monte then manages to slip around Shorty and shoots him. As Shorty is dying, Monte tells him that he rode the wild horse.


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