The Frisco Kid

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the 1935 western film starring James Cagney, see Frisco Kid.
The Frisco Kid
Frisco kid ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Mace Neufeld
Written by Michael Elias
Frank Shaw
Starring Gene Wilder
Harrison Ford
Ramon Bieri
Val Bisoglio
George DiCenzo
Music by Frank De Vol
Cinematography Robert B. Hauser
Edited by Jack Horger
Irving Rosenblum
Maury Winetrobe
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 13, 1979 (1979-07-13)
Running time 119 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9.2 million[1]
Box office $9.6 Million[2]

The Frisco Kid is a 1979 movie directed by Robert Aldrich. The movie is a Western comedy featuring Gene Wilder as Avram Belinski, a Polish rabbi who is traveling to San Francisco, and Harrison Ford as a bank robber who befriends him.


Rabbi Avram Belinski (Wilder) arrives in Philadelphia from Poland en route to San Francisco where he will be a congregation's new rabbi. He has with him a Torah scroll for the San Francisco synagogue. Avram, an innocent, trusting and inexperienced traveler, falls in with three con men, the brothers Matt and Darryl Diggs and their partner Mr. Jones, who trick him into helping pay for a wagon and supplies to go west, then brutally rob him and leave him and most of his belongings scattered along a deserted road in Pennsylvania.

Still determined to make it to San Francisco, Avram spends a little time with some Pennsylvania Dutch (whom he takes for Jews at first). Injured when he was dumped out of the speeding wagon, the Amish nurse Avram back to health and give him money for the train west to the end of the line. When he reaches the end of the line in Ohio, the rabbi manages to find work on the railroad. On his way west again after saving up enough money to buy a horse and some supplies, he is befriended and looked after by a stranger named Tommy Lillard (Ford), a bank robber with a soft heart who is moved by Avram's helplessness and frank personality, despite the trouble it occasionally gives him. For instance, when Tommy robs a bank on a Friday, he finds that Avram (an Orthodox Jew) will not ride on the Shabbat — even with a hanging posse on his tail. With some luck, however, they still manage to get away, mainly because with the horses rested from having been walked for a full day, they are fresh and able to ride all night, outdistancing their pursuers. On another occasion, due to Avram's insistence on riding into foul weather, he and Tommy have to use an old Indian trick and snuggle up next to their horses, which they have gotten to lie on the ground, to wait out a snowstorm. While traveling together, the two also experience American Indian customs and hospitality, disrupt a Trappist monastery's vow of silence with an innocent gesture of gratitude, and learn a little about each other's culture.

While stopping in a small town not too far of San Francisco, Avram encounters the Diggs brothers and Jones again. He gets into a fight with the three of them, and after taking a beating is rescued by Tommy, who takes back what they had stolen from Avram and a bit more besides. Seeking revenge, the three bandits follow the pair and ambush them on a California beach where Tommy and Avram have stopped to bathe. Avram experiences a crisis of faith when he is forced to shoot Darryl Diggs in self-defense. Tommy brings him back by eloquent argument with simple language, reminding him that he still is what he is inside, despite what he had to do on the beach.

When Matt Diggs, sole survivor of the ambushing trio, prepares to avenge his brother by killing Avram and Tommy springs to his friend's defense, Avram regains his composure and shows his wisdom and courage in front of the entire community. He exiles Diggs from San Francisco ("I'll tell you what I think is the best thing. I'll take San Francisco. You take the rest of America. And if you ever come back to this place again, I don't think you're going to get off so easy. Now get the hell out of here!"). The story ends happily with Avram marrying Rosalie Bender, younger daughter of the head of San Francisco's Jewish community, with Tommy attending the ceremony as his best man.


Production notes[edit]

According to Gene Wilder's autobiography, the Tommy role, played by Harrison Ford, was originally planned for John Wayne.

Aldrich replaced director Dick Richards during preproduction.[1]

At one point, Wilder says to Ford that Poland is right next to Czechoslovakia, but the movie is set in 1850 and neither Poland nor Czechoslovakia existed as independent nations until 1918.

The Frisco Kid is loosely based on the true story of Solomon Bibo, as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi travelling from Europe to the United States during the times of the wild west.

Critical reception[edit]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times described The Frisco Kid as "harmless chaos": "People keep coming and going and doing ferociously cute things, but never anything that could appeal to anyone except a close relative or someone with a built-in weakness for anything ethnic whatsoever." He criticized the lack of plot development, saying that, while based on a clever idea, The Frisco Kid ultimately fails to deliver on its promise.[3]


  1. ^ a b Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 308
  2. ^
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (6 July 1979). "The Frisco Kid (1979)". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2011. "There's scarcely a plot development, from the moment the rabbi is swindled out of his money on his arrival in Philadelphia, through his adventures on the open range in the company of a kind-hearted, WASP outlaw (Harrison Ford), that isn't telegraphed from the opening, pre-credit sequences." 

External links[edit]