The Getaway (1972 film)
Original U.S. theatrical poster
|Directed by||Sam Peckinpah|
|Produced by||Mitchell Brower
|Written by||Walter Hill|
|Based on||The Getaway
by Jim Thompson
|Music by||Quincy Jones|
|Editing by||Robert L. Wolfe|
|Distributed by||National General Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 13, 1972|
|Running time||122 minutes|
The film is based on the Jim Thompson novel of the same name, with the screenplay written by Walter Hill. A box office hit earning over $36 million domestically, the film was one of the most financially successful productions of Peckinpah's and McQueen's careers.
Carter "Doc" McCoy (McQueen), a convict in Texas, is denied parole. When his wife Carol (MacGraw) visits him in prison, he tells her to do whatever necessary to make a deal with Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson), a corrupt businessman in San Antonio. Benyon has Doc paroled on the condition he take part in a bank robbery with two of his minions, Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Frank (Bo Hopkins). During the robbery, Frank kills a guard and Rudy attempts a doublecross, shooting Frank and drawing a gun on Doc, who beats him to the draw and shoots Rudy several times.
Doc meets with Benyon, who also attempts a doublecross before Carol shoots and kills him. Doc realizes that Carol had sex with Benyon in order to secure Doc's release from prison. Angry, Doc gathers up the money and the couple flees for the border in El Paso.
A bloodied Rudy, having secretly worn a bulletproof vest, is still alive. He forces rural veterinarian Harold (Jack Dodson) and his young wife Fran (Sally Struthers) to treat his injuries, then kidnaps them in order to pursue Doc and Carol.
Meanwhile, Benyon's brother Cully (Roy Jenson) and his thugs also pursue the McCoys. At the train station, a shifty con man (Richard Bright) swaps locker keys with Carol and steals their bag of money from a locker. Doc follows the thief onto a train and forcefully takes it back. The injured con man and several witnesses are taken to the police station, where they identify Doc's mug shot.
Realizing he and Carol will be recognized wherever they go, Dog steals a shotgun, which leads to several shoot-outs and police chases. The couple escapes by hiding in a large trash bin, only to end up in the back of a garbage truck and dumped at the local landfill. Filthy and frustrated, they argue about whether to stay together or split up. They decide to see things through.
Rudy's attraction to the veterinarian's wife results in the two having sex in front of her husband. Humiliated, the vet hangs himself in a motel bathroom. Rudy and Fran move on, barely acknowledging the suicide. They arrive first at an El Paso hotel used by criminals as a safe house. Doc and Carol arrive later and are given a room on the same floor; they ask for food to be delivered, but the manager says he is working alone and can't leave the desk. Doc eventually realizes that the manager has sent away his family for safety because a doublecross is underway. He urges Carol to get dressed quickly so they can escape. An armed Rudy and Fran approach their door as she poses as a hotel employee to gain entrance. Peering from an adjacent doorway, Doc is surprised to see Rudy alive. He sneaks up behind Rudy and knocks him out, then does the same to the screaming Fran.
Cully and his thugs arrive just as the McCoys try to leave. A violent gunfight ensues in the hotel halls, stairwell, and elevator with all of Cully's men killed, except one, who Doc allows to walk away. Rudy comes to his senses and follows them, but Doc shoots and kills him.
With the police en route, the couple hijack a pickup truck and force its driver, a cooperative old cowboy (Slim Pickens), to take them to Mexico. After crossing the border, Doc and Carol pay the cowboy $30,000 for his truck. Overjoyed, the cowboy walks back toward El Paso while the couple drives further on into Mexico.
- Steve McQueen as Carter 'Doc' McCoy
- Ali MacGraw as Carol Ainsley McCoy
- Ben Johnson as Jack Beynon
- Sally Struthers as Fran Clinton
- Al Lettieri as Rudy Butler
- Roy Jenson as Cully
- Richard Bright as The Thief (a con man)
- Jack Dodson as Harold Clinton
- Slim Pickens as a Cowboy
- Bo Hopkins as Frank Jackson
- Dub Taylor as Laughlin
Steve McQueen had been encouraging his publicist David Foster to become a film producer. His first attempt was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with McQueen starring alongside Paul Newman but 20th Century Fox did not want Foster as part of the deal. The project fell apart and while McQueen was making Le Mans Foster acquired the rights to Jim Thompson's crime novel The Getaway. Foster sent McQueen a copy of the book and urged him to do it. The actor was looking for a good/bad guy role and saw these qualities in the novel's protagonist.
Foster began to look for a director and Peter Bogdanovich was brought to his attention. He and McQueen screened Bogdanovich's soon-to-be released The Last Picture Show and loved it. They met with the director and a deal was made. However, Warner Brothers approached Bogdanovich with an offer to direct What's Up, Doc? starring Barbra Streisand but with the stipulation that he would have to start right away. The director wanted to do both but the studio refused. When McQueen found out, he was very upset and told Bogdanovich that he was going to get someone else to direct The Getaway. McQueen had just worked with Peckinpah on Junior Bonner and enjoyed the experience. He recommended the director to Foster who then approached Peckinpah. Like McQueen, Peckinpah was in need of a box office hit and immediately accepted. The filmmaker had read the novel when it was originally published and had even talked to Thompson about making it into a film when he was starting out as a director. At the time, Peckinpah had also wanted to make Emperor of the North Pole, a story set during the Depression about a brakeman obsessed with keeping hobos off his train. The film's producer made a deal with Paramount Pictures' production chief Robert Evans who allowed Peckinpah to do his personal project if he would first direct The Getaway. Soon after, the director was dismissed from Emperor and told that Paramount was not making The Getaway. A conflict arose between Paramount and the film's budget. Foster had 30 days to set up a deal with another studio or Paramount would own the rights. He was inundated with offers and went with First Artists Group because McQueen would receive no upfront salary, just 10% of the gross for the first dollar taken in on the film. This would be very profitable if the film was a box-office hit.
Jim Thompson was originally hired by Foster and McQueen to adapt his novel for the film. Thompson worked on the screenplay for four months and produced a treatment, with alternate scenes and episodes. Thompson's script included a borderline-surrealistic ending from his novel featuring the kingdom of El Rey, a Mexican town filled with criminals. McQueen objected to the depressing ending and had Thompson replaced by screenwriter Walter Hill. Peckinpah read Hill's draft and the screenwriter remembered that he did not make many changes: "we made it nonperiod and we added a little more action".
When Peter Bogdanovich was originally hired to direct, he cast Cybill Shepherd, his girlfriend at the time, for the role of Carol. When Peckinpah was brought on to direct, he wanted to cast Stella Stevens, whom he worked with on The Ballad of Cable Hogue, with Angie Dickinson or Dyan Cannon as possible alternatives. Foster suggested Ali MacGraw, a much in-demand actress after the commercial success of Love Story. She was married to Robert Evans who wanted her to avoid being typecast in preppy roles and set up a meeting with her, Foster, McQueen, and Peckinpah about the film. According to Foster, she was scared of McQueen and Peckinpah because they had reputations for being "wild, two-fisted, beer guzzlers". When McQueen met MacGraw there was a very strong instant attraction. She was unsure about doing the project because of her attraction to him. She said, "he was recently separated and free, and I was scared of my overwhelming attraction to him".
Peckinpah originally wanted actor Jack Palance to play the role of Rudy Butler but could not afford his salary. Impressed by his performance in Panic in Needle Park, Hill recommended Richard Bright. Bright had worked with McQueen 14 years before but he did not have the threatening physique that McQueen pictured for Butler because they were the same height. Peckinpah got along famously with Bright and cast him as the train station con man instead. Al Lettieri was brought to Peckinpah's attention by producer Albert Ruddy who was working with the actor on The Godfather. Like Peckinpah, Lettieri was a heavy drinker which caused problems during filming due to his unpredictable behavior.
Principal photography 
They began work on February 7, 1972, filming on location in multiple Texas towns including Huntsville, San Marcos, San Antonio, Fabens and El Paso. Peckinpah shot the opening prison scenes at the local penitentiary with McQueen surrounded by actual convicts.
McQueen and McGraw began an affair during the film's production. She would eventually leave her husband Robert Evans and become McQueen's second wife. Foster was worried that their relationship would have a negative impact on the production by causing a potential scandal with the media ruining the reputation of the film. MacGraw got her start as a model and her inexperience as an actress was evident on the set where she struggled with the role. According to Foster, Peckinpah and MacGraw got along well but she was not happy with her performance: "I looked at what I had done in it, I hated my own performance. I liked the picture, but I despised my own work".
Peckinpah's intake of alcohol increased dramatically while making The Getaway, and he became fond of saying, "I can't direct when I'm sober". He and McQueen got into the occasional heated arguments during filming. The director recalled one such incident: "Steve and I had been discussing some point on which we disagreed, so he picked up this bottle of champagne and threw it at me. I saw it coming and ducked. And Steve just laughed".
McQueen had a knack with props, especially the guns he used in the film. Hill remembered, "you can see Steve's military training in his films. He was so brisk and confident in the way he handled the guns". It was McQueen's idea to have his character shoot two squad cars in the scene where Doc holds two police officers at gunpoint.
Under his contract with First Artists, McQueen had final cut on The Getaway and when Peckinpah found out, he became very upset. Richard Bright said that McQueen chose takes that "made him look good" and Peckinpah felt that the actor played it safe: "he chose all these Playboy shots of himself. He's playing it safe with these pretty-boy shots".
Peckinpah's long-time composer and collaborator Jerry Fielding was originally hired to do the musical score for The Getaway. He had previously worked with the director on Noon Wine (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), Straw Dogs (1971) and Junior Bonner (1972). After the film's second preview screening, McQueen was unhappy with the music and used his clout to hire Quincy Jones to rescore the film. Jones' music had a jazzier edge and featured harmonica solos by Toots Thielemans, with Don Elliott credited for "musical voices." Peckinpah was unhappy with the decision and took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety on November 17, 1972 including a letter he had written to Fielding thanking him for his work. Fielding would work with Peckinpah on two additional films, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and The Killer Elite (1975).
There were two preview screenings for The Getaway, a lackluster one in San Francisco and a more enthusiastic one held in San Jose, California. The film was the eighth highest grossing picture of the year, making $36,734,619. It also earned $26,987,155 in worldwide rentals.
Its North American rentals for 1973 were $17,500,000.
See also 
- "The Getaway, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
- Terrill 1993, p. 219.
- Terrill 1993, p. 220.
- Terrill 1993, p. 221.
- Terrill 1993, p. 222.
- Simmons 1982, pp. 154.
- Terrill 1993, p. 226.
- Geffner, David (December 1, 1996). "Jim Thompson’s Lost Hollywood Years". MovieMaker. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
- Terrill 1993, p. 224.
- Terrill 1993, p. 225.
- Terrill 1993, p. 235.
- Terrill 1993, p. 234.
- Terrill 1993, p. 227.
- Terrill 1993, p. 228.
- Terrill 1993, p. 230.
- Terrill 1993, p. 240.
- Terrill 1993, p. 241.
- Weddle 1994, pp. 444-450.
- Terrill 1993, p. 237.
- Terrill 1993, p. 238.
- Simmons 1982, pp. 165-167.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- Simmons, Garner (1982) Peckinpah, A Portrait in Montage. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-76493-6
- Terrill, Marshall (1993) Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel. Plexus. ISBN 978-1-55611-380-2
- Weddle, David (1994) If They Move...Kill 'Em!. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3776-8
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: The Getaway (1972 film)|
- The Getaway at the Internet Movie Database
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- The Getaway at the TCM Movie Database
- The Getaway at Rotten Tomatoes