The Longest Yard (1974 film)

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The Longest Yard
Longest yard 1974.jpg
The Longest Yard theatrical poster
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy
Written by Albert S. Ruddy
Tracy Keenan Wynn
Starring Burt Reynolds
Eddie Albert
Ed Lauter
Michael Conrad
James Hampton
Harry Caesar
John Steadman
Charles Tyner
Mike Henry
Jim Nicholson
Bernadette Peters
Pepper Martin
Robert Tessier
Music by Frank De Vol
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Edited by Michael Luciano
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates August 21, 1974 (US)
Running time 121 minutes
Language English
Budget $2.9 million[1]
Box office $43,008,075[2]

The Longest Yard is a 1974 American comedy drama film about inmates at a prison who play football against their guards. Burt Reynolds portrayed Paul "Wrecking" Crewe in this, then the coach Nate Scarborough in the 2005 remake.

The 1974 original was also the basis for the 2001 movie Mean Machine (a shortened version of the title used for the original's UK release), starring Vinnie Jones as Danny Meehan, based on the character of Paul Crewe, and featuring soccer instead of American football.

Green Bay Packers legend Ray Nitschke appeared in the 1974 version as did the country music legend George Jones.[3]


Paul "Wrecking" Crewe (Burt Reynolds), a former star pro football quarterback, walks out on his wealthy girlfriend Melissa (Anitra Ford) in Palm Beach, Florida. He takes her Maserati-engined Citroen SM without permission and gets drunk. Crewe is caught and sentenced to 18 months in Citrus State Prison.

The convicts disrespect Crewe because he was dismissed from the National Football League for point shaving. A sadistic warden, Rudolph Hazen (Eddie Albert), is a football fanatic who manages a semi-pro team made up of prison guards who wants Crewe to help coach the team and clinch a championship.

Responding to pressure from the guards' leader and coach, Captain Wilhelm Knauer (Ed Lauter), Crewe initially refuses, but eventually relents and agrees to form a prisoner team to play the guards' team in an exhibition "tune-up" game. Crewe forms a team that includes Samson (Richard Kiel), a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) former professional weightlifter, and Connie Shokner (Robert Tessier), a serial killer and martial arts expert.

With the help of the clever Caretaker (James Hampton), former professional player Nate Scarborough (Michael Conrad) and the first black inmate willing to play, "Granny" Granville (Harry Caesar), plus long-term prisoner Pop (John Steadman) — and with an assist from the warden's amorous secretary, Miss Toot (Bernadette Peters) -- Crewe molds a team nicknamed the "Mean Machine". He agrees to play quarterback himself. After witnessing "Granny" being harassed by some of the prison guards without breaking, the black inmates decide to volunteer their services and join the team. Unger, one of the prison trustees, persistently asks Crewe if he can replace Caretaker as manager of the team, which Crewe refuses to do. In retaliation, Unger attempts to kill Crewe by fashioning a home-made bomb from a light bulb filled with a combustible fluid, designed to detonate inside Crewe's cell when he turns on the light. However, Caretaker is killed instead when he enters Crewe's cell to retrieve some papers, and Unger closes the cell door, locking him in and preventing rescue. Crewe's teammates are given a stern lecture from Hazen about the consequences of any attempted escape after the game. Afterward, Crewe re-energizes the team with a surprise - presenting them with professional uniforms (stolen from the guards by Caretaker before he was killed). They charge onto the field, to the shock of the guards and Hazen, in their new uniforms.

The "Mean Machine" starts out surprisingly well, and at halftime the game is close, with the guards leading, 15-13. Hazen threatens Crewe as an accessory to Caretaker's murder unless Crewe loses the game to the guards by at least 21 points. Crewe reluctantly agrees, but obtains a promise from Hazen that if he cooperates, the other prisoners will not be harmed.

Hazen double-crosses him, telling Captain Knauer to order his players to "inflict as much physical punishment on the prisoners as humanly possible" as soon as they are ahead by 21 points. Crewe makes deliberate mistakes, putting the "Mean Machine" down by more than three touchdowns, 35-13, then takes himself out of the game. Teammates feel betrayed. The guards then take out their anger on the prisoners, causing several injuries.

A depressed Crewe goes back into the game. At first, the prisoners provide him with no protection or co-operation, but he convinces them of his change of heart. The "Mean Machine" gets back into the game, trailing 35-30. Knowing that Crewe needs help, Nate, despite his bad knee, scores one of the touchdowns, but is immediately cut down at the knees by guard Bogdanski (Ray Nitschke), crippling him. As he is wheeled off the field, Nate tells Crewe to "screw Hazen" and win the game. They turn the tables on the guards in terms of the violence, including a clothesline from Samson that apparently breaks a guard's (explicit) neck.

Crewe scores the winning touchdown with no time left, and the "Mean Machine" wins, 36-35.

As the prisoners celebrate, Hazen is furious. Crewe walks across the field in what appears to be an attempt to escape. The warden orders Knauer: "Shoot him! Kill him!" A moment before being shot, Crewe bends over to pick up the football. Knauer disgustedly looks at the warden and says, "Game ball." Crewe walks up to Hazen, hands him the ball and tells him, "Stick this in your trophy case."


A number of the actors had previously played professional football. Mike Henry (Rasmussen) played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams. Joe Kapp (Walking Boss) played quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Ray Nitschke (Bogdanski) was a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978, four years after the movie was released, and Pervis Atkins (Mawabe) played for the Los Angeles Rams, the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders. Also appearing as prisoners is Ernie Wheelwright, who played with the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, and Ray Ogden, who played with the St. Louis Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears. Sonny Sixkiller (who played Indian) was a collegiate star as a quarterback for the University of Washington Huskies from 1970-1972, and briefly played pro in the defunct World Football League. Burt Reynolds himself had played college football for Florida State University and was a draft pick to the Baltimore Colts.


The film was popular and earned over $22 million in US theatrical rentals.[1]


The film has been remade twice.

In 2001 as Mean Machine starring Vinnie Jones, taking place in England and changing the sport from American Football to Association Football.

In 2005 as The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and featuring Burt Reynolds in a supporting role.


The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy in 1975. Burt Reynolds was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Eddie Albert was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, and James Hampton was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.


  1. ^ a b Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 292
  2. ^ "Box Office Information for The Longest Yard". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ Gerhard Falk (2005), Football And American Identity, Haworth Press, ISBN 978-0-7890-2527-2 

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