Honky Tonk Freeway

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Honky Tonk Freeway
Honky Tonk Freeway.jpg
UK DVD Cover
Directed by John Schlesinger
Produced by Don Boyd
Hawk Koch
Written by Edward Clinton
Starring Beverly D'Angelo
Hume Cronyn
Jessica Tandy
Teri Garr
Beau Bridges
Daniel Stern
Geraldine Page
Music by Elmer Bernstein
George Martin
Cinematography John Bailey
Edited by Jim Clark
EMI Films
Honky Tonk Freeway Company
Kendon Films
Distributed by Associated Film Distribution
Release date
21 August 1981
Running time
108 minutes
Country United Kingdom[1]
Language English
Budget $24 million[2]
Box office $2 million

Honky Tonk Freeway is a 1981 British comedy film directed by John Schlesinger. The film, conceived and co-produced by Don Boyd, was one of the most expensive box office bombs in history, losing its British backers Thorn-EMI anywhere from $11–22 million and profoundly affecting its fortunes and aspirations.[1][3] The film was financed in part by accountant Roy Tucker's tax avoidance schemes funded by the Rossminster banking group.[1][4][5]


In a small Florida tourist town named Ticlaw, the Mayor/Preacher Kirby T. Calo (William Devane) also operates a hotel and tiny wildlife safari park. The town's major draw is a water-skiing elephant named Bubbles.

When the state highway commission builds a freeway adjacent to the town, Calo slips an official $10,000 to assure an off ramp. The ramp doesn't come, so the townsfolk literally paint the town pink to attract visitors.

Meanwhile, tourists from various parts of the United States, shown in a series of concurrent, ongoing vignettes, are heading to Florida and will all end up in Ticlaw, one way or another. They include a pair of bank robbers from New York (George Dzundza, Joe Grifasi) who pick up a cocaine-dealing hitchhiker (Daniel Stern); a Chicago copy machine repairman (Beau Bridges), who picks up a waitress (Beverly D'Angelo), who is carrying her deceased mother's ashes to Florida; a dentist and his dysfunctonal family (Howard Hesseman, Teri Garr, Peter Billingsley, and Jenn Thompson), vacationing cross-country in their RV; an elderly woman (Jessica Tandy) with a drinking problem and her loving husband (Hume Cronyn), who are heading to Florida to retire; two nuns (mother superior Geraldine Page, novice nun Deborah Rush); and a wannabe country songwriter (Paul Jabara) hauling a playful rhino and other wild animals to Ticlaw.



This movie was filmed in the small central Florida town of Mount Dora.[6] The off-ramp filming took place at the I-75 and Palmer Road overpass in Sarasota. Most of the highway scenes take place on I-75 between Sarasota and Ft Myers while the highway was still under construction. Dynamite crews blew up a wooden bridge built to look like the southbound lane overpass at I-75 and Palmer Road before the Tampa to Miami leg of the highway was completed in 1981. Many portions of Fruitville were painted pink to match the sets in Mount Dora and remained pink for decades afterward. Palmer Road was never designated for an I-75 exit because it is not a main thoroughfare. The exit for Fruitville is about two miles north of the filming location. Part of the film was also shot in Salt Lake City, Utah.[7]


The film received negative reviews: Famously, it was panned by Variety on release and pulled from theatres after just one week:[1][8]

The overriding question about EMI's Honky Tonk Freeway is why anyone should want to spend over $25m. on a film as devoid of any basic humorous appeal ... [Its] long-term commercial appeal appears to be almost nil.

Some have argued that the film can be viewed as a satire on the American way of life and this contributed to its unfavorable critical reception at the time.[9][10]


The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "You're Crazy, But I Like You."


  1. ^ a b c d Walker, Alexander (September 2005) [1985]. National Heroes: British Cinema in the 70's and 80's. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-5707-X. 
  2. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (9 September 1981). "HOLLYWOOD IS JOYOUS OVER ITS RECORD GROSSING SUMMER". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  3. ^ "Greatest Box-Office Bombs, Disasters and Film Flops". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Tutt, Nigel (1985). Tax Raiders: The Rossminster Affair. London: Financial Training Publications. ISBN 0-906322-76-6. 
  5. ^ Gabbi Shaw (February 27, 2017). "The biggest box office flop from the year you were born". Insider. Retrieved June 20, 2018. 
  6. ^ Campbell, Ramsey (June 14, 1998). "Mount Dora Gets Good Reviews By Starring In Movies". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  7. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874. 
  8. ^ "Variety". 19 August 1981. 
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (21 August 1981). "HARSH VIEW OF AMERICA IN 'HONKY TONK FREEWAY'". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Henninger, Mari. "Honky Tonk Freeway: When Mount Dora "Went Hollywood". PULSE The Magazine of Mount Dora, Eustis and Tavares. Archived from the original on 25 August 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 

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