Kenny Rogers as The Gambler

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Kenny Rogers as The Gambler
Genre Western
Written by Jim Byrnes
Cort Casady
Screenplay by Jim Byrnes
Directed by Dick Lowry
Starring Kenny Rogers
Theme music composer Larry Cansler
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Jim Byrnes
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Editor(s) Jerrold L. Ludwig
Running time 95 min.
Original network CBS
Original release April 8, 1980
Followed by Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler (also known as The Gambler) is a 1980 American made-for-television western film directed by Dick Lowry. The film premiered on April 8, 1980 on CBS. It was loosely based on the Grammy-winning Kenny Rogers song of the same name,[1] and stars the singer as Brady Hawks, a gambler trying to reunite with a son he never knew, played by Ronnie Scribner. It was a critical and commercial success, receiving an Eddie Award and two Emmy nominations, and resulting in four sequels.


Gambler Brady Hawkes (Kenny Rogers) receives a letter from Jeremiah (Ronnie Scribner), the young son he never knew, who asks Hawkes to help him and his mother Eliza (Christine Belford); the two are living in Yuma with Jeremiah's stepfather, an abusive casino owner named Rufe Bennett (Clu Gulager). Hawkes embarks on a train in El Paso, Texas on a journey to meet him. Along the way, he meets young poker player Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner). Hawkes saves Montana from two belligerent cheaters and the two become friends. Montana fancies himself as a professional player, and is headed to San Francisco for an international poker tournament. Although Montana makes mistakes along the way (some of these include: trying to find a way to cheat or do some smooth talking), Hawkes makes sure that he stays on good behavior during the train ride. The duo help Jennie Reed (Lee Purcell), a former prostitute who has trouble with a train baron (Harold Gould). At the end, they confront Bennett in a gunfight.



Dick Lowry served as the director—The Gambler was one of his early works. The film was produced by Kragen & Company, one of their earliest ventures. The company had earlier produced two TV specials with Rogers.[2] It was Kenny Rogers's first starring role.[3]

Despite being destined for television, the film was shot on 35 mm.[4] One of the shooting locations was the ranch headquarters area overlooking the Valle Grande valley, part of Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico.[5]

Release and reception[edit]

Kenny Rogers as The Gambler was first aired on CBS on April 8, 1980.[6][1] The film was a big ratings success[7] and received the Eddie Award for Best Edited Television Special,[citation needed] as well as two Emmy nominations: Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Special[8] and Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special.[9] The film spawned a franchise, four sequels having been filmed over the course of the following 15 years.[4]

The film was released on DVD in the United States on May 2, 2006, part of a box set with Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues and Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues.[3] A region-A Blu-ray release by Timeless Media Group[4] followed on November 5, 2013.[1] The Blu-ray release was praised for audio and video quality,[1][4] but criticized for lack of bonus content.[4]

Ian Jane, writing for DVD Talk in retrospective, gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. He thought that the film had aged over the years, but that it is "better than [one] might expect", crediting Rogers's charisma and Lowry's direction.[1] Casey Broadwater for called it a film "you tend to like in spite of itself."[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jane, Ian (October 19, 2013). "Kenny Rogers: The Gambler - Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Sundance Firm Goes To Ken Kragen". Billboard. 92 (38): 57. September 20, 1980. ISSN 0006-2510. The 18-month-old Kragen & Co. now employs 24 people on both coasts working on management and television production projects. The company has produced two Kenny Rogers network tv specials and the 'Kenny Rogers As The Gambler' made-for-tv movie. 
  3. ^ a b Byun, Bryan (May 1, 2006). "Kenny Rogers: Legend of the Gambler (1980, 1983, 1987)". PopMatters. Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Broadwater, Casey (November 12, 2013). "The Gambler Blu-ray Review". Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  5. ^ "In The Movies". Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  6. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (2013). Western Movies: A Guide to 5,105 Feature Films (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. p. 171. ISBN 9780786463725. 
  7. ^ Stambler, Irwin; Landon, Grelun (2000). Country Music: The Encyclopedia. Macmillan. p. 219. ISBN 9780312264871. Telecast on the CBS network, it achieved the highest rating of any TV movie shown over the previous two years. 
  8. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 22, 2017.