One-Trick Pony (film)

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One-Trick Pony
Directed byRobert M. Young
Written byPaul Simon
Produced byMichael Tannen
StarringPaul Simon
Blair Brown
Rip Torn
Joan Hackett
CinematographyDick Bush
Edited byEdward Beyer
Barry Malkin
David Ray
Music byPaul Simon
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 3, 1980 (1980-10-03)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$843,215[1]

One-Trick Pony is a 1980 feature film written by and starring Paul Simon and directed by Robert M. Young. It also stars Blair Brown, Rip Torn, Joan Hackett, Mare Winningham, Michael Pearlman, Lou Reed in his feature film debut, and Allen Garfield (credited under his birth name, Allen Goorwitz).[2] Receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film bombed at the box office.

The song "Late in the Evening" from the film's soundtrack hit number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while the title song peaked at number 40.[3] After years of being available only on videocassette and laserdisc, One-Trick Pony was released by Warner Bros. on DVD in 2009.[4]


Paul Simon plays Jonah Levin, a once-popular folk-rock musician who has not had a hit in ten years, and now opens for bands like the B-52's (Levin's bandmates are played by musicians Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Tony Levin, and Richard Tee, all of whom similarly backed Simon on One-Trick Pony's soundtrack album). He is trying to record a new album, but faces a number of obstacles, including an indifferent record-company executive (Rip Torn) who is pressuring him to create a hit record with the help of a trendy producer (Lou Reed). Jonah is also trying to restore his relationship with his estranged wife, Marion (Blair Brown), and maintain his relationship with his young son, Matty (Michael Pearlman).[5]


The title derives from a colloquial American expression meaning a person specializing in only one area, having only one talent, or of limited ability.[6][7]

The film is not considered autobiographical, though the story makes use of some of Simon's experiences in the music business.[8] There has been some disagreement on the story's underpinning. Biographer Laura Jackson felt that the film may have been based on experiences in Simon's professional and personal life,[9] though Dave Marsh in a Rolling Stone review saw similarities with Simon's personality, but not with his life and career.[10] However, the character of Walter Fox, the record company executive portrayed by Rip Torn, is regarded as reflecting some of Simon's experiences in moving away from CBS Records, his former label, in the 1970s.[10] (Simon went to Warner Bros. Records at the time of the film's release. The label, at the time owned by the film's distributor, acquired the masters of Simon's CBS catalog that same year.) The film featured one of the last appearances of the original members of The Lovin' Spoonful, in a simulated TV show appearance.

The Paul Simon album One-Trick Pony was released concurrently with the movie. All of the songs on the album are featured in the film, though some are presented with a slightly different mix, such as "Jonah", which features a harmonica solo (probably by Toots Thielemans) that is missing from the album version. The film also features "Soft Parachutes", Jonah Levin's sole hit as a recording artist, which is included as a bonus track on the album's 2004 reissue.





Reviews for the film were mixed. Writing in the New York Times, critic Janet Maslin called the movie "an odd mixture of inordinately graceful touches and sweeping, clumsy ones".[5] Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone called it "a morose little art film".[11] However, critic Roger Ebert praised the film as "a wonderful movie, an affectionate character study with a lot of good music in it".[12] The film was commercially unsuccessful, grossing less than $900,000[1] despite a budget of $8 million.[13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "One-Trick Pony (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "One-Trick Pony". IMDb. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "Paul Simon". Billboard. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  4. ^ Howells, Sacha (May 18, 2009). "Warners Finally Dusts off Dozens of Lost Classics, and Hundreds of Not-Sos". MTV. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (October 3, 1980). "Film: 'One-Trick Pony' of Paul Simon". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  6. ^ "one-trick pony". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  7. ^ Oregon Pioneer Assoc. 32nd Ann. Reunion. 1905. p. 264.
  8. ^ Dave Swanson (3 Oct 2015). "The Story of Paul Simon's 'One-Trick Pony' Movie and Album".
  9. ^ Laura Jackson (2002). Paul Simon: The Definitive Bio. Citadel Press. p. 163.
  10. ^ a b Dave Marsh (30 Oct 1980). "What Do You Do When You're Not a Kid Anymore And You Still Want to Rock and Roll".
  11. ^ Holden, Stephen (October 16, 1980). "One-Trick Pony". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1980). "One-Trick Pony". Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  13. ^ Thompson, Dave (2019). Paul Simon FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Legendary Singer and the Iconic Songs. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 209. ISBN 1493050753.