Scarecrow (1973 film)

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Scarecrow movieposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJerry Schatzberg
Written byGarry Michael White
Produced byRobert M. Sherman
StarringGene Hackman
Al Pacino
Eileen Brennan
Richard Lynch
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byEvan A. Lottman
Music byFred Myrow
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 11, 1973 (1973-04-11) (New York City)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,000,000 (US/Canada rentals)[1]

Scarecrow is a 1973 American road movie directed by Jerry Schatzberg, and starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. The story revolves around the relationship between two men who travel from California, aiming to start a business in Pittsburgh.

At the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, it tied for the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, the highest honor. While it did poorly commercially, it later gained cult status.


Two vagabonds, Max Millan, a short-tempered ex-convict, and Francis Lionel "Lion" Delbuchi, a childlike ex-sailor, meet on the road in California and agree to become partners in a car wash business, once they reach Pittsburgh. Lion is on his way to Detroit to see the child he has never met and make amends with his wife Annie, to whom he has been sending all the money he made while at sea. Max agrees to make a detour on his way to Pittsburgh, where the bank that Max has been sending all his seed money is located.

While visiting Max's sister in Denver, the pair's antics land them in a prison farm for a month. Max blames Lion for their being sent back to jail and shuns him. Lion is befriended by a powerful inmate named Riley, who later tries to sexually assault Lion, and while not succeeding, physically savages and emotionally traumatizes him. Max rekindles his friendship with Lion, and becomes his protector, eventually exacting revenge by beating up Riley. After being released from prison, the two continue to have a profound effect on each other, although they have both undergone personal transformations and their roles have shifted—with Lion still traumatized and no longer carefree and clowning nor able even to laugh or even smile, and Max loosening his high-strung aggression (at one point doing a tongue-in-cheek striptease to defuse a fight at a bar and to attempt to make Lion laugh again).

When the duo finally arrives in Detroit, Lion finds a payphone and calls Annie, now remarried and raising their five-year-old son. Annie is still furious at Lion for having abandoned her, and lies that she miscarried their son (adding spitefully, knowing Lion is Catholic, "He never even got born. Never got baptized. You know what that means; his soul can't go to heaven. That's what you did for your son's soul, you bastard. You sent it into limbo. That soul cannot go to heaven"). Lion is devastated, as is Annie when he hangs up after hearing the "news". When he gets off the phone, he acts overjoyed with Max about having a son. Shortly afterward, Lion has a breakdown while playing in a city park with children and later on becomes catatonic. Max promises Lion, now in a psychiatric hospital, that he will do anything to help him, and boards a train to Pittsburgh with a round-trip ticket.



Gene Hackman was Jerry Schatzberg's choice for the role of Max, and went begging with Al Pacino to develop the performances.

Warner Bros. approved the project, looking for a small-budget film after executives became less confident in the success of larger projects.[2] Director Jerry Schatzberg's preference for the roles of Max and Lion were Gene Hackman and Al Pacino, and Schatzberg previously had worked with Pacino on The Panic in Needle Park (1971).[3]

To understand their characters, Pacino and Hackman costumed themselves and went begging in San Francisco.[3] However, Pacino, an advocate of method acting, found his techniques conflicted with Hackman, who would be silent before shooting while Pacino paced. Although Hackman had fun with the production, Pacino later commented, "It wasn't the easiest working with Hackman, who I love as an actor".[3]


At the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the interim equivalent of the Palme d'Or,[2] the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, shared with The Hireling directed by Alan Bridges.[4][5] It also won Best Non-European Film at Denmark's 1974 Bodil Awards.[6] In the U.S., Scarecrow proved to be a box office bomb.[7]

In 1973, Roger Ebert gave it three stars, comparing the story to Of Mice and Men and Midnight Cowboy, and positively reviewed the performances of Pacino and Hackman, the writing and setting.[8] In The New York Times, Vincent Canby called Max and Lion "classic drifters" and "marvelously realized characters".[9]

In a review of the film from the time of its 2013 re-release, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian described the film as "a freewheeling masterpiece", describing Hackman and Pacino as giving "the performances of their lives".[10] Peter Biskind, on the other hand, described the film as being of "secondary" significance in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.[11]

By 2012, Scarecrow was the best-reviewed film in Schatzberg's career.[12] After gaining a cult following,[7] Schatzberg had Seth Cohen write a sequel, with a screenplay completed by 2013.[2] It would be set years later, with Max and computer worker Lion reuniting, and Lion learning his son is alive. The film sequel was made difficult, if not impossible, by the studio's lack of support and Hackman's retirement from acting.[7]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 77% from 31 reviews with the consensus: "If its dramatic dressings are a tad threadbare, Scarecrow survives on the strength of its lead performances and Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974 p 19
  2. ^ a b c Debruge, Peter (May 14, 2013). "Modest 'Scarecrow' Preps Fresh Field in Gotham". Variety. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Axmaker, Sean. "Scarecrow (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Scarecrow". Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  5. ^ "U.S. Film Shares Cannes Prize". Los Angeles Times. May 26, 1973. p. B9. The Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix Friday was awarded jointly to the American film "Scarecrow" by Jerry Schatzberg and the British entry "The Hireling" bv Alan Bridges.
  6. ^ "1974 Årets vindere". Bodil Awards. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Jagernauth, Kevin (July 1, 2013). "Jerry Schatzberg Wants to Make a 'Scarecrow' Sequel Even Though WB Isn't Interested & Gene Hackman Has Retired". IndieWire. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 12, 1973). "Scarecrow". Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (April 12, 1973). "2 Drifters on a Photogenic Landscape: The Cast". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  10. ^ "Scarecrow". the Guardian. April 25, 2013. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  11. ^ Biskind, Peter (April 4, 1999). Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Simon & Schuster. p. 15. ISBN 9780684857084.
  12. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (September 14, 2012). "'Scarecrow' to open Lumiere festival: Guillaume Canet to present Schatzberg's classic". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  13. ^ "Scarecrow".

External links[edit]