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Urban Cowboy is a 1980 American romantic Western film directed by James Bridges. The plot concerns the love-hate relationship between Buford Uan "Bud" Davis (John Travolta) and Sissy (Debra Winger). The film captured the late 1970s/early 1980s popularity of country music. Much of the action centers around activities at Gilley's Club, a football-field-sized honky tonk in Pasadena, Texas.
|Directed by||James Bridges|
|Produced by||Irving Azoff|
C. O. Erickson (executive producer)
|Screenplay by||James Bridges|
|Story by||Aaron Latham|
|Music by||Ralph Burns|
|Edited by||David Rawlins|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$53.3 million|
Historical background and productionEdit
The film's screenplay was adapted by Aaron Latham and James Bridges from an article by the same name in Esquire Magazine written by Latham. The original Esquire article centered on the romance between two Gilley's regulars named Dew Westbrook and Betty Helmer. Westbrook and Helmer's real-life relationship became the inspiration for the on-screen romance between John Travolta's and Debra Winger's characters "Bud" and "Sissy". The movie was directed by Bridges. Some film critics referred to the movie as a country music version of Saturday Night Fever. The film grossed almost $47 million in the United States alone and represented a temporary recovery for Travolta from 1978's poorly received Moment by Moment, but the film was not nearly as successful as either Saturday Night Fever ($94 million) or Grease ($188 million).
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Buford "Bud" Davis moves to Houston where he is hired by the oil refinery company his Uncle Bob works at. Bud wants to save enough money to buy land in his hometown of Spur, Texas. Bud stays with Bob and his family, with whom Bud is close. Bud embraces the local nightlife, including Gilley's, a bar in Pasadena.
One night, Bud meets Sissy Davis at Gilly's. They fall in love and marry soon after, holding their wedding reception at Gilley's. They move into a brand-new mobile home that Bud has just put a down payment on. Although they love each other, Bud and Sissy quarrel often. Sissy is feisty and independent, while hot-tempered Bud believes in traditional gender roles. Their lives settle into a routine of work by day and Gilley's at night, where Bud likes riding the mechanical bull. When Sissy also wants to ride it, Bud forbids her.
Recently-paroled convict, Wes Hightower, lands a job at Gilley's running the mechanical bull. When he flirtatiously tips his hat at Sissy, a drunken Bud becomes enraged and ends up in a fist fight with Wes. Sissy, along with her friend Jessie, spends time during the day at Gilley's where Wes teaches Sissy to ride the mechanical bull. Meanwhile, at the refinery, Bud has a near-fatal accident and is sent home. That night at Gilley's, wanting to impress Bud, Sissy rides the bull, but he is angry that she defied him. When Bud falls off during his second ride, Wes intentionally swings the bull around hard, breaking Bud's arm. At home, Bud and Sissy fight over her riding the bull again. When she insists she will, Bud slaps her and throws her out of the trailer. Bud then temporarily loses his job until his broken arm heals.
Soon after at Gilley's, Bud sees Sissy, who refuses to speak to him. To retaliate, Bud dances with a beautiful girl named Pam, the daughter of a rich oilman. Bud leaves with Pam, making sure Sissy sees them so she will be jealous. The next morning, Sissy moves in with Wes who lives in the run-down trailer behind Gilley's.
Bud wants to compete in Gilly's mechanical bull riding contest for a $5000 prize. He trains with Bob, a former rodeo champion. Meanwhile, Sissy returns to Bud's trailer to gather her belongings. While there, she cleans house and leaves Bud a note saying she hopes they can get back together. Pam arrives and, after Sissy leaves, she throws the note away. Pam lets Bud believe that she cleaned the trailer while he was out. Meanwhile, Sissy arrives back at Wes' and catches him with a woman who works at Gilly's. Wes becomes becomes physically abusive when Sissy refuses to fix him a meal.
Bob urges Bud to swallow his pride and make-up with Sissy, citing how his own formerly bad behavior nearly nearly ended his marriage. Shortly after, Bob is killed in an accident on the job. Sissy attends the funeral and tells Bud that Wes was fired from Gilley's and is unable to find another job. She says they are going to Mexico after Wes wins the $5,000 prize at the bull riding contest that night.
Bud intends to skip the competition, but his Aunt Corene encourages him to go, saying Bob would have wanted him to. Bud wins the grand prize, then expresses disappointment that Sissy is not there to see his victory. Pam realizes that Bud still loves Sissy. Pam says she is not in love with Bud and admits that she tore up Sissy's note. She urges Bud to go after Sissy. While Bud looks for Sissy, she has told Wes she is not going to Mexico with him. He slaps her and orders her to wait for him in her car behind Gilley's. Unknown to Sissy, Wes has gone inside Gilley's to steal money. Bud finds Sissy in the parking lot and says he still loves her and apologizes for hitting her. The reconcile, but seeing Sissy's bruised face, a furious Bud goes after Wes and a fight ensues inside the bar. Wes drops his gun and the stolen money falls from his jacket. Gilley's staff, discovering the robbery, apprehend Wes. Bud and Sissy leave together, heading for home.
- John Travolta as Bud Davis
- Debra Winger as Sissy Davis
- Scott Glenn as Wes Hightower
- Madolyn Smith as Pam
- Barry Corbin as Bob Davis
- Brooke Alderson as Corene Davis
- Cooper Huckabee as Marshall
- James Gammon as Steve Strange
- Mickey Gilley as Himself
- Johnny Lee as Himself
- Bonnie Raitt as Herself
- Charlie Daniels as Himself
- Ellen March as Becky
- Jessie La Rive as Jessie
- Howard Henson as Himself
- Connie Hanson as Marshalene
- Tamara Champlin as Gilley Background Vocalist
- Becky Conway as Gilley Background Vocalist
- Jerry Hall as Sexy Sister
- Cyndy Hall as Sexy Sister
Critical reception and legacyEdit
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The film received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 73% "Fresh" rating based on 22 reviews. "Urban Cowboy is not only most entertaining but also first-rate social criticism," said Vincent Canby of The New York Times. Variety wrote, "Director James Bridges has ably captured the atmosphere of one of the most famous chip-kicker[definition needed] hangouts of all: Gilley's Club on the outskirts of Houston."
The film gave Pasadena and Houston a brief turn under the Hollywood spotlight. Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, and many other celebrities attended the premiere in Houston. Mickey Gilley's career was re-lit after the film release, and the soundtrack started a music movement.
The term "Urban Cowboy" was also used to describe the soft-core country music of the early 1980s epitomized by Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Johnny Lee, Mickey Gilley, Janie Frickie and other vocalists whose trademarks were mellow sounds of the sort heard in the movie. This sound became a trademark in country music from the early to mid 80's in which record sales for the genre soared.
The film featured a hit soundtrack album spawning numerous Top 10 Billboard Country Singles, such as #1 "Lookin' for Love" by Johnny Lee, #1 "Stand by Me" by Mickey Gilley, #3 (AC chart) "Look What You've Done to Me" by Boz Scaggs, #1 "Could I Have This Dance" by Anne Murray, and #4 "Love the World Away" by Kenny Rogers. It also included songs that were hits from earlier years such as #1 "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band and "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles. The film is said to have started the 1980s boom in pop-country music known as the "Urban Cowboy Movement" also known as Neo-Country or Hill Boogie. In December 2018 the soundtrack was certified triple platinum by the RIAA for sales of three million copies.
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||June 6, 1980|
|Label||Full Moon, Asylum|
|Producer||Irving Azoff (exec.)|
|Singles from Urban Cowboy|
|1.||"Hello Texas"||Jimmy Buffett||2:33|
|2.||"All Night Long"||Joe Walsh||3:50|
|3.||"Times Like These"||Dan Fogelberg||3:02|
|4.||"Nine Tonight"||Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band||6:35|
|5.||"Stand By Me"||Mickey Gilley||3:35|
|6.||"Cherokee Fiddle"||Johnny Lee||4:06|
|7.||"Could I Have This Dance"||Anne Murray||3:14|
|9.||"Lookin' for Love"||Johnny Lee||3:41|
|10.||"Don't It Make Ya Wanna Dance"||Bonnie Raitt||3:29|
|11.||"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"||Charlie Daniels Band||3:35|
|12.||"Here Comes the Hurt Again"||Mickey Gilley||2:41|
|13.||"Orange Blossom Special" / "Hoedown"||Gilley's "Urban Cowboy" Band||2:06|
|14.||"Love the World Away"||Kenny Rogers||3:11|
|15.||"Falling in Love for the Night"||Charlie Daniels Band||3:00|
|17.||"Look What You've Done to Me"||Boz Scaggs||5:39|
|18.||"Hearts Against the Wind"||Linda Ronstadt and J. D. Souther||2:58|
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||26|
|US Billboard Top Country Albums||1|
|US Billboard 200||3|
|Canadian RPM Country Albums||2|
|Canadian RPM Top Albums||21|
|May 1980||19||18||--||--||27||--||--||--||"All Night Long"||Joe Walsh|
|May 1980||22||22||3||1||51||--||3||--||"Stand By Me"||Mickey Gilley|
|June 1980||14||17||8||4||25||--||1||--||"Love the World Away"||Kenny Rogers|
|July 1980||5||4||10||1||54||20||18||--||"Lookin' for Love"||Johnny Lee|
|August 1980||14||13||3||--||30||41||--||39||"Look What You've Done to Me"||Boz Scaggs|
|August 1980||33||53||3||1||19||1||1||2||"Could I Have This Dance"||Anne Murray|
TV series adaptationEdit
On May 28, 2015, it was announced that 20th Century Fox Television had teamed with Paramount Television to adapt the 1980s film Urban Cowboy into a television series, and set Craig Brewer to write and direct the pilot, while to executive produce the whole series. Chris Levinson was set as the showrunner and would executive produce the series along with Robert Evans and Sue Naegle. In December, FOX cancelled the pilot.
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- "Review: Urban Cowboy". Variety. December 31, 1979. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
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- Ross, Marissa R. (June 12, 2015). "Inside Country Music's Polarizing 'Urban Cowboy' Movement". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
- "RIAA – Searchable Database: Urban Cowboy". Archived from the original on September 24, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
- "Various - Urban Cowboy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". discogs.com. Archived from the original on 2015-07-13. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
- "Music: Urban Cowboy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD) by Johnny Lee, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Buffett, Boz Scaggs, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, Charlie Daniels Band, Eagles, Mickey Gilley, Bonnie Raitt". tower.com. Archived from the original on 2015-06-19. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 282. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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- Littleton, Cynthia (May 28, 2015). "Fox Developing 'Urban Cowboy' TV Remake with Craig Brewer, Paramount TV (Exclusive)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2017-06-27. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
- Andreeva, Nellie (December 11, 2015). "'Urban Cowboy' Pilot Not Going Forward At Fox". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 2017-09-06. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
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