Bustin' Loose (film)

Last updated
Bustin' Loose
Bustin' Loose.jpg
Theatrical release poster for Bustin' Loose.
Directed by
Written by
Produced by
  • Michael S. Glick
  • Richard Pryor
Music by
  • Omar Productions
  • Northwest Film and Television Consultants
  • Universal Clearances
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • May 22, 1981 (1981-05-22)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million [1]
Box office$31.3 million

Bustin' Loose is a 1981 American road comedy-drama film starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson. It was directed by Oz Scott and Michael Schultz (uncredited) and written by Pryor, Lonne Elder III, and Roger L. Simon. [2] Along with starring Pryor and Tyson, [3] the film also features Robert Christian [2] [4] and George Coe. [5] Bustin' Loose was produced by Michael S. Glick and Pryor. [6] [7] [8]



Joe Braxton (Richard Pryor) is a convict who violates his parole after a failed attempt to lift a bunch of televisions from a store in Philadelphia. After a dramatic attempt at reverse psychology with the judge (Bill Quinn), he is given a second chance at parole, and his parole-officer, Donald (Robert Christian), has him do something for him.

Donald is also involved with school teacher Vivian Perry (Cicely Tyson), whose school was just closed down by the city due to budget cuts. While most of the children have been relocated, eight special needs students have yet to be relocated. Vivian decides to take them to her aunt's farm in rural Washington. Donald is against it, and at first gets Joe to tell her the old bus she planned on using would not work. However, that blows up in his face, but Donald then decides to have Joe go ahead and drive the bus to Washington.

As Joe, Vivian, and the kids ride the bus, the past lives and ailments of the kids are told:

Joe thinks he is there to fix and drive the bus, but he finds out his true knack is helping out the kids, especially shown when he reads Annie the riot act for her hooker-talk, and saves Anthony from setting another person's property on fire, and even takes the kids fishing for the first time.

After fixing the bus in the rain on a dirt road, Joe and Vivian have trouble getting it out of the mud. When Joe leaves to get help, he is found walking in lock step with a group of Klansmen, who follow him back to the bus. Joe then manages to talk the head Klansman and the rest into getting the bus out to get the kids to a hospital in Washington, suddenly claiming they are all blind. They agree sympathetically and push them out of the mud.

Somewhere in Montana, Donald catches up with them at a motel, after finding out Vivian lied to him and falsified the kids records. After trying to flee in the middle of the night, Donald catches up with them and demands they return to Philadelphia, which the kids, Vivian, and Joe all resist.

After arriving at the farm, Vivian meets with a banker in order to secure a $15,000 loan to save the farm. One of the other kids overhears them and tells the rest of the kids this. Joe then confronts the kids, who are whining and protesting about their fate. Joe learns about this as well and heads into town where he sees an ad for a "trapezoid scheme" and goes in to learn about it, dressed as a cowboy from Texarkana. Eventually, he works his way into sitting with the group and schemes to rip them off. He does and gets Vivian her $15,000 then leaves with her, while two men from the group pursue them. After evading them and burning the money, they go back to the farm and have an argument about the money.

They realize the old Rolls Royce from the bank is there, and they find out the kids told the president of the bank (who is also the mayor of the town) lies about what good things Joe and Vivian did, and convinced the mayor to give the loan and make the kids a part of the community. After they celebrate, Donald shows up with a police officer demanding they all return to Philadelphia but has a confrontation with the mayor that he ends up losing. In the end, it seems that Joe is going to go back to Philly with Donald, but Donald gets to the end of the driveway, and changes his mind and lets Joe stay.



Bustin' Loose was filmed in part in various towns in Washington state, including Carnation, Ellensburg, and Snohomish. [9]


Although the film's score was composed by Mark Davis, Roberta Flack also contributed new original music to the film and released a soundtrack for the film on June 5, 1981. Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson contributed vocals to the album and Vandross wrote the song, "You Stopped Loving Me", which he later performed himself on his debut album Never Too Much .


Bustin' Loose opened number one at the box office in 828 theaters domestically. It grossed $6,622,753 in its opening weekend. Its run ended with $31,261,269 in the box office, domestically. [10]

Critical response

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in his review: "Only the incomparable Richard Pryor could make a comedy as determinedly, aggressively sentimental as Bustin' Loose, which is about eight needy orphans and a $15,000 mortgage that's due, and still get an R-rating. Vulgar language is the reason, but because vulgar language is a basic part of the Pryor comedy method, one longs for his every assault on genteelism in Bustin' Loose, a film that would otherwise be painful." [11] TV Guide gives Bustin' Loose 4 stars out of 5 stars. [12]


Bustin' Loose was released in theaters on May 22, 1981. The film was released on DVD on May 1, 2001, and again on January 11, 2005. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

David Allan Coe American singer and songwriter

David Allan Coe is an American singer and songwriter. Coe took up music after spending much of his early life in reform schools and prisons, and first became notable for busking in Nashville. He initially played mostly in the blues style, before transitioning to country music, becoming a major part of the 1970s outlaw country scene. His biggest hits include "You Never Even Called Me by My Name", "Longhaired Redneck", "The Ride", "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile", and "She Used to Love Me a Lot".

Cicely Tyson American actress (1924–2021)

Cicely Louise Tyson was an American actress. In a career which spanned more than seven decades in film, television and theatre, she became known for her portrayal of strong African-American women. Tyson received various awards including three Emmy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Tony Award, an Honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award.

Richard Pryor American comedian and actor (1940–2005)

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor Sr. was an American stand-up comedian and actor. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time. Pryor won a Primetime Emmy Award and five Grammy Awards. He received the first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 1998. He won the Writers Guild of America Award in 1974. He was listed at number one on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him first on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.

Gregory Hines American dancer, actor, and singer (1946-2003)

Gregory Oliver Hines was an American dancer, actor, choreographer, and singer. He is one of the most celebrated tap dancers of all time. As an actor, he is best known for Wolfen (1981), The Cotton Club (1984), White Nights (1985), and Running Scared (1986), The Gregory Hines Show (1997-1998), Ben on Will & Grace (1999-2000), and for voicing Big Bill on the Nick Jr. animated children's television program Little Bill (1999-2004).

NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

This article lists the winners and nominees for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. The award has also been called Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture. Out of 12 films which featured African-Americans in leading roles in 1980, Cicely Tyson was the only female in that category. She played opposite Richard Pryor in Bustin' Loose. Because of this, she and officials at the annual NAACP Image Awards program decided that she should not accept the award.

<i>Bébés Kids</i> 1992 film by Bruce W. Smith

Bebe's Kids is a 1992 American adult animated comedy film produced by Hyperion Studio for Paramount Pictures. Directed by Bruce W. Smith, in his directorial debut, it is based upon comedian Robin Harris' stand-up comedy act of the same name. Harris died two years before the film was released; in the film, he is voiced by Faizon Love, in his film debut. The film co-stars Vanessa Bell Calloway, Marques Houston, Nell Carter and Tone Lōc.

Paul Mooney (comedian) American writer and entertainer (1941–2021)

Paul Gladney, better known by the stage name Paul Mooney, was an American comedian, writer, and actor.

<i>Out to Sea</i> 1997 American film

Out to Sea is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by Martha Coolidge and written by Robert Nelson Jacobs. It was the final film role of Donald O'Connor, Gloria DeHaven and Edward Mulhare, and the penultimate film of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

<i>Madeas Family Reunion</i> 2006 American film

Madea's Family Reunion is a 2006 American comedy-drama film and an adaptation of the stage production of the same name written by Tyler Perry. The film is a sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It was written, directed by, and starring Perry with the rest of the cast consisting of Blair Underwood, Lynn Whitfield, Boris Kodjoe, Henry Simmons, Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Maya Angelou, Rochelle Aytes, Jenifer Lewis, Tangi Miller, Keke Palmer, and Cicely Tyson. It was released on February 24, 2006, nearly one year following its predecessor, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The independent film was produced by Lionsgate.

<i>Blue Collar</i> (film) 1978 American crime drama film

Blue Collar is a 1978 American crime drama film directed by Paul Schrader in his directorial debut. Written by Schrader and his brother Leonard, the film stars Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto. The film is both a critique of union practices and an examination of life in a working-class Rust Belt enclave.

<i>Frisco Kid</i> 1935 film by Lloyd Bacon

Frisco Kid is a 1935 film starring James Cagney and directed by Lloyd Bacon. Set in San Francisco in the 1850s, it traces the rise and fall of a sailor who achieves wealth and success on San Francisco's Barbary Coast but is spurned by the woman he loves. The supporting cast also features Ricardo Cortez, Lili Damita, and Barton MacLane. Writing for Turner Classic Movies, Richard Harland Smith observes: “While hewing closely to the crime-shouldn't-pay maxims of the newly minted Production Code, the violence is often disarmingly brutal, with a double hanging late in the film being as disturbing as it is coyly elliptical.”

Lonne Elder III was an American actor, playwright and screenwriter. Elder was one of the leading African American figures who informed the New York theater world with social and political consciousness. He also wrote scripts for television and film. His most well known play, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men won him a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The play, which was about a Harlem barber and his family, was produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1969.

<i>Sounder</i> (film) 1972 film by Martin Ritt

Sounder is a 1972 American period drama film directed by Martin Ritt and adapted by Lonne Elder III from the 1969 novel of the same name by William H. Armstrong. The story concerns an African-American sharecropper family in the Deep South, who struggle with economic and personal hardships during the Great Depression. It stars Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks. Taj Mahal composed the film's blues-inspired soundtrack, and also appears in a supporting role.

Bill Quinn American actor

William Tyrell Quinn was an American film actor.

Bustin' Loose is an American sitcom starring Jimmie Walker based on the 1981 film of the same name. The show ran in first-run syndication from September 19, 1987, to May 28, 1988.

<i>The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter</i> (film) 1968 film

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a 1968 American film adaptation of the 1940 novel of the same name by Carson McCullers. It was directed by Robert Ellis Miller. It stars Alan Arkin and introduces Sondra Locke, who both earned Academy Award nominations for their performances. The film updates the novel's small-town Southern setting from the Depression era to the contemporary 1960s. The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated

Ken Morrison is an American television producer and songwriter. He has produced more than 50 documentaries and television specials.

<i>Bustin Loose</i> (Roberta Flack album) 1981 soundtrack album by Roberta Flack

Bustin' Loose is a soundtrack album released by Roberta Flack in 1981. It was recorded for the movie of the same title starring Richard Pryor. Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson contributed vocals to the album and Vandross wrote the song, "You Stopped Loving Me", which he later performed himself on his debut album Never Too Much.

<i>The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman</i> (film)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is an American television film based on the novel of the same name by Ernest J. Gaines. The film was broadcast on CBS on Thursday, January 31, 1974.

The Marva Collins Story is a 1981 American Hallmark Hall of Fame television film about the life of Chicago-based African-American teacher Marva Collins. It stars Cicely Tyson as Collins and Morgan Freeman as her husband, Clarence.



  1. Harmetz, Aljean (30 May 1981). "Pryor and Alda Proving Stars Still Sell Movies" . The New York Times. Section 1, p. 10.
  2. 1 2 Donalson 2003, p. 205.
  3. Paietta 2007, p. 36.
  4. Jet Magazine Staff 1981, p. 45.
  5. McNary, Dave (July 19, 2015). "George Coe, Oscar-Nominated Actor and SAG Activist, Dies at 86". Variety . Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  6. "Bustin' Loose". Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  7. "Bustin' Loose". Hollywood.com . Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  8. "Bustin' Loose". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . Los Angeles: American Film Institute . Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  9. Burchard, Boyd (October 4, 1981). "Love affair paying off for state, movies". The Seattle Times . p. D9.
  10. "Bustin' Loose (1981)". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  11. Canby, Vincent (May 22, 1981). "'Bustin' Loose' Stars Richard Pryor Gone Softy – Review". The New York Times . Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  12. "Bustin' Loose". TV Guide . Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  13. "Bustin' Loose". Good Times Video. May 1, 2001. ASIN   B00000JZHI . Retrieved January 6, 2017 via Amazon.com.

General and cited sources