Freebie and the Bean

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Freebie and the Bean
Freebie and The Bean.jpg
Directed by Richard Rush
Produced byRichard Rush
Screenplay by Robert Kaufman
Story by Floyd Mutrux
Starring James Caan
Alan Arkin
Loretta Swit
Jack Kruschen
Christopher Morley
Mike Kellin
Alex Rocco
Linda Marsh
Valerie Harper
Music by Dominic Frontiere
Cinematography László Kovács
Edited by Michael McLean
Fredric Steinkamp
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • December 25, 1974 (1974-12-25)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$30,000,000 [1]

Freebie and the Bean is a 1974 American buddy cop black comedy action film about two off-beat police detectives who wreak havoc in San Francisco attempting to bring down a local organized crime boss. The picture stars James Caan, Alan Arkin, Loretta Swit and Valerie Harper. [2] Harper was nominated for the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year for playing the Hispanic wife of Alan Arkin. [3] The film was directed by Richard Rush.



Freebie and Bean are a pair of maverick detectives with the SFPD Intelligence Squad. The volatile, gratuity-seeking Freebie is trying to get promoted to the vice squad to garner perks for his retirement while the neurotic and fastidious Bean has ambitions to make lieutenant. Against a backdrop of Super Bowl weekend in San Francisco, the partners are trying to conclude a 14-month investigation, digging through garbage to gather evidence against well-connected racketeer Red Meyers, when they discover that a hit man from Detroit is after Meyers as well. After rejecting their pretext arrest of Meyers to protect him, the district attorney orders them to keep him alive until Monday.

After locating and shooting the primary hit man, and distracted by Bean's suspicions that his wife is having an affair with the landscaper, they continue their investigation seeking a key witness against Meyers who can explain and corroborate the evidence. In the midst of this, they foil a second hit on Meyers by a backup team, leading to a destructive vehicle and foot pursuit through the city, after which they learn that Meyers is planning to fly to Miami before Monday. Tailing him, they receive word that their witness has been located and a warrant issued for Meyers' arrest. Unbeknownst to them, a woman Red Meyers picked up at a local park is actually a female impersonator looking to rob Meyers.

During the arrest attempt Bean is shot by the thief, who flees with Meyers into the stadium where the Super Bowl is underway. Freebie corners the hit man in a women's restroom. Despite being shot himself, he rescues a hostage and kills the hit man who nearly bests Freebie with his unexpected martial arts skills. The D.A. arrives after the shootings and tells Freebie that the warrant is canceled because the witness was assassinated on the way to the station. Freebie goes nuts and demands to be allowed to arrest Meyers, which is granted by the lieutenant in command of his squad, only to find that Meyers has died of a heart attack. Freebie is further demoralized to learn that the evidence they gathered was planted by Meyers' wife in an extra-marital conspiracy with his lieutenant.

Bean is not dead after all, however, and in the ambulance the two wounded partners engage in a free-for-all when Freebie thinks Bean has been playing a joke on him, causing yet another accident.




The film was based on an original script by Floyd Mutrux who originally intended to produce. In April 1972 he sold it to Warner Bros. [4]

Mutrux had offers from other studios but elected to go to Warners because he felt studio vice president Richard Zanuck was "the straightest shooter I've ever known." [5]

The comedy followed on the heels of two popular action films about the San Francisco Police, Bullitt (1968) and Dirty Harry (1971), and incorporates plot elements prominent in both. James Caan later called the film "sort of The Odd Couple in a squad car, detectives, hopefully funny." [6]

Mutrux claims Al Pacino was offered one of the leads but his agent requested $250,000 plus a percentage of the profits, so Warners went with James Caan. This casting happened in June. [5] By August Richard Rush was attached to direct. [7]

Rush described the original script as about:

Two corrupt cops who ride around in a police car, quarreling with each other like an old married couple. You were never sure which one was the wife and which one was the husband. They became interchangeable. There was also the somewhat clumsy, rough skeleton of the plot concerning a criminal that they must keep alive to testify while assassins are contracted to kill him, which survived through our final film screenplay. I liked these ideas idea but there was nothing else there to make a movie work. [8]

Rush says John Calley, head of Warners, told the director he could turn it into a "Dick Rush picture... He was very generous and promised the studio would be very agreeable. It was the kind of offer that you can't refuse." [8]

Mutrux left the project and Rush rewrote the script with Robert Kaufman. The director says "we wrote a new screenplay about two bickering cops that became a prototype of the buddy cop movie. I put a lot of meat on the bones, with the unstereotypical wife of Freebie tormenting him with jealousy and the comic relief of their relationship." [8]

In October Alan Arkin signed to co star with Caan. [9] Rush says Calley, who had worked with Arkin on Catch-22, warned the director that Arkin was "a director killer" but Rush insisted. [8]

Prior to filming, Rush worked on the script with the two stars and Kaufman in several improvisational sessions. Rush says "at my suggestion they turned what had originally been serious drama into bizarre comedy. Slowly their relationship took on the pains and pleasures of a friendship neither could live with or without." [10]

Arkin admits that it was Rush's idea to turn the film into a comedy. "I hadn't thought about it. I didn't see it in the script." [10]


Filming took eleven weeks in 1973. It was a difficult shoot, in part because Arkin and Caan felt their characters were being made secondary to stunts and action sequences. [10]

Arkin said his relationship with Caan "was great. There is a very exciting interaction between us. Jimmy pushes me and forces me to change.. But a lot of the time we've taken a back seat to the action." [10]

There were difficulties between Rush and Arkin/Caan. Rush says "the main factor was Arkin. Caan was a copycat. He was Arkin's buddy and would do anything Arkin did... Arkin needed conflict as part of his method, and it was horribly disruptive, but it didn't show in his work." [8]

Key scenes were shot on location in San Francisco at Candlestick Park, then home of the Major League Baseball San Francisco Giants, and later the home of the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers. Dealing with local authorities was reportedly very difficult for the crew. [10]

The plot includes the protagonists’ repeated "totaling" of a series of their own unmarked police vehicles during three different chase-crash sequences. One sequence was filmed on an elevated portion of the since-demolished Embarcadero Freeway, ending with their police vehicle car crashing into an apartment building. After the car lands in an elderly couple's bedroom as they are watching television, Arkin's character collapses from nervous shock against the wall as Caan's character calls for a tow truck, adding that their location is “on the third floor”. The couple retains their aplomb throughout. [11]

Rush said he "shot the film partly in a Tom and Jerry style, with lots of car chases and car crashes, and the heroes are being indestructible. The audience is laughing and enjoying themselves and suddenly Freebie would drive around the corner into a marching band of kids, and just sloughed through them. The audience thought Wait a minute. What am I laughing at?, and the style of the film had changed to stark realism. There was a lot of game-playing in the picture." [8]

"I never actually knew what Rush wanted," said Arkin at the end of filming. "He [Rush] is so uncertain it's hard to handle," said Caan. [10]


Plans to distribute the film in early 1974 were shelved due to concerns about competition with Peter Hyams' similar Busting . The film opened the 1974 Chicago Film Festival. [12] Freebie and the Bean was finally issued as a Christmas release.

Home media

The film was released on DVD in 2009 through Warner Home Video's Warner Archive label. [13]


Critical reception

The film was panned by critics upon release. A.D. Murphy of Variety called it a "tasteless "comedy" about two dumb cops breaking the law". [12]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 17% from 23 reviews with the consensus: "A sour blend of misguided comedy and all-out action, Freebie and the Bean is a buddy cop picture that's far less than arresting entertainment." [14]

Box office

The film became a substantial box office success. [11] It earned rentals of $12.5 million in the United States and Canada. [15] [16]


A short-lived nine-episode television series based on the film and sharing its title, starring Tom Mason and Héctor Elizondo in the title roles, was broadcast on CBS on Saturday nights at 9:00 PM in December 1980 and January 1981. [17] [18]


Peter O'Toole agreed to be in The Stunt Man on the basis of Rush's work on Freebie and the Bean. [19]

The film has become a cult favorite. Quentin Tarantino called it "nothing short of a masterpiece... absolutely brutal... part of the way the film worked was for you to laugh at the brutal violence and then feel bad about yourself for laughing." [20] An article in Rolling Stone magazine alleged that Stanley Kubrick called Freebie and the Bean the best film of 1974. [21]

See also

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