|North Dallas Forty|
Theatrical release poster by Morgan Kane
|Directed by||Ted Kotcheff|
|Produced by||Frank Yablans|
|Screenplay by|| Peter Gent |
|Based on||North Dallas Forty|
by Peter Gent
|Starring|| Nick Nolte |
G. D. Spradlin
Savannah Smith Boucher
|Music by||John Scott|
|Edited by||Jay Kamen|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$26.1 million|
North Dallas Forty is a 1979 American sports comedy-drama film starring Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, and G. D. Spradlin set in the decadent world of American professional football in the late 1970s. It was directed by Ted Kotcheff and based on the best-selling 1973 novel by Peter Gent. The screenplay was by Kotcheff, Gent, Frank Yablans, and Nancy Dowd (uncredited). This was the first film role for Davis, a popular country music recording artist.
Wide receiver Phil Elliott plays for a late 1970s professional football team based in Dallas, Texas, named the North Dallas Bulls (which closely resembles the Dallas Cowboys).
Though considered to possess "the best hands in the game", the aging Elliott has been benched and relies heavily on painkillers. Elliott and popular quarterback Seth Maxwell are outstanding players, but they also characterize the drug-, sex-, and alcohol-fueled party atmosphere of that era. Elliott wants only to play the game, retire, and live on a horse farm with his girlfriend Charlotte, who appears to be financially independent, and has no interest whatsoever in football.
The Bulls play for iconic Coach Strother, who turns a blind eye to anything that his players may be doing off the field or anything that his assistant coaches and trainers condone to keep those players in the game. The coach is focused on player "tendencies", a quantitative measurement of their performance, and seems less concerned about the human aspect of the game and the players. One player, Shaddock, finally erupts to assistant Coach Johnson: "Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game." The coaches manipulate Elliott to convince a younger, injured rookie on the team to start using painkillers.
Elliott's nonconformist attitude incurs the coach's wrath more than once, and at one point, the coach informs Elliott that his continuing attitude could affect his future with the Bulls. After the Bulls lose their final game of the season in Chicago, Elliott learns that a Dallas detective has been hired by the Bulls to follow him. They turn up proof of his marijuana use and a sexual relationship with a woman who intends to marry team executive Emmett Hunter, brother of owner Conrad Hunter. Though the detective witnessed quarterback Seth Maxwell engaging in similar behavior, he pretends not to have recognized him. After they tell him that he is to be suspended without pay pending a league hearing, Elliott, convinced that the entire investigation is merely a pretext to allow the team to save money on his contract, quits the game of football for good.
Part drama, comedy, and satire, North Dallas Forty is widely considered a classic sports film, giving insights into the lives of professional athletes.
Based on the semiautobiographical novel by Peter Gent, a Cowboys wide receiver in the late 1960s, the film's characters closely resemble real-life team members of that era, with Seth Maxwell often compared to quarterback Don Meredith, B.A. Strother to Tom Landry, and Elliott to Gent. Of the story, Meredith said, "If I'd known Gent was as good as he says he was, I would have thrown to him more."
The film opened to good reviews, some critics calling it the best movie Ted Kotcheff made behind Fun with Dick and Jane and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz . In her review for The New York Times , Janet Maslin wrote, "The central friendship in the movie, beautifully delineated, is the one between Mr. Nolte and Mac Davis, who expertly plays the team's quarterback, a man whose calculating nature and complacency make him all the more likable, somehow."Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "'North Dallas Forty' retains enough of the original novel's authenticity to deliver strong, if brutish, entertainment". Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "The writers -- Kotcheff, Gent and producer Frank Yablans -- are nonetheless to be congratulated for allowing their story to live through its characters, abjuring Rocky-like fantasy configurations for the harder realities of the game. North Dallas Forty isn't subtle or finely tuned, but like a crunching downfield tackle, it leaves its mark."
However, in his review for The Globe and Mail , Rick Groen wrote, "North Dallas Forty descends into farce and into the lone man versus the corrupt system mentality deprives it of real resonance. It's still not the honest portrait of professional athletics that sport buffs have been waiting for."Sports Illustrated magazine's Frank Deford wrote, "If North Dallas Forty is reasonably accurate, the pro game is a gruesome human abattoir, worse even than previously imagined. Much of the strength of this impression can be attributed to Nick Nolte ... Unfortunately, Nolte's character, Phil Elliott, is often fuzzily drawn, which makes the actor's accomplishment all the more impressive." In his review for The Washington Post , Gary Arnold wrote, "Charlotte, who seemed a creature of rhetorical fancy in the novel, still remains a trifle remote and unassimilated. Dayle Haddon may also be a little too prim and standoffish to achieve a satisfying romantic chemistry with Nolte: Somehow, the temperaments don't mesh."
As of October 2020, North Dallas Forty holds a rating of 84% based on 25 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The site's critical consensus states: "Muddled overall, but perceptive and brutally realistic, North Dallas Forty also benefits from strong performances by Nick Nolte and Charles Durning. Football fans will likely find it fascinating."
The film grossed $2,787,489 in its opening weekend.The following weekend saw the weekend gross increase to $2,906,268. After 32 days from 654 theatres, it had grossed $19,010,710 and went on to gross $26,079,312 in the United States and Canada.
The novel highlights the relationship between the violent world of professional football with the violence inherent in the social structures and cultural mores of late 1960s American life, using a simulacrum of America's Team and the most popular sport in the United States as the metaphorical central focus. Recurring scenes of television and radio news reporting violent crimes, war and environmental destruction are scattered throughout various scenes, but left out in the same scenes recreated in the movie. Throughout the novel there is more graphic sex and violence, as well as drug and alcohol abuse without the comic overtones of the film; for instance, the harassment of an unwilling girl at a party that is played for laughs in the movie is a brutal near-rape at an orgy in the novel.
At the end of the novel, there is a shocking twist ending in which Phil returns to Charlotte to tell her he has left football and to presumably continue his relationship with her on her ranch, but finds that she and a black friend (David Clarke, who is not in the movie) have been regular lovers, unbeknownst to Phil, and that they have been violently murdered. The murderer is Charlotte's ex-boyfriend and football groupie Bob Boudreau (who is also not in the movie); Boudreau has been stalking her throughout the novel. In the novel, Charlotte was a widow whose husband was an Army officer who had been killed in Vietnam; Charlotte had told Phil that her husband had decided to resign his commission, but had been killed in action while the request was being processed.
The World Football League (WFL) was a short-lived American football league that played one full season in 1974 and most of its second in 1975. Although the league's proclaimed ambition was to bring American football onto a worldwide stage, the farthest the WFL reached was placing a team – the Hawaiians – in Honolulu, Hawaii. The league folded midway through its second season, in 1975. A new minor football league began play as the World Football League in 2008 after acquiring the rights to its trademarks and intellectual property; it folded in 2011.
Nicholas King Nolte is an American actor, producer, author, and former model. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1991 film The Prince of Tides. He went on to receive Academy Award nominations for Affliction (1998) and Warrior (2011).
The Replacements is a 2000 American sports comedy film directed by Howard Deutch. It stars Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Brooke Langton, Jon Favreau and Jack Warden in what would be his last film appearance.
George Davis Peter Gent was a wide receiver in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. He became a novelist after his retirement, authoring the best-seller North Dallas Forty. He played college basketball at Michigan State University.
Gervase Duan Spradlin was an American actor. Known for his distinctive accent and voice, he often played devious authority figures. He is credited in over 70 television and film productions, and performed with actors such as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Garner, Charlton Heston, George C. Scott, and Johnny Depp.
Phillip Martin Simms is a former American football quarterback who spent his entire 15-year professional career playing for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He is currently a television sportscaster for the CBS network. After playing college football at Morehead State University, Simms was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL) with the number seven selection overall in the 1979 NFL Draft. Simms was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of Super Bowl XXI, after he led the Giants to a 39–20 victory over the Denver Broncos and set the record for highest completion percentage in a Super Bowl, completing 22 of 25 passes (88%), a record that still stands. He also was named to the Pro Bowl for his performances in the 1985 and 1993 seasons.
William Theodore Kotcheff is a Canadian film and television director and producer, known primarily for his work on British and American television productions such as Armchair Theatre and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He has also directed numerous successful films including the Australian Wake in Fright (1971), action films such as the original Rambo movie First Blood (1982) and Uncommon Valor (1983), and comedies like Weekend at Bernie's (1989), Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), and North Dallas Forty (1979). He is sometimes credited as William T. Kotcheff, and resides in Beverly Hills, California. Given his ancestry, Kotcheff has Bulgarian citizenship.
Frank Yablans was an American studio executive, film producer and screenwriter.
Joseph "Dandy" Don Meredith was an American football quarterback, sports commentator and actor. He spent all nine seasons of his professional playing career (1960–1968) with the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last three years as a player. He subsequently became a color analyst for NFL telecasts from 1970–1984. As an original member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), he famously played the role of Howard Cosell's comic foil. Meredith was also an actor who appeared in a dozen films and in seven major television shows, some of which had him as the main starring actor. He is probably familiar to television audiences as Bert Jameson, a recurring role he had in Police Story.
John Daniel Matuszak was an American football defensive end in the National Football League who later became an actor.
The Catch was the winning touchdown reception in the 1981 NFC Championship Game played between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on January 10, 1982, as part of the 1981–82 NFL playoffs following the 1981 NFL season. With 58 seconds left in the game and the 49ers facing 3rd-and-3, San Francisco wide receiver Dwight Clark made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone to complete a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Montana, enabling the 49ers to defeat the Cowboys, 28–27. The Catch is widely regarded as one of the most memorable events in National Football League (NFL) history. It came at the end of a 14-play, 83-yard drive engineered by Montana. The game represented the end of the Cowboys' domination in the NFC since the conference's inception in 1970, and the beginning of the 49ers' rise as an NFL dynasty in the 1980s.
Ronald Wayne Shelton is an American film director and screenwriter and former minor league baseball infielder. Shelton is known for the many films he has made about sports. His 1988 film Bull Durham, based in-part off his own baseball experiences, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Charles Anthony Fusina is a former American college and professional football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) and United States Football League (USFL) for seven seasons during the 1970s and 1980s. He played college football for Penn State University, and was recognized as an All-American. Fusina played professionally for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers of the NFL, and the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars of the USFL.
The Franchise is a 1983 novel written by former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver/tight end Peter Gent.
Jason Calvin Garrett is an American football coach and former player who is the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys during the 2010s. Before that, Garrett was the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach of the Cowboys before being promoted to interim head coach after the firing of Wade Phillips in late 2010. Garrett was a college football quarterback at Princeton University, and also played for the Cowboys, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Miami Dolphins.
Extreme Prejudice is a 1987 American neo-western action film starring Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe, with a supporting cast including Michael Ironside, María Conchita Alonso, Rip Torn, William Forsythe, and Clancy Brown.
Thom Noble is a British film editor who won an Academy Award and an ACE Eddie Award for the film Witness (1985), and who was nominated for the Academy Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Editing for the film Thelma & Louise (1991).
This article contains an in-depth explanation of the history of the Dallas Cowboys, a professional American football team that competes in the National Football League (NFL).
Tommy Reamon is a retired African-American professional football player, who has worked as an actor, and is currently an educator in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. As a high school football coach, Reamon has had some notable success in developing talent to become collegiate and professional football players among his students.