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Comes a Horseman (1978)

PG  |   |  Drama, Western, Romance  |  25 October 1978 (USA)
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Reviews: 17 user | 7 critic

Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and ... See full summary »


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Frank 'Buck' Athearn
Jacob 'J.W.' Ewing
George Grizzard ...
Neil Atkinson
Julie Blocker
Billy Joe Meynert
Virgil Hoverton
George Bascomb
James Kline ...
Ralph Cole
Emil Kroegh
Clifford A. Pellow ...
Cattle Buyer


Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and Frank fight back through stampedes, jealousy, betrayal, and sabotage...they eventually find love. Written by cactusjump

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She was as strong as the land for which she fought. And as vunerable. See more »


Drama | Western | Romance


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 October 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Comes a Horseman Wild and Free  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Second of three collaborations between actress Jane Fonda and director 'Alan J Pakula'. The movies include Klute (1971), Comes a Horseman (1978) and Rollover (1981). See more »


Frank's saddle has a holster but no rifle when he leaves his horse outside the ranch house near the end. He later uses the rifle from the holster to shoot the bad guys. See more »

Crazy Credits

Our thanks to the Forest Service for allowing us to film in the Coconino National Forest See more »


Featured in Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

James Caan and Jane Fonda face off against Jason Robards over valley ranch land
13 September 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This western is not your usual, although plot-wise it has a central familiar ring to it. Huge numbers of westerns revolve around struggles for land or water. This one is no different in that respect. Robards is a cattle rancher who wants the whole valley, but Caan and Fonda are two separate ranchers whose independence stands in his way. All of them relate to their parents who had similar struggles. When Robards has a buddy of Caan killed, Caan goes in with Fonda. That's no easy task. She is very much a loner, brought up that way by her dad. Fonda's main hand is Richard Farnsworth who almost steals the picture, but everyone does a fine job of acting.

So what's different here? Several things. A big part of the story is the Caan-Fonda relationship, with Farnsworth as mediator. Another twist is that George Grizzard is an oil man who intends to get the valley for oil drilling. Another twist is that Robards becomes increasingly impatient and obsessed with what he wants. His cold-bloodedness and murderousness are not the standard stuff of westerns, but it is more of its time (1978). And mixed in with this is the very opposite, which is the director Pakula's love affair with the landscape, the cattle business, and the pride of the proficient and very hard-working cow hands. They are shown in their work at length. Gordon Willis is the cinematographer, so you can imagine what beautiful scenes he comes up with. The locations in Arizona and California feature vistas, mountains, and forests.

Mix all this up smoothly and you have a different western. I go with the flow. If Pakula as artist wanted to pace the story slowly and dwell lovingly on the details, including the hands singing songs and playing guitars, I give him the benefit of doubt. All movies cannot be the same. I didn't find that this approach dragged enough to undermine the movie, but he does go slowly at times.

Robards was well-directed. He did not chew the scenery, and that made his part all the more chilling. Jim Davis, from way back, played one of his hands.

TCM showed this recently in a widescreen print. The title I associate with James Caan, or with cow hands more generally, whose work is demanding and includes horsemanship. He comes into Fonda's life and alters it a great deal.

One quibble is that Fonda's voice was too low in a few instances. Caan's enunciation sometimes is garbled. But the fact is that both these actors have stood the test of time. Caan's body of work is looking better and better as time passes, and I look for movies that he's in. That's because I like the rougher movies, as opposed to Fonda's more usual fluff. For a more serious Fonda, see Klute, They Shoot Horses, and The Morning After, or Joy House, The Chase, and Walk on the Wild Side. She too has a more than respectable body of work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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