American Playhouse (1981– )
4 user 4 critic

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez 

The retelling of an incident in Gonzales, Texas in 1901 revolving around a stolen horse, mistaken identity and a killing. An unusual story of the all too usual exploitation of the powerless in Texas History.




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Reporter Blakely
Captain Rogers
Mike Trimmell
Sheriff Morris
Romaldo Cortez
Sheriff Glover
Jack Kehoe ...
Prosecutor Pferson
Carlota Muñoz
Buddy Vigil ...
Zach Porter ...
Fly's Posse


The entire cause of the problem evolves from the use of a deputy to translate. His command of Spanish is inadequate and he mistranslates what a witness tells the sheriff as to whether the real perpetrator of the crime is riding a mare (yegua) or a male horse (caballo). This error results in destroying a family and the death of an innocent man. Written by Dave Anderson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The true story of one man who made a difference.


PG | See all certifications »


Official Sites:




Release Date:

29 June 1982 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,305,000 (estimated)


$909,000 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


The film was such important a project to Edward James Olmos that he actually ran it in an L.A. theater free of charge to encourage attendance. See more »


In some shots during the courtroom scenes, one of the jurors can be seen to be wearing a modern pair of dark-rimmed spectacles. See more »


Captain Rogers: Well, out here if it crawls, it'll bite ya, if it flies, it'll sting ya and if it grows it'll stick ya!
See more »


Referenced in Spy Kids (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

ordinary good man becomes outlaw
11 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was by far my favorite Olmos movie; he made the entire movie without (except for his last line) saying a word in English and yet tapped into our emotions, making us feel deeply for his character and know his thoughts; this was pure acting genius. The scene where he's talking with his wife and watching their kids play captivated me: I didn't need to understand a word they were saying to see he was a loving family man. Later, as he's alone for so much of the story, he had me sharing his fear and anguish.

It is both an intensely dramatic and a monumentally important film. As with "Salt of the Earth," "Burn," "Fast Food Nation," and such, it is disappointing to see such great films fail to reach a wider audience. I only found this film because it was in a video rental place that I frequented.

Incidentally, when I had the honor of meeting this by-then academy-nominated actor, I told him how impressed I had been with him as Cortez; he gave all the credit to the director. I appreciated his modesty, but I had to insist, his acting was also great!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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