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:
Gregorio Cortez
Sheriff Frank Fly
Reporter Blakely
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)

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,477, 21 August 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


The author of the book, Américo Paredes, hated this movie. According to Paredes, Gregorio Cortez did not shed one tear while he was in jail and yet, Cortez cries in the movie. Anytime someone would ask him his thoughts about the movie, he would be so angry about it that he would refuse to discuss the movie and instead, would have his wife tell them why he disliked it. See more »


In the movie Cortez appears to be riding to the border through the Texas Hill Country, traversing high hills covered in cedar with low mountains in the background, and arrives near the Rio Grande in a mountainous area - obviously in West Texas. In reality, Cortez rode south from Karnes County and was captured near El Sauz in Starr County, mostly flat area with very low hills, if any, then known as "the wild horse desert" filled with prickly pear cactus and mesquite - not at all like the countryside depicted in the movie. 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 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!

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