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North Dallas Forty (1979)

A semi-fictional account of life as a professional (American-style) football player. Loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys team of the early 1970s.

Director:

Ted Kotcheff

Writers:

Peter Gent (novel), Frank Yablans (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Nolte ... Phillip Elliott
Mac Davis ... Seth Maxwell
Charles Durning ... Coach Johnson
Dayle Haddon ... Charlotte Caulder
Bo Svenson ... Jo Bob Priddy
John Matuszak ... O. W. Shaddock
Steve Forrest ... Conrad Hunter
G.D. Spradlin ... B. A. Strothers
Dabney Coleman ... Emmett Hunter
Savannah Smith Boucher ... Joanne Rodney (as Savannah Smith)
Marshall Colt ... Art Hartman
Guich Koock Guich Koock ... Eddie Rand
Deborah Benson ... Mrs. Hartman
Jim Boeke Jim Boeke ... Stallings (as James F. Boeke)
John Bottoms John Bottoms ... Vip
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Storyline

A semi-fictional account of life as a professional (American-style) football player. Loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys team of the early 1970s. Written by Afterburner <aburner@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They pay you and they pay you well. On one condition. You play the game their way, even if you're forced to break every bone in your body. [UK Theatrical] See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 August 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Destino de un rebelde See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$26,079,312
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Reportedly, creative differences were apparent on the set between producer Frank Yablans and screenwriter / source novelist Peter Gent. See more »

Goofs

There are several lip-synch problems throughout, probably due to re-dubbing lines. See more »

Quotes

Coach Johnson: [shouting] Five minutes!
O. W. Shaddock: How long, coach?
Coach Johnson: Five mi... fuck you!
See more »


Soundtracks

Good Times
Performed by Chic
Written by Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers
courtesy of Atlantic Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Wait till you fathom the good part
3 February 2014 | by StevePulaskiSee all my reviews

The opening shot of Ted Kotcheff's North Dallas Forty is a tense and memorable one. It shows the aging and exhausted Phil Elliot (Nick Nolte), passed out in his bed and awoken by a blaring alarm clock. Elliot is slow to get up, every move being a slow one that clearly causes a searing amount of pain. He lumbers to the kitchen to get a beer before stumbling to soak in a bathtub. Punctuating this scene are brief little clips from last night's football game, where Elliot was met with several rough, polarizing blows to every part of his body. Interrupting this scene's quiet, almost meditative atmosphere are Elliot's loudmouth friends, clearly intoxicated, who want to go out and cause a ruckus with their shotguns.

What we see in the first few minutes of North Dallas Forty are what we never see in sports - the morning after the game. The physical pain rather than the heated press conferences or celebratory events in the locker. Because we see the lead character in such a vulnerable, often powerless light despite being a very good football player is why North Dallas Forty is so skilled on its feet as a film. It explores where other films would dim their focus. It fully embraces and boldly depicts in element where other screenwriters' knees would buckle under the weight and pressure of the story, especially for the time. Written by a trio of thoughtful and thoroughly ambitious people - Peter Gent, Kotcheff, and Frank Yablans - the film manages to be less entertaining and sensational, like a typical sports film, and more heartbreaking and an often immersing watch.

We set our sights on Elliot, who is becoming greatly dissatisfied with the way the NFL operates (his team is the fictional North Dallas Bulls, which mirror the Dallas Cowboys, FYI). He loathes the way managers and coaches treat their players like cattle, constantly emphasizing their flaws and not their advantages, and justifying their ungrateful, smug comments on poor performance as methods of tough-love. Elliot knows the organization is out to make money and injuries, long-term trauma, and player wellbeing are the least of their concerns. Through Elliot's dissatisfaction, however, he becomes heavily dependent on painkillers, alcohol, and other pills of sorts to keep his mind right. Just before a big game that determines the Bulls' playoff fate, Elliot's leg, which is experiencing hellish pain, is given a shot of a mysterious substance. What was it? What are its effects? Why is it being used? Who cares, "the whole thing's numb," Elliot states.

The film is held together not only by the competence of its writer but by Nolte's tremendous talents as a character actor and performing. He articulates with a touch of sensitivity and years of craft the agony and despair many aging athletes likely experience. For instance, consider Super Bowl XLVIII, which took place yesterday and ended with the Seattle Seahawks winning 43 - 8 over the two-point favorite Denver Broncos, led by Quarterback Peyton Manning, who is already thirty-seven years old with years of professional experience under his belt. I wouldn't want to feel what that man has felt waking up, especially now, nearing forty with the albatross of having numerous neck surgeries conducted. Watching the Super Bowl last night, I could only imagine how he not just him but many of those players wake up with severe pain in their bodies - pain that will likely carry over to their older years and maybe even cripple them as time goes on. All for a game that will be out of the immediate mindset of even the most heartened-fans in no more than two weeks or so.

On a final note, the promotional poster/home video release images for North Dallas Forty are criminally misleading ones, showing two football players, one dousing himself with water, the other hoisting his helmet while they both lounge in two cowboy boots with two woman grappling to get at them on both sides of the boots. The image at hand denotes a fun sort of rabble-rousing, Animal House-style entertainment which is completely absent from the film. This is not the film you will see, and the marketing campaign has shamefully misrepresented the film to consumers if their sole-exposure to the film is by looking at the film's promotional poster or home video cover.

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, and Charles Durning. Directed by: Ted Kotcheff.


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