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One-Eyed Jacks, a 1961 Western, is the only film directed by actor Marlon Brando, who also played its lead character, Rio.

The film was originally to be directed by Stanley Kubrick. Other members of the cast include Karl Malden, Slim Pickens, Katy Jurado and Ben Johnson.


Rod Serling, already famed as the creator of The Twilight Zone series, wrote an adaptation of the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider (1956) — which was itself simply a novelization of the career of Billy the Kid relocated to Monterey, Californiamarker — at the request of producer Frank P. Rosenberg. The treatment was rejected.

Rosenberg next hired Sam Peckinpah, who finished his first script on 11 November 1957. Marlon Brando's Pennebaker Productions had paid $40,000 for the rights to Authentic Death and then signed a contract with Stanley Kubrick to direct for Paramount Pictures. Peckinpah handed in a revised screenplay on 6 May 1959. Later, Brando fired Peckinpah and hired Calder Willingham, but he and Brando stalled, so both Willingham and Kubrick were canned. Guy Trosper became the new screenwriter and worked on the story with Brando, who hired himself as director.

The movie had very little resemblance to the Neider novel, and what remains has much more resonance with history than fiction. At various times, the two credited screenwriters and the uncredited Peckinpah have claimed (or had claimed for them) a majority of the responsibility for the film, and Karl Malden has answered the query about who really wrote the story: "There is one answer to your question — Marlon Brando, a genius in our time."


Rio (also called "The Kid"), his partner Dad Longworth and a third man, Doc, rob a bank. It is successful, but some Mexican Rurales attack and kill Doc. Dad and Rio escape in the desert followed by a posse.

Rio figures the Rurales will be "swarming all over us inside an hour." One partner might take the remaining pony and ride to a little jacalito down the canyon about five miles and return with fresh mounts. They shake for it, with Rio fixing the deal so his pal Dad can be the one to go.

Dad gets to a corral, strapping the swag bag onto a fresh pony, but he gets second thoughts. He casts one eye towards that point on the ridge sure to be taken by the Rurales, and with the other he gazes off in the opposite direction out past a low-lying treeline towards the border and safety. One way leads to danger and a poor chance at surviving with half the booty, the other towards a virtual certainty with all of it. After a decidedly short moment of reflection, he takes the latter and leaves his friend to be taken by Rurales.

Rio spends fifteen years in a "stinkin' Sonora prison," which allows him to concentrate on Dad's having abandoned him. When he locates his former partner in crime, Longworth has become the sheriff of Monterey, California. Dad finally gets a chance to "explain" why he left his friend back in Mexico but tries again to deceive Rio by lying about why he never returned.

Rio plans a bank robbery in Monterey with his new partners Chico Modesto and Bob Emory. But his plans are sidetracked when he falls in love with Longworth's stepdaughter, Louisa, and when Dad administers a vicious beating with a whip in front of the entire town.

While recovering from his wounds near the ocean, Rio struggles with his conflicting desires to love the girl and to kill her stepfather for revenge. He decides to forgo vengeance and leave, but Emory kills Chico and pulls off the robbery. Rio is falsely accused and locked up by Longworth, who desperately wants to kill Rio in an attempt to absolve his own guilt over the earlier betrayal.

Jailed and sentenced to hang, Rio overpowers a sadistic deputy, Lon Dedrick, and escapes. In the center of town, under fire and left with no choice, he kills Longworth in a final showdown.



The film was Paramount Pictures' last feature released in VistaVision.

Cinematographer Charles Lang received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Cinematography, Color category that year.

It is presumed that the title refers to one-eyed jacks: the jacks in a deck of playing cards who are only showing one eye: the Jack of Hearts and the Jack of Spades. More than one of the principals has claimed to have supplied the title during a poker game on the set. These reports are slightly diminished by the name of the restaurant on the street of the jail where the Kid was held in the Neider novel: One-Eyed Charlie's.

At one point in the movie, Rio calls Longworth "a one-eyed jack," a reference to seeing only one side of a person's personality or life. The Kid is referring to Dad's reputation with the townspeople as a straight-laced, no-nonsense lawman, a view Rio does not share. "To these people you're a one-eyed jack, but I've seen the other side of your face."

Brando shot five hours of additional footage that was later destroyed.

It was the first American film for Pina Pellicer, who died in 1964 at age 30, a presumed suicide.

Doc is played by Hank Worden, who was Mose Harper in The Searchers.

Rio is asked to explain the poor quality of his new associates and notes there were "slim pickins" after Dad left.

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