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The Getaway is a crime and action film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw and Ben Johnson.

The film is based on a novel by Jim Thompson, with the screenplay written by Walter Hill. A box office hit earning US$26 million at the theaters, the film was one of the most financially successful productions of Peckinpah's and McQueen's careers.

It was remade in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.


Carter "Doc" McCoy (McQueen), an incarcerated criminal, is suffering from the isolation of prison life in Texasmarker. After being denied parole, he sends his wife Carol (MacGraw) to do whatever's necessary to make a deal with Jack Benyon (Johnson]), a corrupt businessman in San Antoniomarker.

Benyon has Doc paroled on the condition that he take part in a bank robbery with two of his minions, Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Frank (Bo Hopkins). A guard is killed and Rudy attempts a doublecross, shooting Frank and drawing a gun on Doc, but a prepared Doc beats him to the draw and shoots Rudy several times.

Doc meets with Benyon to divide the money. Benyon also attempts to doublecross him before being shot and killed by Carol. It is clear to Doc now that Carol had to sleep with Benyon in order to guarantee his release from prison. Angry and taking it out on her, Doc gathers up the money and the couple flees for the border in El Pasomarker.

A bloodied Rudy, having secretly worn a bulletproof vest, is still alive. He forces a rural veterinarian named Harold (Jack Dodson) and his young wife Fran (Sally Struthers) to treat his injuries, then kidnaps them in order to pursue Doc and Carol.

Meanwhile, Benyon's brother Cully (Roy Jenson) and his thugs also go after the McCoys. Doc and Carol fight over her indiscretion with Benyon. At the train station, a shifty con man copies a locker key from Carol and lifts their bag of money from a locker. Doc follows the thief onto a train and forcefully takes it back. The injured con man and several witnesses are taken to the police station, where they identify Doc's mug shot.

Now recognized wherever they go, the McCoys are forced into several shoot-outs and chases with the police. They escape by hiding in a trash bin, only to end up in the back of a garbage truck and dumped at the local landfill. Filthy and frustrated, they debate whether to stay together or split up. They decide to see things through.

Rudy's mutual attraction to the veterinarian's wife Fran leads to a sexual relationship in front of her husband. Humiliated, the vet hangs himself in a motel bathroom. Rudy and Fran move on, barely acknowledging the suicide.

They arrive first at an El Paso hotel used by criminals as a safe house, threatening the hotel's manager. Doc and Carol are given a room on the same floor and ask for food to delivered, but the manager says he is working alone and can't leave the desk. Doc eventually realizes that the manager has sent away all of his family, something that as an alcoholic he wasn't likely to do. He urges Carol to get dressed fast so they can get away.

Fran and an armed Rudy come to their door. Doc, peering from another doorway, is surprised to see Rudy alive. He sneaks up from behind and knocks out Rudy, then does the same to the screaming Fran.

Cully and his thugs arrive just as the McCoys descend the stairs. A violent gunfight ensues in the hotel's halls and stairwell. Doc and Carol kill all of Cully's men and flee via the fire escape. Rudy comes to his senses and follows them, but Doc shoots and kills him.

With the police en route, the couple hijacks a pickup truck and force its driver, a cooperative cowboy (Slim Pickens), to take them to Mexicomarker. After crossing the border, Doc and Carol pay the cowboy $30,000 for his truck, which isn't worth anything close to that. Overjoyed, the cowboy walks back toward El Paso while the couple drives on into Mexico to a new life.



Jim Thompson was originally hired to adapt his novel for the film. Thompson worked on the screenplay for four months and produced a treatment, with alternate scenes and episodes. Thompson's script included a borderline-surrealistic ending from his novel featuring the kingdom of El Rey, a Mexican town filled with criminals. Steve McQueen objected to the depressing ending and had Thompson replaced by screenwriter Walter Hill. Peter Bogdanovich was originally scheduled to direct, but was released due to time constraints in finishing What's Up, Doc?

After his previous film Junior Bonner (1972) was a box office failure, a frustrated McQueen began immediate production on The Getaway. He was eager to work again with Sam Peckinpah and presented him Hill's screenplay. Peckinpah, like McQueen, was in need of a box office hit and immediately accepted. They began work in February 1972, filming on location in multiple Texas towns including Huntsvillemarker, San Marcosmarker, San Antoniomarker, Fabensmarker and El Pasomarker. Reportedly, Peckinpah had no pretensions about making The Getaway, as his only goal was to create a highly-polished thriller to boost his market value.

While filming in San Marcos, actor James Garner visited the location. Due to a shortage of stunt drivers, he drove an orange Volkswagen Bug during a car chase scene following the bank robbery. He was paid a standard stuntman salary of $25.

McQueen and McGraw began an affair during the film's production. She would eventually leave her husband Robert Evans and become McQueen's second wife.

Peckinpah originally wanted actor Richard Bright to play the role of Rudy Butler, but McQueen believed that Bright was not threatening enough because they were the same height. The more physically imposing Al Lettieri was cast while Bright played the train station con man.

Replete with explosions, car chases and intense shootouts, the film was expensive to make but became Peckinpah's and McQueen's biggest financial success to date, earning more than $25 million at the box office. Though clearly a commercial product, Peckinpah's creative touches are scattered throughout, most notably during the intricately edited opening sequence when McQueen's character is suffering from the pressures of prison life. The film remains popular, but its critical reputation has diminished as many Peckinpah admirers consider it a minor work.

While filming in El Paso, Peckinpah sneaked across the border into Juarezmarker in April 1972 and married Joie Gould. He had met her in Englandmarker in 1971 while directing Straw Dogs and she had since been his companion and a part-time crew member.

Peckinpah's intake of alcohol increased dramatically while making The Getaway, and he became fond of saying, "I can't direct when I'm sober." He began to have violent mood swings and explosions of rage, at one point assaulting Gould. After four months, she returned to England and filed for divorce. Devastated by the breakup, Peckinpah fell into a self destructive pattern of almost continuous alcohol consumption, and his health would be unstable for the remainder of his life.

The film was rated PG by the MPAA in the United States. A few years later, in retrospect, this was considered a mistake and the board believed that the film should have been rated R. The film was given an X rating in the UK.


Peckinpah's long-time composer and collaborator Jerry Fielding was originally hired to do the musical score for The Getaway. He had previously worked with the director on Noon Wine (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), Straw Dogs (1971) and Junior Bonner (1972). After the film's second preview screening, McQueen was unhappy with the music and hired Quincy Jones to rescore the film. Jones' music had a jazzier edge and featured harmonica solos by Toots Thielemans, with Don Elliott credited for "musical voices." Peckinpah was unhappy with the decision and took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety on November 17, 1972 including a letter he had written to Fielding thanking him for his work. Fielding would work with Peckinpah on two additional films, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and The Killer Elite (1975).


  1. Weddle 1994, p. 434.
  2. Weddle 1994, p. 436.
  3. Weddle 1994, p. 439.
  4. Simmons 1982, pp. 154-168.
  5. Weddle 1994, p. 442.
  6. Weddle 1994, pp. 444-450.
  7. Movie Guide for Puzzled Parents by Lynn Minton, Delacorte Press, 1984.
  8. Simmons 1982, pp. 165-167.


  • Simmons, Garner (1982) Peckinpah, A Portrait in Montage. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-76493-6
  • Weddle, David (1994) If They Move...Kill 'Em!. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3776-8

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