Good Guys Wear Black

Good Guys Wear Black is a 1978 American action film starring Chuck Norris and directed by Ted Post.[4]

Good Guys Wear Black
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTed Post
Produced byAllan F. Bodoh
Michael Leone
Screenplay byBruce Cohn
Mark Medoff
Story byJoseph Fraley
StarringChuck Norris
Anne Archer
Soon-Tek Oh
Dana Andrews
James Franciscus
Lloyd Haynes
Jim Backus
Music byCraig Safan
CinematographyRobert Steadman
Edited byMillie Moore
William Moore
Action One Film Partners, LTD
Mar Vista Productions
Western Film Productions
Distributed byAmerican Cinema Releasing
Release date
  • June 21, 1978 (1978-06-21)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]
Box office$18.3 million (United States)[2][3]

This was the second film to feature Norris as the star, following Breaker! Breaker! (1977).[5] However this is the one that Norris considers his "breakthrough".[6]

The film featured a first screen appearance by Norris' brother Aaron Norris and final appearances by Lloyd Haynes, Dana Andrews and Jim Backus.[7]


Back in 1973, one United States Senator Conrad Morgan (James Franciscus), the chief delegate diplomat in negotiating the terms of the end of Vietnam War, made a deal in Paris, France with Kuong Yen, the North Vietnamese negotiator. The deal called for Yen to release certain key CIA POWs in exchange for Morgan setting up a death-trap for an elite group of CIA assassins, known as the Black Tigers. The treaty signed, the Black Tigers were sent into the jungles of 'Nam to their unknowing demise, under the guise that they were on mission to liberate American POWs. However, the negotiators failed to realize one thing: the commando's team leader was one Major John T. Booker (Chuck Norris). So, needless to say and despite all odds, Booker survives. As do the four men wise enough to have remained in his general vicinity.

Five years after returning from Vietnam, Booker, now living in Los Angeles, California, is now working as a political science professor at UCLA, donning a post-war moustache, and with a hobby of race car–driving. Booker lectures to a bunch of kids on how the war should not have happened, and that the U.S. should not have been involved. He then jokes about singing patriotic songs the following week to atone. Sitting in on one of his lectures is a bright female reporter named Margaret (Anne Archer) who starts asking some very specific questions about the botched rescue mission. It seems that someone is slowly killing all the surviving members of the special forces team.

Booker is suddenly thrown back into his past when Morgan's appointment as Secretary of State spurs Yen to blackmail his ex-negotiations buddy into making good on his unfinished deal: the extermination of the Black Tigers.


Chuck NorrisMajor John T. Booker (The Black Tigers)
Anne ArcherMargaret
James FranciscusConrad Morgan
Lloyd HaynesMurray Saunders
Dana AndrewsEdgar Harolds
Jim BackusAlbert (The Apartment Doorman)
Lawrence P. CaseyMike Potter (The Black Tigers)
Anthony ManninoGordie Jones (The Black Tigers)
Soon-Tek OhMjr. Mhin Van Thieu (The Black Tigers)
Joe BennettLou Goldberg (The Black Tigers)
Jerry DouglasJoe Walker (The Black Tigers)
Stack PierceHolly Washington (The Black Tigers)
Michael PayneMitch (The Black Tigers)
David StarwaltSteagle (The Black Tigers)
Aaron NorrisAl (The Black Tigers)
Don PikeHank (The Black Tigers)
Benjamin J. PerryFinney (The Black Tigers)
Kathy McCullenKelly
Michael StarkPitman
James BaconSenator
Hatsuo UdaShoeshine Man
Virginia WingMrs. Mhin Van Thieu
Viola HarrisAirline Ticket Agent
Jacki RobinsFat Lady
Pat E. JohnsonCIA Agent
Warren SmithJames (Morgan's Chauffeur)
Dick ShoemakerNewscaster


Norris had been offered a number of karate films but turned them down because he did not want to be limited. "Bruce Lee movies were all karate with a little story thrown in. I want to have a story with some karate scenes."[8]

Norris said a friend wrote the script from a storyline he devised with one of his students.[3] "My country wasn't built on sacrificing people to expedite principles," said Norris."[9]

Norris said he "peddled" the script "all over Hollywood. The night before I was to meet this producer - I'd gone through everyone; he was the last - I thought, 'What can I say to this guy that I haven't said to everyone that's turned me down?' I went to bed, and about 2 o'clock in the morning, the answer popped into my head. And when I met the producer, he asked me the same question the others asked, 'Chuck, why will this movie make money?' And I said, 'First of all, there's four million karate people in America. They all know who I am. And if only half of them go to the movie, that's a $6 million gross on a $1 million budget.' And he said, 'Sounds good to me'."[10]

The film was produced by Allan Bodoh, Mitchell Cannold and Michael Leone. Bodoh ran Mar Vista Productions, who in a two year period made Dirt, Acapulco Gold, Dogs and The Great Smokey Roadblock.[11][12]

Norris said during filming that he compared "Breaker! Breaker! with Clint Eastwood's A Fistful of Dollars and Good Guys Wear Black with Dirty Harry."[8]

Filming started in May 1977.[13] There was an excellent support cast including Dana Andrews. "I do one film a year just to keep my hand in," said Andrew.[14]

"I want to be as big in the movie industry as I've been in the karate industry," said Norris. ""I know I can do it because I've got the faith to do it."[8]

Norris said his character of Booker "had more feeling than the Clint Eastwood characters. Booker's sensitive, caring about people, but if pushed he can take care of the situation. That's like me. I'm an easy going guy but in the ring I have a fanatical desire to win. I want Booker to be someone people can relate to, a hero to worship. Take Bruce Lee, who was an Oriental but able to pull Caucasians. I'm taking a little from Eastwood, a little from Lee, and a little special effects from James Bond. John T Booker is someone moviegoers can emulate, to be that kind of person, a guy who doesn't push his weight around, an easygoing person who can be dangerous."[8] Chuck Norris had a long dialogue scene with James Franciscus about the Vietnam War. Steve McQueen, who Norris knew, saw it and advised Norris to let support characters take care of the exposition, "then when there's something important to say, you say it."[15] "Let the co-stars do the b.s. dialogue," Norris says McQueen told him. "I do it. Eastwood does it. Bronson does it."[3]


The film was originally rated R but Norris lobbied successfully to have it changed to PG. "My argument was the strong, positive image I project on the screen," he said. "The word karate, unfortunately, connotes violence to many people. Actually, it's a means of avoiding violent situations, and a form of defense if you have no choice and you're backed into a corner." [16]


The movie grossed $18 million at the box office, due in part to a year-long publicity tour Norris did. (The actor estimated he did over 2,000 interviews in a year and says he had to go to hospital for laryngitis."[3]

The Los Angeles Times called it "cynical, reasonably entertaining... the slick, efficient murders are less gory to watch than disturbing to contemplate."[17] The Washington Post said "the little plot it [the film] does have goes a long way."[18] The New York Times said the film was "short on everything."[19]

"The first time I saw myself, I didn't feel embarrassed yet thought I could be better," said Norris. "But, by the fourth viewing, I wanted to hide behind a chair."[9]

According to Norris the critics "I was the worst thing in 50 years. Well, I wasn't good, but my feelings were hurt. I said, 'I'm not trying to be Dustin Hoffman; I just want to project a strong positive hero image on the screen.' I went to Steve [McQueen], and he said, 'In Good Guys you talk too much. Too much dialogue. Let the character actors lay out the plot. Then, when there's something important to say, you say it, and people will listen. Anyway, you'll get better as an actor. You should have seen me in The Blob."[10]

The producers went on to make Go Tell the Spartans with Ted Post.[20]

The film was meant to be the first in a series.[8] However no further Booker movies resulted.

Other media

Chuck Norris' character in The Expendables 2 is named Booker "The Lone Wolf", in homage to John T. Booker in Good Guys Wear Black.

See also


  1. MOVIES: MARTIAL-ARTS FILMS: ALIVE AND KICKING Goldman, Stuart. Los Angeles Times 29 June 1980: y28.
  2. "Good Guys Wear Black - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  3. Drooz, A. (1981, Mar 12). Chuck norris aims for stardom. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. Maslin, Janet (1984-12-02). "FILM VIEW; SHORT ON TALK, BIG AT THE BOX OFFICE". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  5. "Good Guys Wear Black". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  6. IN 'BRADDOCK,' NORRIS KICKS OUT OVER WAR'S LOST CHILDREN: [SPORTS FINAL, CN Edition] Cook, Bruce. Chicago Tribune (pre-1997 Fulltext); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]29 Jan 1988: K.
  7. GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 47, Iss. 552, (Jan 1, 1980): 22.
  8. FILM CLIPS: Trek From TV to Movie to TV Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]25 May 1977: g9.
  9. Karate champion now has 2 films under his black belt Groen, Rick. The Globe and Mail 16 June 1979: P.35.
  10. AT THE MOVIES; Chuck Norris wins appeal on rating Chase, Chris. New York Times,15 Apr 1983: C.10.
  11. THE BIG LURE: MOVIES AS AN INVESTMENT: TAKING A FLYER AT FILMS MOVIES MOVIES Lees, David; Berkowitz, Stan. Los Angeles Times 24 Sep 1978: l1.
  12. Article 5 -- No Title Los Angeles Times 31 July 1977: o42.
  13. Farrah, Lee in Majors Production? Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]16 Mar 1977: f11.
  14. Star of Stage And Savings The Washington Post 9 June 1977: B2.
  15. BROESKE, P. H. (1985, May 19). CHUCK NORRIS--AN ALL-AMERICAN HIT. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  16. THE LONER - DESPITE CRITICS, THIS ACTOR'S PROUD OF HIS FILMS Ryan, Desmond. Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]21 Apr 1983: D.6.
  17. Action, Adventure in 'Good Guys Wear Black' Gross, Linda. Los Angeles Times 23 Mar 1979: g19.
  18. Au Courant 'Good Guys' BY K.C. SUMMERS. The Washington Post 27 Apr 1979: W25.
  19. Film: 'Good Guys' Opens: The Cast By TOM BUCKLEY. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]30 June 1979: 11.
  20. FILM CLIPS: Vietnam Movie Made on Spartan Budget Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]11 Sep 1978: e9.
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