Sam Whiskey

Sam Whiskey is a 1969 American DeLuxe Color comedy-western film directed by Arnold Laven and starring Burt Reynolds, Angie Dickinson, Clint Walker and Ossie Davis.[1][2]

Sam Whiskey
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArnold Laven
Produced byJules V. Levy
Arthur Gardner
Arnold Laven
Screenplay byWilliam W. Norton
StarringBurt Reynolds
Angie Dickinson
Clint Walker
Ossie Davis
Music byHerschel Burke Gilbert
CinematographyRobert C. Moreno
Edited byJohn Woodcock
Brighton Pictures
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • April 1, 1969 (1969-04-01) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States

"Way ahead of its time," said Reynolds of the film. "I was playing light comedy and nobody cared."[3]


Sam Whiskey (Burt Reynolds), an adventurer and rogue in the Old West, is seduced by widow Laura Breckenridge (Angie Dickinson) into promising to retrieve $250,000 in gold bars from a riverboat that sank in Colorado's Platte River. The gold had been stolen by Laura's late husband from the Denver Mint and replaced by plated lead fakes. She offers Sam $20,000 to recover and return it before the theft is discovered and her family name is ruined. Sam enlists the help of Jedidiah Hooker (Ossie Davis), a local blacksmith, and O. W. Bandy (Clint Walker), an Army friend turned inventor, offering them shares of the reward.

They locate the sunken riverboat, unaware that they are being watched by Fat Henry Hobson (Rick Davis) and his gang. The gold is fifteen feet below the river's surface, so Bandy fashions a diving helmet for Sam out of a bucket and bellows, but Fat Henry and his gang capture Jed and Bandy. Thinking they have drowned Sam, hiding in the riverboat's smoke stack, they recover the gold and prepare to kill their captives. With the help of one of Bandy's homemade machine guns, Sam frees his partners and they start for Denver with the gold. Just as they are tempted at a crossroads to head for Mexico with their haul, Laura shows up to greet them.

Assuming the identity of a government inspector, Sam enters the mint and deliberately damages a gold-plated bronze bust of George Washington displayed in the lobby. He then insists on having it repaired and takes it to a blacksmith's shop, where Jed makes a mold of the bust and recasts the recovered gold. Fat Henry later breaks into the shop and steals the bronze original, thinking that it was made by Sam and his men to disguise the pilfered bars. Sam returns the new bust to the mint, and his men, posing as plumbers, conceal themselves until nightfall, when they melt down the bust and recast it into gold bars. On a train leaving Denver the next morning, Sam splits the $20,000 with Jed and Bandy but keeps Laura for himself.



The film was made by the producing team of Levy-Gardner-Laven, who had collaborated on numerous films and TV movies.[4]

It was based on an original screenplay by William Norton. It was originally called The Renegades, and then Whiskey's Renegades, and was acquired by Levy Gardner Laven in July 1967, along with another Norton script, Lions, Tigers and Bears.[5] Norton had previously written The Scalphunters for the producers.[6]

Burt Reynolds was signed in February 1968.[7] Angie Dickinson was the female lead; she did a nude scene which she was reluctant to do but said the script required it.[8]

Filming began 22 April 1968 at Universal Studios (although the film was released through United Artists).[9]

Mary McCarty

Throughout the film bits and pieces of a song about a saucy lady named a Mary McCarty are revealed by Sam Whiskey (Burt Reynolds) with the final verse given to the viewers by Jed Hooker (Ossie Davis).

Whiskey and Gin


Film Rating

The film was one of the first to have a scene cut under the newly introduced MPAA ratings system. The version submitted by director Laven to the MPAA included "a bare-from-the-waist-up shot" of Angie Dickinson.[10] When faced with the prospect of an "R" rating (at the time an entirely new concept), Laven substituted a tighter shot of Dickinson from the shoulders up to avoid the "R" rating.[10]


Critical response

Film critic Vincent Canby wrote of the film, "Comedy Westerns aren't my favorite form of entertainment and Sam Whiskey is certainly not one of the best of the breed, but its pleasures are so unexpected that they deserve some modest appreciation ... The movie, written by William Norton (The Scalphunters) and directed by Arnold Laven, has a kind of clumsy charm, most of it contributed by the performances of Reynolds, who bears a creepy resemblance to Marlon Brando; Miss Dickinson, and Ossie Davis and Clint Walker, who help Reynolds execute a reversal on the usual movie heist."[11]

More recently film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a mixed review, writing, "An amiable Western, whose tagline is "Don't mix with Sam Whiskey. It's risky!", that nevertheless proves tiresome under the belabored direction of Arnold Laven ... The cornball antics, the uninspired acting and the wearisome plot so slackly handled all add up leaving this dull Western in a state of mediocrity. This one might appeal only to die hard fans of Reynolds."[12]


Although the film was not a commercial success, it helped establish Burt Reynold's on screen persona as a cocky hero, which he would use to great success in the 1970s. Norton would write several Reynolds films including White Lightning and Gator.[13]

See also


  1. SAM WHISKEY Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 36, Iss. 420, (Jan 1, 1969): 150.
  2. Burt Reynolds, Who Plays Haff-Breeds Stoic About Roles Clifford, Terry. Chicago Tribune 6 Apr 1969: f14.
  3. Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 28 Nov 1976: e2.
  4. Trio Pleads Guilty to 'Hunting Party: Guilty of 'Hunting Party' Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 25 July 1971: s1.
  5. Producers Go 'Underground' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 5 Aug 1967: 18.
  6. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Kershner to Direct 'Indian' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 7 Oct 1967: 17.
  7. MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Story' Role for Farentino Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 2 Feb 1968: c14.
  8. Angie Dickinson Agrees to Nude Scenes in Westerns Norma Lee Browning. Chicago Tribune 21 July 1968: e13.
  9. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Angie Dickinson Signed Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 28 Mar 1968: e25.
  10. Dick Kleiner (1968-11-06). "Movie Producers Hope For The Best". The Coshcocton Tribune (NEA story).
  11. Canby, Vincet, film review, The New York Times, "Sam Whiskey on Double Bill:Burt Reynolds an Asset to Comedy Western, The First Time Also Begins Run at Lyric", June 12, 1969. Accessed: July 4, 2013.
  12. Schwartz, Dennis, film review, Ozus' World Movie Reviews, May 25, 2008. Accessed: July 4, 2013.
  13. William Norton, a Writer Wilder Than His Films, 85: [Obituary (Obit); Biography] Weber, Bruce. New York Times 9 Oct 2010: A.22.
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