The Moonshine War

The Moonshine War is a 1970 American crime comedy-drama film directed by Richard Quine, based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. It stars Patrick McGoohan, Richard Widmark, Alan Alda, and Will Geer.

The Moonshine War
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Quine
Produced byMartin Ransohoff
Screenplay byElmore Leonard
Based onThe Moonshine War (novel)
by Elmore Leonard
StarringPatrick McGoohan
Richard Widmark
Alan Alda
Will Geer
Music byFred Karger
CinematographyRichard H. Kline
Edited byAllan Jacobs
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 1970 (1970-07)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States


John "Son" Martin owns and operates a profitable still, making moonshine whiskey in Prohibition-era Kentucky. One day, he gets a visit from an old Army acquaintance, Frank Long, who is now an Internal Revenue agent.

When Frank is unable to persuade Son to cut him in on the profits, or even reveal where the moonshine is hidden, in exchange Frank looking the other way, Frank calls in the dangerous Dr. Emmett Taulbee, who uses more violent methods in getting what he wants.

Emmett and his henchmen go too far, killing Sheriff Baylor and even Emmett's girlfriend when she tries to get away. Frank can see that he made a mistake, so he volunteers to help Son fend off the gang. Still outnumbered, Son finally tells Emmett's men where the moonshine is buried in exchange for his life. But when the crooks start digging, they set off Son's buried dynamite instead.



In October 1968 it was announced film rights to the novel had been purchased by Filmways with MGM to release.[1] In March 1969 Richard Quine signed to direct.[2] In June, Patrick McGoohan, who had just made Ice Station Zebra for Filmways and MGM, signed to play the lead.[3] "You have to do something from time to time to pay the rent," said the actor.[4]

Filming started August 1969. It was one of eight features greenlit under the new regime at MGM headed by Louis Polk and Herb Solow, the others being False Witness, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (filmed in 1970), The Strawberry Statement (filmed in 1970), She Loves Me (planned for Julie Andrews but not filmed), The Adventures of Augie March, Man's Fate (planned by Fred Zinnemann but not filmed) and The Ballad of Dingus Magee (filmed in 1970.[5][6]

The novel was published in September 1969. The New York Times called it "a near perfect shotgun opera."[7]

The film went over budget.[8]

See also


  1. 'Marooned' for Janssen Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 28 Oct 1968: f23.
  2. MOVIE CALL SHEET: Conrad Signs 3-Film Deal Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 22 Mar 1969: b6.
  3. Jack Palance Set for Good Guy Role Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times 4 June 1969: d15.
  4. McGoohan---TV Spy Who Came Over for the Gold: SECRET AGENT Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 14 Nov 1969: h1.
  5. M-G-M LISTS PLANS FOR MOVIES AND TV New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]02 Aug 1969: 13.
  6. Movies: Herbert Solow Strives to Leave His Mark at MGM Herbert Solow and MGM Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 31 Aug 1969: j20.
  7. The Moonshine War: By Elmore Leonard. 236 pp. New York: Doubleday & Co. $4.95. By MARTIN LEVIN. New York Times 21 Sep 1969: BR46.
  8. Operating Loss Of $l.9 Million Posted by MGM: Despite 2nd Period Deficit, Firm Earned $4.9 Million During 1st Half of Fiscal '70Filming Costs Charged Off Wall Street Journal 22 Apr 1970: 5.
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