The Split (film)

The Split is a 1968 American neo-noir[1] crime drama film directed by Gordon Flemyng and written by Robert Sabaroff based upon the Parker novel The Seventh by Richard Stark (a pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake).

The Split
Directed byGordon Flemyng
Produced byRobert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Written byDonald E. Westlake (novel)
Robert Sabaroff
Based onThe Seventh
by Richard Stark
StarringJim Brown
Diahann Carroll
Julie Harris
Ernest Borgnine
Music byQuincy Jones
CinematographyBurnett Guffey
Edited byRita Roland
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 1968 (1968-10)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film stars Jim Brown, along with Diahann Carroll, Julie Harris, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Donald Sutherland and Gene Hackman. The music is by Quincy Jones. It is notable for being the first film with an R rating.

Plot summary

Thieves fall out when more than a half-million dollars goes missing after the daring and carefully planned robbery of the Los Angeles Coliseum during a football game, each one accusing the other of having the money.

The heist has been masterminded by a man named McClain and his partner, Gladys. In choosing their accomplices carefully, McClain challenges getaway driver Harry Kifka to a race, picks a fight with thug Bert Clinger, imprisons electrical expert Marty Gough in an wire-controlled vault to watch him fashion an escape, and has a shooting match with marksman Dave Negli before pulling off the job.

Together, the thieves make off with over $500,000. With the five men having carried out the heist and Gladys having financed it, the plan is to split the money six ways the next day. McClain stashes the money for the night with Ellie, his ex-wife. While his partners impatiently await their split of the loot, Lt. Walter Brill takes charge of the case. Ellie is attacked and killed by Herb Sutro, her landlord, who steals the money as well.

The rest of the gang members hold McClain accountable for the lost money and demand that he retrieve it. Brill quickly solves the murder and is well aware of the connection to the robber. He kills Sutro, but keeps the money for himself. With Ellie's murderer identified, but still no trace of the money, the gang members all turn on McClain, assuming he's hiding it. This leads to a confrontation that ends with the deaths of Negli and Gladys.

McClain escapes and visits Brill, threatening to reveal that Brill has the money. He and Brill decide to divide it up between themselves, but the rest of McClain's gang has other ideas. After a shoot-out at the docks, only McClain and Brill are left—Brill decides to take a small part of the money, giving McClain his rightful sixth, and plans to return the rest to win a promotion. McClain is satisfied with the arrangement, but also haunted by Ellie's death. With his money, he is about to board a flight leaving town when he seems to hear Ellie's voice calling his name.



The film was produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff who had just made another movie based on a "Parker" novel, Point Blank. That film starred Lee Marvin and The Split was originally written with Marvin in mind for the lead. However Jim Brown was cast.[2]

"This negro is no Harvard graduate on his way to winning a Nobel prize," said Chartoff of the lead character. "He doesn't hit a white man just because he had been hit by him first."[3]

Jim Brown was under a long-term contract to MGM at the time.[4] He was paid $125,000 for the role.[2]

The film was originally called Run the Man Down.[5]

Jim Brown's original action double for the movie was pioneering stuntman Calvin Brown, the first black stunt performer in Hollywood. (Prior to the 1960s, on the rare occasions that a stunt double was required for a black actor, he/she was typically doubled by a white stunt performer in blackface).

Brown began his career as an extra but became a sought-after stunt performer in the mid-60s after producer Sheldon Leonard chose him to double for Bill Cosby in the pioneering espionage drama I Spy, the first American TV series to co-star a black actor.

Brown was badly injured during the shooting of The Split, suffering serious multiple leg fractures that required a two-year convalescence, and ultimately ended Brown's promising stunt career, although he went on to found the Black Stuntman's Association during his recuperation, and trained a new generation of stunt performers.

See also


  1. Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  2. Jim Brown's End Run Around Race Prejudice TUSHER, WILLIAM. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Jan 1968: d11.
  3. CHARTOFF AND WINKLER: Entrepreneurs of the Offbeat Film Two Entrepreneurs of Offbeat Movies Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Jan 1968: d1.
  5. MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Split' Next for Jim Brown Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Dec 1967: b9.
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