Convoy is a 1978 action film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starred Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine and Burt Young. The movie is based on the 1975 country and western and novelty song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. It is considered a member of the CB Radio/trucker film genre which rose to prominence in the 1970s following the success of Smokey and the Bandit.
Truck driver Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald (Kristofferson) comes into conflict with Sheriff Lyle "Cottonmouth" Wallace (Borgnine). Rubber Duck and his trucker friends, Pig Pen (Young), Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye) and Widow Woman (Madge Sinclair), get into a fight with Wallace and his deputies at a truck stop. After handcuffing Wallace to a barstool, they decide to head for the state line to avoid prosecution. Melissa (MacGraw), a photographer whose car has broken down, agrees to ride with the Rubber Duck, and the pair soon fall in love.
The truckers drive across Arizona and New Mexico, with Wallace in belated pursuit. Additional independent truckers join them to form a mile-long convoy in support of the Rubber Duck's vendetta against the abusive Wallace. The truckers communicate with each other via CB Radio, and much of the jargon associated with the CB craze is sprinkled throughout the film. The trip touches on social empowerment issues of class, race and gender as well as the place of the law in society. As the rebellious truckers run from the police, the Rubber Duck becomes a reluctant folk hero.
It becomes apparent the truckers have a great deal of political support and the Governor of New Mexico, Jerry Haskins (Seymour Cassel), meets Rubber Duck. At about the same time, Wallace and a brutal Texas sheriff arrest Spider Mike, who left the convoy to be with his wife after giving birth to their son. Wallace's plan is to trap Rubber Duck. A janitor at the jail, unaware of the plan, messages by CB radio that Spider Mike has been arrested. Various truckers relay the message to New Mexico.
Rubber Duck ends the meeting with Haskins and leaves to rescue Spider Mike. Several other truckers join him and head east to Texas. The truckers eventually destroy the jail and rescue Spider Mike. Knowing they will now be hunted by the authorities, the truckers head for the border of Mexico.
The film culminates with a showdown near the United States-Mexico border where Rubber Duck is forced to face Wallace and a National Guard unit stationed on a bridge. Firing a machine gun, Wallace and the Guardsmen destroy the truck causing it to plummet from the bridge and crash into the churning river.
The movie concludes with a public funeral for Rubber Duck, in which Haskins promises to work for the truckers by taking their case to Washington, D.C. Disgusted with the politics of the situation, Pig Pen abruptly leaves the funeral. A distraught Melissa is led to the school bus with the "long-haired friends of Jesus", where she finds Rubber Duck in disguise sitting in the back. He asks, "You ever seen a duck that couldn't swim?" The convoy takes to the road with the coffin in tow, abruptly ending the politicians' speeches. As the bus passes Wallace he spies the Duck and bursts into laughter.
During this period of Sam Peckinpah's life, it was reported he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction. His four previous films, Cross of Iron (1977), The Killer Elite (1975), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), had struggled at the box office and the director needed a genuine blockbuster success. Unhappy with the screenplay written by B.W.L. Norton, Peckinpah tried to encourage the actors to re-write, improvise and ad-lib their dialogue, with little success. In another departure from the script, Peckinpah attempted to add a new dimension to the film by casting a pair of black actors as members of the convoy including Madge Sinclair as Widow Woman and Franklyn Ajaye as Spider Mike. The director's health became a continuing problem, so friend and actor James Coburn was brought in to serve as second unit director. Coburn directed much of the film's footage while Peckinpah remained in his on-location trailer.
The picture finished 11 days behind schedule at a cost of $12 million, more than double its original budget. Surprisingly, Convoy was the highest-grossing picture of Peckinpah's career, notching $46.5 million at the box office. But his reputation was seriously damaged by rumors of increasingly destructive alcohol and cocaine abuse. Peckinpah would make just one more film, The Osterman Weekend in 1983, before his death the following year.