The Getaway (1972 film)

The Getaway (1972 film)

The Getaway is a 1972 crime and action film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw and Ben Johnson. The film is based on the novel by Jim Thompson, with the screenplay written by Walter Hill. A box office hit earning $26 million at the theaters, the film was one of the most financially successful productions of both Peckinpah and McQueen's careers. It was remade in 1994 as The Getaway.


Carter "Doc" McCoy (McQueen), an incarcerated mastermind criminal, is suffering from the isolation of prison life in Texas. After being denied parole, he sends his wife Carol (McGraw) to make a deal with Jack Benyon (Johnson), a corrupt local businessman. Benyon has Doc paroled on the condition that he take part in a bank robbery with two of his minions, Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Frank (Bo Hopkins). During the robbery, a guard is killed and Rudy attempts to doublecross the group, killing Frank and drawing a gun on Doc, but Doc beats him to the draw and shoots him several times.

Doc meets with Benyon to divide the money, but Benyon attempts to doublecross him before being shot and killed by Carol. Doc suddenly realizes that Carol had to sleep with Benyon in order to guarantee his release from prison. Discouraged and angry, Doc gathers up the money and the couple flees for the border in El Paso, Texas.

The injured Rudy, having secretly worn a bulletproof vest, is still alive. He forces a rural veterinarian (Jack Dodson) and his young wife Fran (Sally Struthers) to treat his injuries, and then kidnaps them in order to pursue Doc and Carol. Meanwhile, Benyon's brother Cully (Roy Jenson) and his thugs also join in the pursuit.

Doc and Carol fight over her indiscretion with Benyon, and then buy train tickets to El Paso. While Doc is away, a con man lifts the money from Carol. Doc follows the thief onto a train and takes back the money. The injured con man and several witnesses are taken to the police station and identify Doc's mug shot. The couple, now recognized wherever they go, are forced into several shoot-outs and chases with the police. They escape by hiding in a dumpster, only to end up in the back of a garbage truck and dumped at the local landfill. Grim and frustrated, the couple decides to stick together and see things through.

During Rudy's pursuit of Doc and Carol, the veterinarian's wife Fran begins to have an affair with him. Humiliated, the veterinarian hangs himself in a motel bathroom. Rudy and Fran arrive in El Paso at a motel safe house and await the outlaw couple's arrival. Cully and his goons also arrive, and they eventually have a massive gunfight with Doc and Carol in the motel's halls and stairway. Doc and Carol kill these men and frantically flee through the fire escape. Rudy follows them, but Doc shoots and kills him. With the police en route, the couple hijacks a pickup truck and force its driver, an unassuming cowboy (Slim Pickens), to take them into Mexico. After crossing the border, Doc and Carol give the cowboy $30,000 for his truck. Overjoyed, the cowboy walks back to El Paso while the couple drives to safety in Mexico.


  • Steve McQueen as Carter 'Doc' McCoy, a convict and bank robber fleeing from the law.
  • Ali MacGraw as Carol Ainsley McCoy, Doc McCoy's wife, who aids Doc's parole, the bank robbery, and their flight to Mexico.
  • Ben Johnson as Jack Beynon, a crime boss who gets Doc McCoy paroled in exchange for a bank robbery.
  • Al Lettieri as Rudy Butler, a bank robber who betrays the others on the job and is in pursuit of Doc.
  • Roy Jenson as Cully, brother of Jack Benyon and a crooked banker.
  • Richard Bright as the Thief at the railway station, a con man who tries to steal the heist money from Carol McCoy.
  • Jack Dodson as Harold Clinton, veterinarian who treats Butler's wounds.
  • Sally Struthers as Fran Clinton, wife of Harold Clinton.
  • Slim Pickens simply credited as the Cowboy, a working man who is eager to help the fugitive McCoys.
  • Bo Hopkins as Frank Jackson, an accomplice in the bank robbery.
  • Dub Taylor as Laughlin, owner of the El Paso motel safe house.


Jim Thompson was originally hired to adapt his novel for the film. Thompson worked on the screenplay for four months and produced a treatment, with alternate scenes and episodes. Thompson's script included a borderline-surrealistic ending from his novel featuring the kingdom of El Rey, a Mexican town filled with criminals. Steve McQueen objected to the depressing ending and had Thompson replaced by screenwriter Walter Hill. The fictional town would later be alluded to in the 1996 film From Dusk Till Dawn and the 2007 film Planet Terror (both creations of writer-director Robert Rodriguez). Peter Bogdanovich was originally scheduled to direct, but was released due to time constraints in finishing What's Up, Doc?

Because his previous film Junior Bonner (1972) was a box office failure, a frustrated McQueen began immediate production on The Getaway. He was eager to work again with the film's director Sam Peckinpah and presented him Hill's screenplay. Peckinpah, like McQueen, was in need of a box office hit and immediately accepted. They began work in February 1972, filming on location in multiple Texas towns including Huntsville, San Marcos, San Antonio, Fabens and El Paso. Reportedly, Peckinpah had no pretensions about making The Getaway, as his only goal was to create a highly-polished thriller to boost his market value.

While filming in San Marcos, actor James Garner visited the location. Due to a shortage of stunt drivers, he drove an orange Volkswagen Bug during a car chase scene following the bank robbery. He was paid a standard stuntman salary of $25.

McQueen and co-star Ali McGraw began to have an affair during the film's production. She would eventually leave her husband Robert Evans and wed McQueen, becoming his second wife. Peckinpah originally wanted actor Richard Bright to play the role of Rudy Butler, but McQueen believed that Bright was not threatening enough because they were the same height. The imposing Al Lettieri would play the role of Rudy while Bright was cast as the train station con man.

Replete with explosions, car chases and intense shootouts, the film would become Peckinpah's and McQueen's biggest financial success to date, earning more than $25 million at the box office. Though strictly a commercial product, Peckinpah's creative touches are scattered throughout, most notably during the intricately-edited opening sequence when McQueen's character is suffering from the pressures of prison life. The film remains popular, but its critical reputation has diminished as many Peckinpah admirers consider it a minor work.

While filming in El Paso, Peckinpah sneaked across the border into Juarez in April 1972 and married Joie Gould. He had met Gould in England in 1971 while directing Straw Dogs, and she had since been his companion and a part-time crew member. Peckinpah's intake of alcohol had increased dramatically while making The Getaway, and he became fond of saying, "I can't direct when I'm sober." He began to have violent mood swings and explosions of rage, at one point assaulting Gould. After four months, she returned to England and filed for divorce. Devastated by the breakup, Peckinpah fell into a self destructive pattern of almost continuous alcohol consumption, and his health would be unstable for the remainder of his life. The film was rated PG by the MPAA in the United States. A few years later, in retrospect, this was considered a mistake and the board believed that the film should have been rated R. The film was given an X rating in the UK.


Peckinpah's long-time composer and collaborator Jerry Fielding was originally hired to do the musical score for The Getaway. He had previously worked with the director on Noon Wine (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), Straw Dogs (1971) and Junior Bonner (1972). After the film's second preview screening, McQueen was unhappy with the music and hired Quincy Jones to rescore the film. Jones' music had a jazzier edge and featured harmonica solos by Toots Thielemans, with Don Elliott credited for "musical voices." Peckinpah was unhappy with the decision and took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety on November 17, 1972 including a letter he had written to Fielding thanking him for his work. Fielding would work with Peckinpah on two additional films, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and The Killer Elite (1975).

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