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The Outlaw Josey Wales
File:The outlaw josey wales.jpg
The Outlaw Josey Wales movie poster
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Robert Daley
Written by Novel:
Forrest Carter
Philip Kaufman
Sonia Chernus
Starring Clint Eastwood
Chief Dan George
Sondra Locke
Music by Jerry Fielding
Cinematography Bruce Surtees
Editing by Ferris Webster
Studio The Malpaso Company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 30, 1976 (USA)
Running time 135 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Outlaw Josey Wales is a 1976 American revisionist Western set after the end of the American Civil War directed by and starring Clint Eastwood (as the eponymous Josey Wales), with Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Sam Bottoms, and Geraldine Keams.

The film was adapted by Sonia Chernus and Philip Kaufman from the novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales (republished in 1975 under the title Gone to Texas) by Forrest Carter. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.


Clint Eastwood portrays Josey Wales, a peaceful Missouri farmer, who is driven to revenge by the brutal murder of his wife and son by a band of pro-Union JayhawkersSenator James H. Lane's Redlegs from Kansas.

Wales joins a group of pro-Confederate Missouri guerrillas (bushwhackers or "border ruffians") led by William T. Anderson. At the conclusion of the war, Captain Fletcher (John Vernon) persuades the guerrillas to surrender, saying they have been granted amnesty. Josey Wales, still holding a grudge, refuses to surrender. As a result, he survives the massacre of the men by Captain Terrill's (Bill McKinney) Redlegs, who've now joined the Union army.

Wales intervenes and guns down several Redlegs with a Gatling gun. Senator Lane puts up a $5,000 bounty on Wales. Wales begins a life on the run from Union militia and bounty hunters while still seeking vengeance and a chance for a new beginning in Texas. Along the way, he unwillingly accumulates a diverse group of traveling companions despite all indications that he would rather be left alone. His companions include a wily old Cherokee named Lone Watie, a young Navajo woman, and an elderly Yankee woman from Kansas and her granddaughter rescued from a band of Comancheros.

In the final showdown, Josey and his companions are cornered in a ranch house which is fortified to withstand Indian raids. The Redlegs attack but are systematically gunned down or sent running by the defenders. Wales eventually runs out of ammunition and pursues the fleeing Captain Terrill on horseback. When he catches up to him, Josey confronts Terrill and dry fires his pistols through all twenty-four empty chambers before stabbing the captain with his own cavalry sword.

The final scene is at the bar in Santa Rio. Josey Wales, wounded from the fight with the soldiers, goes in to find Fletcher with two Texas Rangers and some of the locals tell them that Wales was gunned down by five pistoleros in Monterey, Mexico. The Rangers accept this story and move on but Fletcher refuses to believe their story. Fletcher says (mostly to Josey, as if he didn't know who he is) that he will go to Mexico and look for Wales and says that he will give Wales the first move as he "owes him that." Wales rides off.


  • Clint Eastwood as Josey Wales
  • Chief Dan George as Lone Watie
  • Sondra Locke as Laura Lee
  • Bill McKinney as Terrill
  • John Vernon as Fletcher
  • Paula Trueman as Grandma Sarah
  • Sam Bottoms as Jamie
  • Geraldine Keams as Little Moonlight
  • Woodrow Parfrey as Carpetbagger
  • Joyce Jameson as Rose
  • Sheb Wooley as Travis Cobb
  • Royal Dano as Ten Spot
  • Matt Clark as Kelly
  • Will Sampson as Ten Bears
  • John Quade as Comanchero Leader
  • Kyle Eastwood as Josey's son


The Outlaw Josey Wales was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Music Score. In 1996, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry. It was also one of the few Western films to receive critical and commercial success in the 1970s at a time when the Western was thought to be dying as a major genre in Hollywood.

Clint Eastwood says on the 1999 DVD release that the movie is "certainly one of the high points of my career... in the Western genre of filmmaking."

The film is the source of the Directors Guild of America's so-called "Eastwood Rule." After Eastwood replaced director Philip Kaufman, the DGA instituted a ban on any current cast or crew replacing the director of a film.[1][2]

The film was based on a novel by Forrest Carter. After the film's release it was revealed that Forrest Carter was in fact Asa Carter, a former Ku Klux Klan member and speechwriter for politician George Wallace. Eastwood and others involved in the production were reportedly unaware of this connection at the time the film was made. A major theme of the film is about Native Americans and Caucasians learning to live together peacefully. The Chief Dan George character makes pointed references to injustices done to his people by white Americans, especially the Trail of Tears.


The Outlaw Josey Wales has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and currently holds a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, with only one negative review out of several. Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars.

Historical basis[]

Josey Wales' circumstances somewhat mirror those of a notorious bushwhacker named Bill Wilson, a folk hero in Phelps and Maries counties in Missouri. During the war, loyalties in Missouri were divided. Bill Wilson maintained a neutral stance until a confrontation with Union soldiers on his farm on Corn Creek near Edgar Springs, Missouri. Wilson became a wanted outlaw before leaving for Texas.[3]

The character Fletcher is loosely based on Capt. Dave Poole, one of Quantrill's Raiders. After the war, Poole assisted Federal authorities in convincing guerrillas to give up the fight and surrender.

This film is the first to confront the history of the Missourians who fell prey to Kansas-based Unionists who called themselves Redlegs (after their red-striped stockings and gaiters) and Jayhawkers.[4] It is a revisionist film in that it abandons the standard presentations of the Unionists that characterized Hollywood productions up to that time, along with the dark depictions of the Missouri riders.[5] The Outlaw Josey Wales reverses these stereotypes.


  2. McGilligan, Patrick. Clint:The Life and Legend. Harper Collins. pp. 264. ISBN 0-00-638354-8. 
  3. Nichols, Bruce, "Bill Wilson of Phelps County in 1864," Historian's Missouri Civil War message board posting of sources
  4. Shelby Foote, Civil War, 1986; Paul I. Wellman, et al. A Dynasty of Western Outlaws. University of Nebraska Press, 1986.
  5. cf. Dark Command, with Walter Pidgeon as William Quantrill and John Wayne as the "white knight" Unionist from Texas working to protect that hotbed of Jayhawker activity, Lawrence, Kansas:

External links[]

Template:Clint Eastwood

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