Often cited as Kirk Douglas’ favorite of his own films, Lonely Are the Brave gets a new chance to reach audiences with its debut on DVD this month. Upon the movie’s initial release in 1962, there was some amount of conflict between Universal Studios and its star over the release strategy and title (Douglas wanted to call it The Last Cowboy). The film has remained in relative obscurity in the nearly half-century since, despite a cast and crew overflowing with talent.
Douglas recruited his friend Dalton Trumbo (it was Douglas who revealed that the blacklisted Trumbo actually wrote the screenplay for Spartacus) to pen the story of a cowboy at odds with the contemporary world. After intentionally getting thrown into prison to help a friend, Jack Burns (Douglas) breaks out and (along with his horse) is on the run from a police force armed with cars, radios and a helicopter. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it’s a modern Western, with a plot full of symbols about technology eradicating the cowboy way.
Aside from early performances from Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau and George Kennedy as a sadistic cop (preparing for his best-known performance in Cool Hand Luke), the cast features a slew of future TV stars, including Carroll O’Connor, Bill Bixby and Bill Raisch, who the following year would begin playing the one-armed man in The Fugitive. The score marks the first major studio opportunity for a young composer named Jerry Goldsmith.