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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Just Spliced

Urban Cowboy on IMDb

Plot Overview

wildebeestbarn and cockOil line worker Bud Davis (John Travolta) leaves the country home­stead in Spur to go stay with his Aunt Corene and Uncle Bob (Brooke Alderson & Narry Corbon)'s family in Houston where Uncle Bob has offered him an in to the refinery there. It's an entry level position:

hard hatted workersPlant Supervisor: “I can start you out as a general helper, you know, a flunky, a gopher. You know what a gopher is, boy?”

Bud: “Well, I suppose it means you go for things.”


Bud: “Or it could mean you're an animal—”

Plant Supervisor: “Yeah, well around here they're on the same level. Start you off right at the bottom, work up.”

WelcomeFirst order of business Saturday night, though, was to take Bud to the humongous & popular Gilley's Night­club owned by Mickey Gilley. When he doesn't make it home by morning and his mom (Betty Murphy) calls, his aunt covers for him saying he was still in church. This shows us his family is churched, for that excuse to work at all. Gilley's is like a church, how­ever, in one respect: A church is where a mild-mannered man stands in front of rows of mild-mannered people and tells them how to be more mild-mannered. Gilley's management started dance contests so the men would (some­times) do jigs by them­selves rather than excite jealousies by all those couples' dances, they installed a scoring punching bag so the men would have some­thing to hit besides each other, and they installed a mechanical bull to ride for harmless showing off. Both places seek to mellow people out. Okay.

happy hugBud meets country girl Sissy (Debra Winger) in Gilley's and takes up with her. Their passionate dancing leads to an impassioned shouting match over a flirtation—real or imagined,—then to Sissy storming out to hitch hike home, followed by Bud chasing after her and ultimately proposing. The next scene [#6] is a dress-up photo op in Gilley's followed by a departing car with “Just Hitched” written across it. Hitch being a term applied to animals, we are set up to see some initial marital conflict as they start at the bottom and work their way up towards maturity.


Weddings are customarily edited for the big screen, but this one seems extreme, going from a cave­man type proposal straight to a formal reception. There's another way to look at it, however. According to Prof. Tamara Metz:

State control of marriage is not a universal arrangement. In many European and North American juris­dictions, religious authorities wielded final control over the institution until well into the eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries. … Among people who live in traditional societies at the fringes of the modern nation-state, marital status and practices proceed apace with­out the involvement of the state. (5)

These movie cowboys are ipso facto on the fringe of society. Furthermore, Bud's grand­mother, who is Uncle Bob's mother, was half Indian, and Gilley's Club where most of the action takes place is their de facto tribe. As such we see all the elements of a basic tribal wedding here. The whole tribe seems to be in attendance. The bride and groom are known to be single and thus eligible. They are obviously old enough, and they give their consent through the symbol of the wedding ring (“That there's a weddin' ring. That means we're married!”) In a tribal society, every­one is in touch with what's expected of them and they don't need it explicitly spelled out in the ceremony. Here Bud and Sissy have a pretty good idea, and what they don't know they pick up on quick.

dinnerThey are contrasted to ex-con Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn) who declaims, “You can't expect a man like me to be faithful to any woman.” He is on the outs with society. The tribe expects the married couple to be faithful to each other for life. Here the women clean house, cook meals, and provide good loving for their men when they come home. The cowboys are decisive and bold leaders of the home, tender to their wives, and they take them out on occasion. This couple had an initial dispute over whether Sissy being a girl could ride the bull, but they work it out. The women in Bud's family were home­bodies, but Sissy worked in her father's mechanic's garage and would climb up on the tow truck to let out some cable. To her, riding the bull at a low setting was no big deal, but Bud was more protective. Typical marital conflict.

dish washerThis whole approach to male-female roles finds its significance in the year, 1980, that this movie came out. Said Rush Limbaugh, “It's almost as if America went through its own feminist Cultural Revolution in the 1970s and early 1980s. Every­thing went mad for about ten years, and only now [1992] are we seeing young people who now view those years as some­what bizarre” (191). Men's and women's roles were they spelled out in the wedding ceremony would have driven feminists and feminist sympathizers nuts. Here gradually incorporating workable arrangements into a happy marriage makes them palatable.

The religious dimension to their marriage is seen in the course of Uncle Bob's funeral. Sissy shows up late and tells Bud, “He was my uncle, too. He still is by marriage. Our divorce ain't final, yet.” Their corporate prayer includes the line (Matt. 6:12-15) “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That they will have to do to get reconciled.

Production Values

” was directed by James Bridges. The screenplay was written by James Bridges and Aaron Latham, based on the latter's story, “The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy.” It stars John Travolta, Debra Winger and Scott Glenn. Travolta gave a sterling performance here before disap­pearing from sight. The supporting cast did remarkably well, too.

The film is rated PG. The standout in “Urban Cowboy” is its wondrous score of country-western songs.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

I just loved the music and the film was great, too. This one's a classic not to be missed if you enjoy watching cowboy movies.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotation was from the King James Version. Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Limbaugh, Rush. The Way Things Ought To Be. New York: Pocket Books, 1992. Print.

Metz, Tamara. Untying the Knot: Marriage, the State, and the Case for Their Divorce. Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton UP, 2010. Print.