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Film / Bronco Billy

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"Do you understand what Bronco Billy and the Wild West Show are all about? You can be anything you want. All you have to do is go out and become it!"
Lorraine Running Water, Bronco Billy

Bronco Billy is a 1980 film directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Sondra Locke.

Bronco Billy McCoy (Eastwood) is the boss of a traveling Wild West show. He uses his gunslinger skills during the main act of the show. Things are not going well for the show and the troupe is running out of money. Moreover, Bronco Billy is looking for an assistant for his performance. The troupe crosses path with Antoinette Lily (Locke), a rich heiress who has just married a guy she does not love, because she had to marry someone not to lose her inheritance. The groom is soon fed up with Antoinette's temper and he leaves her after stealing all her money. Antoinette has no choice but asking the help of Bronco Billy.

Bronco Billy provides examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Bronco Billy begs the sheriff to release Leonard James.
  • Amoral Attorney: Edgar Lipton, the lawyer of Antoinette's stepmother. He proposes Antoinette's husband to confess the murder of his wife in exchange of $500,000 and promises to arrange things to spare him the electrical chair.
  • Bar Brawl: There is one when the troupe goes out to celebrate Running Water's pregnancy.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Bronco Billy does it with the gangsters in the bank. He also tells children he did it in the past.
  • Big Damn Hero: After the Bar Brawl, Bronco Billy arrives just when Antoinette Lily is going to be raped.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and ends with a performance of Bronco Billy's Wild West Show. The first one is gloomy; the last one is a triumph.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Bronco Billy and the rest of his troupe seem stuck in the mentality that it is still the days of the Wild West. Or at least that one can live as if it still was...
  • Break the Haughty: The haughty Rich Bitch Antoinette Lily is without a penny, so she has to ask for the help of people she despises. Bronco Billy takes advantage of the situation to force her to become her assistant.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: After Antoinette Lily meets her husband again in the asylum, she goes back to New York. Antoinette and Billy then miss each other for some time. In the end, she comes back to live with Bronco Billy.
  • Brick Joke: When Bronco Billy asks Woodrow Parfrey to help him to get a new marquee, he says he knows his sewing workshop makes flags for the army. Later, we see to new marquee: it is entirely made of American flags sewed together.
  • Bros Before Hoes: Bronco Billy is a good friend, even in extreme situations:
    Antoinette Lilly: Have you ever been married?
    Bronco Billy: Sure. A long time ago.
    Antoinette Lilly: Did you love her?
    Bronco Billy: With all my heart. Sometimes that just isn't enough.
    Antoinette Lilly: What happened?
    Bronco Billy: I caught her in bed with my best friend.
    Antoinette Lilly: What did you do to him?
    Bronco Billy: I shot her.
    Antoinette Lilly: What! What about him?
    Bronco Billy: He was my best friend.
  • The City vs. the Country: Antoinette Lily lives in New York. She ends up in the country without a penny. She learns to appreciate the life of Bronco Billy's troupe, who worships the Wild West. Subverted, because the members of the troupe are not real country people. Bronco Billy confesses he is a native of New Jersey.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Bronco Billy decides to ask the help of the director of a psychiatric institution to get a new marquee. By chance, Antoinette Lily's husband is treated in this institution.
  • Damsel in Distress: After the Bar Brawl, two guys threaten to rape Antoinette Lily. Bronco Billy saves her with the help of his troupe.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: At first, Antoinette Lily does not seem able to feel any human emotion. They way she treat her groom is significant. Progressively, she gets closer to Bronco Billy and his friends. She finally falls in love with him.
  • Dirty Cop: Sheriff Dix, who finally accepts Bronco Billy's bribe, but not before humiliating him.
  • Fallen Princess: Antoinette Lily is first depicted as an Alpha Bitch. After her husband stole her money, her temper does not change immediately, but progressively, we realize she is like that because she did not receive much love in her childhood (her father died when she was nine). In the end, she becomes sweet.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Bronco Billy is nicknamed the "fastest gun in the West." His performance during the Wild West show demonstrates he is quick. He also neutralizes thieves in a bank office.
  • Friend to All Children: Bronco Billy enjoys telling children about his legend. He also gives free shows for orphans.
  • Go Among Mad People: John Arlington, Antoinette Lily's husband, is jailed in an asylum. This was arranged by Edgar Lipton to spare him the electrical chair.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: In the beginning, when she acts as a haughty Rich Bitch, Antoinette Lily uses a cigarette holder. She uses it again when she goes back to New York near the end.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Bronco Billy gives a free show in an orphanage run by nuns in penguin suits.
  • Hook Hand: Lefty LeBow replaced his lost hand by a hook.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: During the show, Bronco Billy reaches a moving target with his gun and his knive with a blindfold.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bronco Billy is tyrannical with his employees. When they complain that they have not been payed for months, he flies into rage. His behaviour with Antoinette Lily is not nice at first: he forces her into being her assistant because he knows she has no choice. However, he really cares for his employees. When Leonard James is arrested, he does everything he can to deliver him. He defends Antoinette Lily, too, when she is going to be raped. Moreover, he performs a lot of free shows for orphans, mentally ill people...
  • The Jinx: Lefty LeBow and other members of the troupe think Antoinette Lily is one.
  • Kneel Before Zod: When Bronco Billy begs the sheriff to release Leonard James, the sheriff takes advantage of the situation to humiliate Billy.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: During the show, an assistant stands against a spinning wheel as a target and Bronco Billy (with a blindfold) has to hit balloons placed around her with his gun and then with a knife. During the first show, the assistant moves and is hit by the knife.
  • Lovely Assistant: Bronco Billy has one in his show. In the begining, he injures one during his Knife-Throwing Act and he has a hard time finding another one. Finally, Antoinette Lily accepts this job (at first, just for one show).
  • Media Scrum: When it is revealed that Antoinette Lily is alive, many journalists rush to the psychiatric institution where she is to interview her.
  • New Old West: Bronco Billy and his troupe are nostalgic of the Wild West. Their show is an attempt to revive the Old West. At some point, they even try to rob a train.
  • On One Condition: Antoinette Lily must marry someone before she is thirty, if she wants to keep her inheritance.
  • Police Brutality: The sheriff's deputies beat Leonard James when he is arrested.
  • Rich Bitch: Antoinette Lily is a rich heiress and she has a bad temper.
  • Riches to Rags: Antoinette Lily is a rich heiress. Her husband stole all the money she carried, so she does not have even 10 cents to make a phone call. She has to follow Bronco Billy's troupe, because he is the only one willing to help her. Progressively, she learns to appreciate him and she shares voluntarily his precarious life.
  • Sand In My Eyes: When Antoinette Lily has tears streaming down her face, she insists she's not crying. The smoke-filled bar is irritating her eyes.
  • Sexless Marriage: Antoinette Lily does not want to have sex with her husband. She does not event want him to touch her.
  • The Sheriff: The corrupt Sheriff Dix.
  • Train Job: Subverted. Bronco Billy and his troupe try to rob a train, but they cannot even stop the train. The train just passes by them.
  • True Companions: The members of the troupe of the Bronco Billy's Wild West Show are very close to each other and they stand together in times of trouble, like when Leonard James is arrested.
  • Uptown Girl: Bronco Billy and Antoinette Lily fall in love. He is poor and does not know she is rich at first. When it is revealed she is a rich heiress, she returns to New York. After some time, she comes back to live with him.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Her stepmother has difficulty hiding she is very happy when she hears that Antoinette Lily is probably dead and she might get the full inheritance.