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The Professionals

original film poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Richard Brooks
Produced by Richard Brooks
Written by Richard Brooks
Frank O'Rourke (novel)
Starring Burt Lancaster
Lee Marvin
Claudia Cardinale
Robert Ryan
Woody Strode
Jack Palance
Ralph Bellamy
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Conrad L. Hall
Editing by Peter Zinner
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) November 2, 1966 (1966-11-02)
Running time 117 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Professionals is a 1966 American western starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin and Claudia Cardinale.

The film, which was written and directed by Richard Brooks, was based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke. It received three nominations in the 1967 Academy Awards.

It is set in the latter period of the Mexican Revolution when four specialists are sent into Mexico to free the wife of a wealthy Texan from several hundred bandits.



Rancher J.W. Grant (Ralph Bellamy) hires four men, who are all experts in their respective fields, to rescue his wife, Maria (Claudia Cardinale) from Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), a former Mexican Revolutionary leader turned bandit.

Team leader Henry "Rico" Fardan (Lee Marvin) is a weapons specialist, Bill Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) is an explosives expert, the horse wrangler is Hans Ehrengard (Robert Ryan) and Jake Sharp (Woody Strode) is a scout with traditional Apache skills, particularly with a bow and arrow. Fardan and Dolworth, having both fought under the command of Pancho Villa, have a high regard for Raza as a soldier. But they are hard and cynical professionals so they have no qualms about killing him now.

After crossing the border, the team tracks the bandits to their hideout. They bear witness as soldiers on a government train are massacred by Raza's small army. The professionals follow the captured train to the end of the line and retake it from the bandits. Some move on to the bandit camp and observe Raza and his followers -- including a buxom soldier, Chiquita (Marie Gomez). At nightfall, Fardan infiltrates Raza's private quarters but he is stopped from killing him by Maria, the kidnapped wife. "Amigo," Dolworth concludes, "we've been had."

Fardan does what he is being paid for and escapes with Grant's wife. Back at the train, the men find that it has been retaken by the bandits. After a shootout, they retreat into the mountains hotly pursued by Raza and his men. The professionals evade capture by using explosives to bring down the walls of a gully, thus blocking the path. But as Raza and his group are relentless, Dolworth acts as a rearguard to allow the others to escape. The bandit leader is captured, battered and wounded following an ambush.

The four professionals, with Maria and Raza reach the US border to be met by Grant and his own men. It is then revealed that they had not rescued his kidnapped wife but Raza's willing mistress. Grant "bought" Maria for an arranged marriage only for her to escape and return to her "true love" in Mexico. The pleased rancher then tells Fardan that their contract has been completed to his full satisfaction and he releases them from the business agreement.

As Maria hugs the wounded Raza on the ground, Grant callously turns to one of his men and says, "Kill him." But before the man can shoot, the gun is shot out of his hand by Dolworth who tells Grant he has not earned the right to kill a man like Raza. The four professionals then step into protect Maria and Raza. Grant calls Fardan a bastard, to which Fardan's retorts: "Yes, sir, in my case an accident of birth. But you, sir, you are a self-made man."

The professionals collect the wounded Raza, put him on a carriage and, with Grant's wife at the reins, send them both back to Mexico. They collect their things and follow on horseback.


Burt Lancaster ... Bill Dolworth
Lee Marvin ... Henry 'Rico' Fardan
Claudia Cardinale ... Mrs. Maria Grant
Robert Ryan ... Hans Ehrengard
Woody Strode ... Jake Sharp
Jack Palance ... Jesus Raza
Ralph Bellamy ... Joe Grant
Joe De Santis ... Ortega
Rafael Bertrand ... Fierro
Jorge Martínez de Hoyos ... Goatkeeper
Marie Gomez ... Chiquita
José Chávez ... Revolutionary
Carlos Romero ... Revolutionary
Vaughn Taylor ... Money-Delivering Banker

Production notes

During the filming of a scene where Maria attempts to escape through a canyon wired with dynamite, Claudia Cardinale's stunt double was badly injured. Cardinale, who had never ridden a horse before, performed the stunt herself in the final cut and escaped uninjured.

It was filmed in Technicolor on location in Death Valley and the Valley of Fire, showing the latter prominently. During filming, the cast and crew stayed in Las Vegas. Actor Woody Strode wrote in his memoirs that he and Lee Marvin got into a lot of pranks, on one occasion they even shot an arrow into Vegas Vic, the famous smiling cowboy neon sign outside The Pioneer Club.

The railway scenes were filmed on Kaiser Steel's Eagle Mountain Railroad. The steam locomotive seen in the movie currently resides on the Heber Valley Railroad.

Award & nominations

The film received three nominations at the 1967 Academy Awards. Writer and director, Richard Brooks, for Best Director and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and cinematographer, Conrad Hall, for Best Cinematography.

The film won two Motion Picture Magazine Laurel Awards in 1967, for Best Action Drama and Best Action Performance for Lee Marvin. In Germany, it was one of only four movies in 1967 to receive a Golden Screen award (the others were Doctor Zhivago, Merveilleuse Angélique and You Only Live Twice).

External links



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