North Dallas Forty

North Dallas Forty
North Dallas Forty

Promotional poster for North Dallas Forty
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by Frank Yablans
Written by Peter Gent,
Ted Kotcheff,
Frank Yablans
Nancy Dowd (uncredited)
Starring Nick Nolte
Mac Davis
Charles Durning
Dayle Haddon
Bo Svenson
John Matuszak
Steve Forrest
G. D. Spradlin
Dabney Coleman
Savannah Smith Boucher
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) August 3, 1979 ( United States)
Running time 119 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget unknown

North Dallas Forty is a 1979 dramatic film starring Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, and G. D. Spradlin. It was directed by Ted Kotcheff and based on the best selling novel by Peter Gent: the screenplay was by Kotcheff, Gent, Frank Yablans and Nancy Dowd (uncredited).



Wide receiver Phil Elliott plays for a 1970s era professional football team based in Dallas, Texas named the North Dallas Bulls[1][2], which closely resembles the Dallas Cowboys.

The aging Elliott is struggling to stay competitive and relies heavily on painkillers. Elliott and popular quarterback Seth Maxwell are outstanding players, but they also characterize the drug-, sex-, and alcohol-fueled party atmosphere of NFL teams of this era. Elliott only wants to play the game and retire, and own a home with his girl Charlotte, who he loves.

The Bulls play for an iconic coach who turns a blind eye to anything that his players may be doing off the field or anything that his assistant coaches and trainers condone to keep those players in the game. As one player finally erupts to a coach: "Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game."

Behind the Scenes

Part drama, comedy, and satire, North Dallas Forty is widely considered a classic sports film, giving insights into the lives of professional athletes.[3]

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Peter Gent, a Cowboys wide receiver in the late 1960s, the film's characters closely resemble real-life team members of that era, with Seth Maxwell often compared to quarterback Don Meredith, B.A. Strother to Tom Landry, and Elliott to Gent. Of the story, Meredith said, "If I'd known Gent was as good as he says he was, I would have thrown to him more."[4]



The film opened to good reviews, with many critics calling this film the best movie Ted Kotcheff made behind Fun with Dick and Jane and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "The central friendship in the movie, beautifully delineated, is the one between Mr. Nolte and Mac Davis, who expertly plays the team's quarterback, a man whose calculating nature and complacency make him all the more likable, somehow".[5] Time magazine's Richard Schickel wrote, "North Dallas Forty retains enough of the original novel's authenticity to deliver strong, if brutish, entertainment".[6] Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "The writers - Kotcheff, Gent and producer Frank Yablans - are nonetheless to be congratulated for allowing their story to live through its characters, abjuring Rocky-like fantasy configurations for the harder realities of the game. North-Dallas Forty isn't subtle or finely tuned, but like a crunching downfield tackle, it leaves its mark".[7]

However, in his review for the Globe and Mail, Rick Groen wrote, "North Dallas Fortys descents into farce and into the lone man versus the corrupt system mentality deprive it of real resonance. It's still not the honest portrait of professional athletics that sport buffs have been waiting for".[8] Sports Illustrated magazine's Frank Deford wrote, "If North Dallas Forty is reasonably accurate, the pro game is a gruesome human abattoir, worse even than previously imagined. Much of the strength of this impression can be attributed to Nick Nolte ... Unfortunately, Nolte's character, Phil Elliott, is often fuzzily drawn, which makes the actor's accomplishment all the more impressive".[9] In his review for the Washington Post, Gary Arnold wrote, "Charlotte, who seemed a creature of rhetorical fancy in the novel, still remains a trifle remote and unassimilated. Dayle Haddon may also be a little too prim and standoffish to achieve a satisfying romantic chemistry with Nolte: Somehow, the temperaments don't mesh".[10]


  2. ^ Movie/TV helmets
  3. ^ New York Times movie review
  4. ^ D Magazine (Dallas Magazine), "The 35 Biggest Pop Culture Moments in Modern Dallas History," January, 2010.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 1, 1979). "Dallas Forty: Cynicism and Comedy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  6. ^ Schickel, Richard (September 3, 1979). "Strong Medicine". Time.,9171,948619,00.html. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  7. ^ Ansen, David (August 6, 1979). "A Locker Room with Soul". Newsweek. 
  8. ^ Groen, Rick (August 4, 1979). "Dallas fumbles cost film points". Globe and Mail. 
  9. ^ Deford, Frank (August 27, 1979). "Good Flick On Bad Doings In The Pros". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  10. ^ Arnold, Gary (August 3, 1979). "A Battered Loner's Life in the Wars". Washington Post. 

External links

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