Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969)




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After being blacklisted from Hollywood for 21 years, writer/director Abraham Polonsky made a healthy comeback with Tell Them Willie Boy is Here. The title character, played by Robert Blake, is a Paiute Indian living in 1909 California. After several years in the White Man's world, Willie Boy returns to his reservation, hoping to renew his romance with tribeswoman Lola (Katherine Ross). Old Mike (Mike Angel), Lola's father, strongly disapproves of her relationship with Willie Boy and attacks the youth. Acting in self defense, Willie Boy kills Old Mike. Under tribal rules, Willie Boy is now permitted to claim Lola as his woman. But white lawman Christopher Cooper (Robert Redford) is forced to charge Willie Boy with murder. The Indian and his girl escape the reservation, pursued by the essentially decent Cooper and a less-than-decent crowd of white vigilantes. What begins as comparative minor incident, snowballs into a huge political crisis, with the bewildered but defiant Willie Boy as the catalyst. Tell Them Willie Boy is Here is distinguished by the fine performances of leading players Redford, Blake, Ross and Susan Clark, and by the haunting cinematography of Conrad Hall.
Classics , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
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Robert Redford
as Christopher Cooper
Robert Blake
as Willie Boy
Barry Sullivan
as Calvert
Susan Clark
as Liz Arnold
John Vernon
as Hacker
Charles McGraw
as Frank Wilson
Shelly Novack
as Finney
Robert Lipton
as Newcombe
Lloyd Gough
as Dexter
John Wheeler
as Newman
Erik Holland
as Digger
Garry Walberg
as Dr. Mills
George Tyne
as Le Marie
Lee de Broux
as Meathead
Jerome Raphel
as Salesman
Lou Frizzell
as Station Agent
John Day
as Sam Wood
Steve Shemayne
as Johnny Hyde
Mikel Angel
as Old Mike
Everett Creach
as Fake Indian
Stanley Torres
as 1st Committee Man
Kenneth Holzman
as Reporter
Joseph C. Mandel
as Reporter
Robert Du Laine
as 1st Escort
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Critic Reviews for Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (4)

A thoughtful, intelligent film that nearly makes up in style and conviction what it lacks in dramatic substance.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Redford's 'presence' is magnificent, always suggesting the classically-structured, powerful-but-weak American.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Top Critic

A powerful film, even though the script wears its liberal conscience on its sleeve (and further hedges its bets by casting nice Robert Redford as the sheriff), directed with austere authority in desert landcapes marvellously shot by Conrad Hall.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here is another one of the best American movies, and in its own way, equally idiomatic, evocative, and resourceful [as Force of Evil].

Full Review… | May 21, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

A sense of clarity and austerity about the visuals lends potent emotional heft.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
Total Film

A powerful drama masquerading as a western that promises slightly more than it is able to deliver.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here


There's not a lot of oomph is this turn of the century Western about a sheriff's territorial hunt for a runaway Indian couple plotwise: it's pretty cut and dried. So what remains is how the work is completed, and therein is the charm. All the lead's do well in this character study that becomes a chase movie, the actors given space to not explain every character nuance to us, the photography's decent, wide vistas of rugged Western canyons. The music's period appropriate, and though the point of it all is pretty much a liberal take on a conservative time we're not beaten over the head with it over much. Me likey. Kudos to Susan Clark as well, an unsung actor for the most part, allowed to shine.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

Based on a true story of the West, for a change. Thanks to the thoughtful screenplay and excellent direction by Abraham Polonsky, "Willie Boy" is an exciting western chase story, but much more importantly, one of the few major Hollywood films that has ever delt sensitively with the question of the American white man's treatment of the American indian. A young Sheriff Robert Redford, 1909, is hunting down a young American indian (well played by Robert Blake). An absorbing drama by a blacklisted Hollywood director. One of two Westerns made in 1969 to co-star Robert Redford and Katharine Ross, the other being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This one, unfortunately, may be hard to find in your library for loan. It goes for $15 on Cast Robert Redford as Deputy Sheriff Christopher 'Coop' Cooper Katharine Ross as Lola Robert Blake as Willie Boy Susan Clark as Dr. Elizabeth Arnold Barry Sullivan as Ray Calvert John Vernon as George Hacker Charles Aidman as Judge Benby Charles McGraw as Sheriff Frank Wilson Shelly Novack as Johnny Finney Robert Lipton as Charlie Newcombe Lloyd Gough as Dexter Ned Romero as Tom John Wheeler as Newman Erik Holland as Digger (as Eric Holland) Garry Walberg as Dr. Mills

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