I Walk the Line (film)

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I Walk the Line
I Walk the Line 1970 film poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Produced by Harold D. Cohen
Edward Lewis
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent
Based on An Exile
by Madison Jones
Starring Gregory Peck
Tuesday Weld
Music by Johnny Cash
Cinematography David M. Walsh
Edited by Henry Berman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • November 18, 1970 (1970-11-18)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I Walk the Line is a 1970 American Drama film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld. It tells the story of Sheriff Henry Tawes (Peck) who develops a relationship with a girl in town Alma McCain (Weld). The screenplay, written by Alvin Sargent, is an adaptation of Madison Jones' novel An Exile. The I Walk the Line soundtrack is by Johnny Cash; it features his 1956 hit song of the same name.


Henry Tawes is an aging sheriff in small-town of Gainesboro, Tennessee, who is becoming bored with his wife Ellen, and his life. He meets young Alma McCain, and is drawn to her, even though she isn't even half his age.

Alma seduces him, then persuades Tawes to provide protection for her father Carl McCain, who makes moonshine whiskey with an illegal still. Tawes obliges her until a federal agent, Bascomb, turns up. He obeys orders and destroys the still.

A deputy, Hunnicutt suspects that Tawes and the young woman are romantically involved. When he tries to take Alma by force, Hunnicutt is killed by the McCains.

Tawes helps dispose of the deputy's body. He decides to take off with Alma and start a new life in California, but finds to his surprise that she and her family have already left. Tawes pursues them, assuming Alma still wants to be with him, but she has other ideas.



Frankenheimer wanted Gene Hackman to play the sheriff, but Columbia Pictures insisted that Peck be cast in the lead since he was under contract to them.[1] Frankenheimer cast J.C. Evans, his wife's grandfather, who was eighty-two years old, to play the sheriff's father; the director called Evans "quite wonderful" but eventually had Will Geer dub his part.[1] During the drive-in scene, the film playing is The Big Mouth, but the posters at the theater list it as Hook, Line & Sinker (both were Jerry Lewis movies). When Sony released it on DVD in 2006, the final shot was altered to show a freeze-frame of Peck's face. In the original version, Peck's face is never frozen, and his eyes are open. The scene showing Ralph Meeker's character shooting Charles Durning's deputy sheriff character from a distance with a rifle to protect his daughter is deleted in the video release.


In a December 1970 review, Time magazine summarized the film's main characters:[2]

  • "Tuesday Weld is an understandably desirable love object, a genuine Lolita, but she can make little sense of her rather muddy character"
  • "Ralph Meeker, as the ruthless moonshiner, is all sinister smiles and barely repressed violence"
  • "[Gregory) Peck succeeds in conveying the sheriff's vulnerability but never his passion"

According to TV Guide, "[t]he one reason to watch is the astonishing, unsung Weld, the modern Louise Brooks, who can suggest amorality, skewed innocence and ageless sensuality—she played nymphets through her thirties with infinite ease—that makes Bardot pale."[3]

In an interview published in October 2009, Madison Jones, the author upon whose novel the film's screenplay was based, said Peck "didn’t really fit the role.... He didn’t really fit any role unless he is playing himself." According to Jones, "Peck himself said there was a good movie lying on the cutting-room floor."[4]

Soundtrack album[edit]

Cash re-recorded the title song for the film, and ended up with enough material for a soundtrack album. One of the songs, "Flesh and Blood," even became a number one country hit in 1971.[1] The soundtrack featured three songs not heard in the film ("This Town", "Face of Despair" and "The World's gonna Fall On You").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "I Walk the Line". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  2. ^ "Cinema: Autumn Passion". Time. December 14, 1970. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  3. ^ "I Walk The Line: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  4. ^ "Meeting Madison Jones". TheWarEagleReader.com. October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 

External links[edit]