Goin' South is an American western-comedy film, directed by and starring Jack Nicholson. The 1978 film also starred Mary Steenburgen in her movie debut and included Christopher Lloyd,John Belushi (also in his movie debut), Richard Bradford, Veronica Cartwright, Danny DeVito and Ed Begley, Jr.
At the beginning, the Paramount logo sequence plays in reverse.
Henry Lloyd Moon (Nicholson), a third-rate outlaw in the late 1860s, is a bank-robber, horse thief and cattle thief who is due to be hanged in Longhorn, Texas to the great glee of the local populace and especially of the deputy sheriff, played with vengeance by Christopher Lloyd. Moon comes under especially close scrutiny from some women in the town, which turns out to be because of a local ordinance, dating back to Civil War days, that allowed a condemned man (short of being a murderer) to be saved from the gallows if an unmarried lady would agree to marry him and be responsible for his good behaviour.
Moon is saved from hanging by the intervention of a lovely young woman who agrees to marry and take charge of him. Julia Tate (Steenburgen), the headstrong but genteel Southern virginwho weds Moon, initially only wants him to help her work the gold mine she insists is on her property; but their shaky partnership soon evolves into much more.
The deputy sheriff particularly hates Moon for marrying "his" girl, although there is no evidence that she has ever been interested in him. Moon's old gang of outlaws complicate matters at Moon's home when they show up, introduce Julia, Moon's wife, to intoxicating beverage, and later discover that there actually IS gold on the property, a fact that Mr. Moon was trying to conceal from his erstwhile colleagues.
- Jack Nicholson - Henry Lloyd Moon
- Mary Steenburgen - Julie Tate
- Christopher Lloyd - Deputy Towfield
- John Belushi - Deputy Hector
- Richard Bradford - Sheriff Andrew Kyle
- Veronica Cartwright - Hermine
- Jeff Morris - Big Abe
- Danny DeVito - Hog
- Tracey Walter - Coogan
- Luana Anders - Loretta Anderson
- Lucy Lee Flippin - Diane Haber
- Ed Begley, Jr. - Whitey Haber
- Lin Shaye- Parasol Lady
The film was co-written by John Herman Shaner and produced by Harry Gittes, both longtime friends of Jack Nicholson from his early days in Hollywood. This was Mary Steenburgen's film debut. Steenburgen had been a waitress in New York hoping to get her big break in acting, and after having been turned down many times for other film roles, this launched her career as an actress in Hollywood. Christopher Lloyd, who had previously worked with Nicholson on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, plays Deputy Towfield. Lloyd and Steenburgen would reunite 12 years later as love interests in another western-comedy, Robert Zemeckis' Back to the Future Pt. III. This was John Belushi's film debut after having been established as a Saturday Night Live alumnus for several years. This film was shot before but released after National Lampoon's Animal House, which had its premiere earlier in the summer of 1978. This was the second of three films directed by Jack Nicholson. The first film he directed was 1971's Drive He Said, and the third film, was the Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes, released 12 years later in 1990. This marks the first film in which Nicholson appears as the main actor while directing. He does not appear as an actor in Drive He Said, and would appear again as the main star and director of The Two Jakes. Danny DeVito has a small supporting part as Hog. DeVito is directed in this film by Nicholson, with whom he was childhood friends. In 1992 DeVito would direct Nicholson in the leading role in his historical biopic film Hoffa. Over the years they would play side-by-side again in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Terms of Endearment, and Mars Attacks! Coincidentally they were also both main villains in director Tim Burton's Batman films. Nicholson played the Joker in the original 1989 film, while DeVito played the Penguin in 1992's Batman Returns.
Although not a big hit upon its original release in 1978, with either critics or audiences, Goin' South has increased in critical reception over the years, as well as better reception from the public especially Nicholson fans. It currently holds a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.