Secondhand Lions: Starring Caine and Duvall

Written and directed by Tim McCanlies, Secondhand Lions tells the story of an introverted young boy (Haley Joel Osment), who is sent to live on a Texas farm with his eccentric great-uncles, well played by  Robert Duvall and Michael Caine.

In 1962, the 14-year old Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) is left by his irresponsible mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), to live for the summer with his reclusive, bachelor great-uncles, Hub (Duvall) and Garth (Caine), brothers rumored to have a secret fortune.

Walter is given a room in the attic where he finds a photograph of a beautiful woman, who he later learns is Jasmine (Emmanuelle Vaugier), Hub’s true love.

Relatives Ralph and Helen arrive with their children, hoping for a chance at the fortune. Thinking Walter is also after it, they threaten foster care, making him run. The two uncles see him; Hub is glad to see him on his way, but Garth convinces Hub to bring him back home.

Walter begins to adust to his uncles’ odd habits, such as Hub’s sleepwalking at night in which he relives old fights, as well as their shooting at traveling salesmen for fun. Curious, Walter suggests they at least hear a pitch; they end up buying a clay pigeon launcher. Hub orders a lion from a circus animal dealer, intending to mount its head after killing it; however, they end up with an aging, tame lioness.

Four Greasers enter, annoying Hub who easily beats them in a fight. In their absence, Ralph and Helen’s sons accidentally release Jasmine from her crate just as Hub, Garth and Walter return. Walter searches for Jasmine, and finds her in the cornfield, which becomes her new “jungle” home. When Walter notices Hub lecturing the four toughs, Garth explains it’s Hub’s special speech for “what a boy need to know”. Since the lioness will keep Ralph and Helen away, Hub and Garth decide to let Walter keep Jasmine as a pet.

Garth also explains their past through the story. On the eve of World War I, Hub and Garth arrived in France just as Germany invaded the country. They soon found themselves shanghaied and conscripted into the Legion, which led them to fight in many battles. After the war, Garth became a guide in Africa, while Hub travelled the world. During his travels, Hub met and fell in love with Jasmine, a princess promised to a powerful Sheik. When Hub rescued her, the Sheik put a price of 10,000 gold pieces on Hub’s head, keeping them in constant peril from assassins and bounty hunters. Finally, Hub arranged for Garth, in the guise of a bounty hunter, to get him close to the Sheik, while Garth collected the reward. Hub then fought and won a duel against the Sheik but spared his life. He warned the Sheik if this vendetta didn’t end, his life would; this ends the Sheik’s manhunt. When Walter asks to hear more, Garth says he must find out the rest from Hub.

Later, Walter awakens Hub from a bout of sleepwalking to ask about Jasmine’s fate. Hub reveals Jasmine and their unborn child died in childbirth. Knowing no other life, Hub returned to the Legion to escape his grief, until he retired with Garth to their Texas farm. Walter then realizes Garth’s stories might be true, but asks Hub to confirm it, since his mother always tells lies. Hub responds with a piece of his “What Every Boy Needs to Know…” speech, that the actual truth is not as important as the belief in ideals like good winning over evil, honor, and true love. Seeing how much Hub misses his Jasmine, Walter asks Hub to promise to be around to give him the rest of the speech when he’s old enough; Hub grudgingly agrees. As a result, Walter and his uncles form an even closer bond. Late one evening, Walter awakens to see Garth walking out to the barn and secretly follows him, trailing him to a room underneath the barn, which is filled with money.

On another night, Walter’s mother and her current suitor, a supposed “private investigator” named Stan, arrive. While the uncles sleep, Stan and Mae demand that Walter reveal the location of the fortune, claiming Hub and Garth were actually bank robbers, that Jasmine was their accomplice, and the money is theirs for the taking. To Mae’s dismay, Walter chooses to believe in his uncles instead of her. Angered, Stan drags Walter to the barn, revealing he’s in deep debt. Walter then tells Stan to defend himself before kicking him between the legs. Walter runs to the house, past the cornfield, where Stan knocks him down and begins hitting him. Sensing Walter in danger, the lioness emerges from the cornfield to attack Stan, leaving him badly mauled. Awakened by the ruckus, Hub and Garth find the old lioness died of heart failure. Hub and Garth explain Jasmine was “protecting her cub,” and Walter proudly observes she was “a real lion… at the end”.

The next day, Walter leaves with his mother, who is pressured by the uncles to get rid of Stan. She replies she intends to drop him off in Vegas. However, once on the road, Mae explains Stan will be staying with them to recuperate. Sick of Mae, Walter asks her to finally “do something that’s best for me for once.” Soon, Hub and Garth are greatly pleased to see Walter’s return. However, the boy insists there have to be changes: his uncles will have to be involved in things like Little League and PTA meetings, and to stop doing dangerous stunts, as he wants them to die of old age.

17 years later, an adult Walter (Josh Lucas), has become the cartoonist of the comic strip “Walter and Jasmine,” based on his experiences with his uncles, now both 90 years of age. He is alerted by the sheriff of his uncles’ deaths from a failed flying stunt with their biplane. Their will declares “The kid gets it all. Just plant us in the damn garden, next to the stupid lion.” A helicopter bearing the logo “Sahara Petroleum” then touches down near the homestead, and a man (Eric Balfour) steps out with his young son (Daniel Brooks). Approaching Walter, he explains while visiting nearby for a business trip, he heard about Hub and Garth’s deaths on the news and recognized the names as the two Americans in tales told to him as a young boy by his grandfather, “a very wealthy sheik. He called them ‘my most honored adversaries. The only men who ever outsmarted me.'” When the man’s young son (Daniel Brooks) asks Walter if his uncles were indeed real, that they really lived, Walter confirms, “Yeah. They really lived.”



In the original ending to the film, instead of the sheik’s grandson, a tractor-trailer pulls up at the gravesite and a detachment from the French Foreign Legion rides out on horseback and act as an Honor Guard escorting two riderless horses with boots inserted backwards in the stirrups in honor of the brothers. Shortly thereafter, the sheik himself, elderly and using a wheelchair, arrives in a limousine surrounded by his harem to pay his respects. The four greasers that Hub beat up also make an appearance at the funeral, showing that Hub’s speech did have an impact, as the men are now mature and respectable.[4]

The film score was composed by Patrick Doyle and features music by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Ola Onabule, in addition to Doyle. The film also features “A Lot of Livin’ To Do” (performed by Sammy Davis Jr.), Let Me In (The Sensations song) (performed by The Sensations), “Big Balls in Cowtown” (performed by Don Walser), “Rolling Stone From Texas” (performed by Walser), “Texas Playboy Rag” (performed by Pine Valley Cosmonauts), “Red Skin Gal” (performed by Walser) and “Help Me” (performed by Sonny Boy Williamson)

The film grossed $42,070,939 in US and $5,831,627 for the rest of the world, adding up to a total worldwide gross of $47,902,566.[1]