Missouri Breaks, The (1976): Arthur Penn’s Western, Starring Brando and Jack Nicholson

Arthur Penn directed The Missouri Breaks, an epic Western, starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson in their only teaming together.

The Missouri Breaks

The supporting cast includes Randy Quaid, Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Forrest, John McLiam, and Kathleen Lloyd.

The title of the film refers to a rugged area of Montana, where the Missouri River has made deep cuts or “breaks” in the land.

The Premise

Tom Logan (Nicholson), a rustler going through hard times, is upset by the hanging of a friend of theirs by Braxton, a land baron who takes the law into his hands. Seeking vengeance against Braxton, they kill his foreman Pete Marker and by buy a property close to Braxton’s ranch.

Braxton is incensed with both his rustling problem and his daughter, and sends for Robert E. Lee Clayton (Brando), a notorious Irish-American “regulator,” and gun for hire.  Clayton dons a variety of disguises and begins to pick off Logan’s gang, one by one.

In the end, Logan abandons his farm and packs up to leave, then bids adieu to Jane, hinting of a reunion in the future.

The score was composed by John Williams.

Marlon Brando as Robert E. Lee Clayton
Jack Nicholson as Tom Logan
Randy Quaid as Little Tod
Kathleen Lloyd as Jane Braxton
Frederic Forrest as Cary
Harry Dean Stanton as Cal
John McLiam as David Braxton
John Ryan as Cy
Sam Gilman as Hank Rate
Steve Franken as Lonesome Kid
Richard Bradford as Pete Marker
James Greene as Hellsgate Rancher
Luana Anders as Hellsgate rancher’s wife


Directed by Arthur Penn
Produced by Elliott Kastner, Robert M. Sherman
Written by Thomas McGuane
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Michael Butler
Edited by Dede Allen, Gerald B. Greenberg, Steven A. Rotter
Distributed by United Artists

Release date: May 18, 1976

Running time: 126 minutes
Box office $14 million