Reivers, The (1969): Mark Rydell’s Adaptation of Faulkner Final Novel, with Rupert Crosse in Oscar Nominated Performance

Adapted from William Faulkner’s final novel, which is not one of his greatest, “The Reivers,” directed by Mark Rydell is a decent version, adapted to the screen by the gifted husband-and-wife team, Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., our literary experts of the South.

A period piece, this road-adventure film is set in Jefferson, Mississippi in 1905, offering star Steve McQueen a good if uncharacteristic part, as Boon Hoggenbeck, the hired man of the McCaslin family.

The major character, however, is not is not Boon, but Lucius McCaslin, the adolescent played by Mitch Vogel.

Growing up in Mississippi in the early 1900s, Lucius finds himself in a bordello, where he is nearly killed trying to defend the “fast lady” (Sharon Farrell) who has befriended him.

He has been brought to the brothel by the ne’er-do-well farm hand Boon, with whom he has been traveling in the countryside in a vintage automobile, one of the few in the whole region. Joining them is the McCaslins’ black servant, Ned (Rupert Crosse in an Oscar nominated performance).

Episodic to a fault, the tale goes from one adventure to another, building toward a sequence, in which the three men combine resources to train a broken-down racehorse.

Meanwhile, Vogel’s grandfather (Will Geer), who owns the fine automobile that the “reivers” hope to win back, threatens to reappear at any moment to get Lucius back.

McQueen, then at the height of his popularity, renders  a good, laid-back performances, and so do the other two males, but ultimately the movie is too aimless and rambling to make a strong dramatic impact.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Supporting Actor: Rupert Crosse

Original Score: John Williams

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar was Gig Young for “The Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

Burt Bacharach won the Scoring award for the popular Western, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Rupert Crosse became the first black actor to receive a Supporting Actor Oscar nominations (several women have been nominated for the Supporting Actress), and only the second black actor (following Sidney Poitier) to have achieved that.