Urban Cowboy (1980): Revisiting Sexy Movie

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James Bridges' "Urban Cowboy" is one of the sexiest movies to come out of Hollywood in the 1980s, due to the charismatic appearance of John Travolta and Debra Winger, who made a great, earthy onscreen couple.

Released in 1980, the movie is credited with launching and popularizing the Country-and-Western craze, which manifested itself in a cycle of films, music, and especially fashion.
 
The screenplay was adapted by Aaron Latham andJames Bridges from Latham's article on Western lifestyle in a magazine. At the center of the enormously likable film, arguably James Bridges' best, is a chronicle of a young marriage, only a week old, between two free-spirited individuals, clearly not ready for the monogamy and commitment that marriage involves.
At the peak of his popularity, John Travolta made the movie after "Saturday Night Fever" and Grease," two huge musical blockbusters. Debra Winger, then a relative newcomer, made a huge impression with her bravura performance, tough prettiness, snappy delivery, and, of course, those mechanical bull sequences, which were perceived as erotically charged by many men.
 
When these two are on the screen, quickly courting, endlessly arguing and fighting, briefly making love, you can't take their eyes off from them.
 
On the surface it’s a story of pull-and-push forces, love-hate relationship betweencowboy Bud Davis (Travolta) and cowgirl Sissy (Winger). Upon moving toPasadena, Texas, Bud Davis (Travolta) moves in with his uncle Bob (Barry Corbin), who helps him get work at a local oil refinery.
Bob takes Bud to the localhonky-tonk,Gilley's, where most of the ensuing tale takes place. After his first night in town, Bud quickly embraces the local nightlife by frequentingGilley's. Soon after, Bud meets the sexy Sissy (Debra Winger), whose first question is, "Are you a real cowboy?" suggesting that the film, among other things, will distinguish between the real and the fake cowboys. The couple sharesLone Stars andtequila shots, court briefly and fall in love.
After an awkward proposal, a wedding ceremony takes place in Gilley's, and the duo moves into atrailer. During their honeymoon, they visit theTexas Prison Rodeo and witness "real" cowboy bull rider Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn), who's a convicted felon.
In quick order, their lives settle into a routine of hard work at the refinery during the day, and living it up at Gilley's during the night. The movie's tagline was "Hard-hat days and honky-tonk nights."
Turning point occurs, when Gilley's owner installs amechanical bull, and Bud takes to it immediately to prove his skill at riding. When Sissy expresses her desire to ride the bull, Bud adamantly objects, perceiving her innocent gesture as a threat to his manhood—"It's not for girls."
One night, after carousing at Gilley's, Bud throws ahamburger and accidentally hits Wes Hightower, who's out of jail, leading to a fistfight outside the diner. The next day, Bud goes to work drunk and wounded. Meanwhile, Sissy seeks out themechanical bull at Gilley's to learn how to ride; she wants to impress her husband. Wes, now working at the honky-tonk, gives her a lesson charged with erotic yearnings.
Tragedy strikes when an alcohol-impaired Bud slips on scaffolding at work and nearly dies. But undeterred, Bud and Sissy make the trek to Gilley's, where Sissy shows Bud her new bull riding skills. Bud tries to stop her, but Wes intervenes saying, "She knows what she's doing!"
Furious upon realizing that Sissy had practiced without his consent and with Wes, Bud feels that his manhood is threatened. He decides to upstage Sissy by riding the bull, despite his back injury and being medicated. Bud and Sissy trade off riding the bull, the feud escalating until Bud is thrown from the bull. While Bud stumbles to his feet, Wes jars the bull joystick and knocks him down, breaking his arm.
In an argument, when Sissy tries to convince Bud that he's jealous because she can ride the bull better, he slaps her and kicks her out of the trailer. The next night, after being laid off from work due to his broken arm, Bud goes to Gilley's and sees Sissy with Wes.
To make her jealous, Bud invites Pam (Madolyn Smith) for an intimate dance, and Sissy reciprocates with a tight dance with Wes. Tension escalates, when Bud asks Pam: "When you gonna take me home and rape me?" to which Pam replies "Whenever you get ready!" Pam and Bud leave for her lush Houston apartment. Sissy moves out of the trailer and goes to Wes.
In his courtship with Pam, she reveals, "Daddy does oil and all that it implies." In contrast, Sissy realizes that Wes is cheating on her with a Gilley's waitress.
When Bud wishes to divorce Sissy, Uncle Bob offers some mentoring and advice to Bud about swallowing his cowboy pride, confessing he nearly lost his wife and kids once due to his own ego. Bob, who had lost atesticle while bull riding, trains Bud on how to score and win the contest.
The rift between Bud and Sissy continues and the affairs continue. During one conversation, Bud confides in Pam he came to Houston for work and that all cowboys are not (as her father thinks) dumb; as he removes his own cast with a jab saw.
Uncle Bob dies in a refinery explosion, and the grieving, Bud decides not to participate in the contest. However, during the wake, Bud's Aunt Corrine, hands him her hubby's belt-buckle, telling him that Bob would have wanted him to use it.
When the day of the contest arrives, Bud and Wes are pitted against several other contestants for the $5,000 grand prize. Both men make it to the final round, and eventually Bud emerges victorious by one point. Upset by his loss, Wes then grabs Sissy and return to their trailer. In anger, he slaps Sissy after she refuses to pack for Mexico. Meanwhile, Pam urges him to reconcile with Sissy, realizing he had trained and won to impress Sissy.
The last reel is overly melodramatic. Looking for Sissy, Bud sees her in the parking lot and apologizes to her. After seeing that Sissy has been beaten, he goes looking for Wes for retribution. In their fight, Bud punches Wes and all the money he had stolen falls out of his jacket. Gilley's manager, discovering the attempted robbery, detains Wes at gunpoint, and Bud and Sissy finally depart Gilley's, the source of their tensions.
A commercial success, grossing $54 million in the U.S. box-office, "Urban Cowboy" is John Travolta's last major hit before a series of flops in the following decade; Tarantino resuscitated his career in 1994 with "Pulp Fiction." 
Debra Winger would become a major star with two consecutive hits and Oscar nominations, for "An Officer and a Gentleman" in 1982 and "Terms of Endearment," the 1983 Oscar-winning picture.
Music
 
The movie spawned a hit soundtrack album featuring good songs:Johnny Lee's "Lookin' for Love,"Mickey Gilley's "Stand by Me," "Look What You've Done to Me," byBoz Scaggs, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" sung by theCharlie Daniels Band, the Anne Murray hit "Could I Have This Dance," and "Love The World Away" by pop-country starKenny Rogers.
Cast
John Travolta as Bud Davis
Debra Winger as Sissy Davis
Scott Glenn as Wes Highhtower
Madolyn Smith as Pam
Barry Corbin as Uncle Bob Davis
Brooke Alderson as Aunt Corene Davis
Cooper Huckabee as Marshall
James Gammon as Steve Strange
Steve Strange as Sam Strange
Mickey Gilley as Himself
Johnny Lee as Himself
Bonnie Raitt as Herself
Charlie Daniels as Himself
Ellen March as Becky
Jessie La Rive as Jessie