AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Walter Hill (Dir)
Release Date:   14 Mar 1986
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 Mar 1986
Production Date:   29 Apr--31 Jul 1985 in Mississippi, New York City and Los Angeles, CA
Duration (in mins):   98
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Cast:   Ralph Macchio (Eugene Martone)  
    Joe Seneca (Willie Brown)  
    Jami Gertz (Frances)  
    Joe Morton (Scratch's assistant)  
    Robert Judd (Scratch)  
    Steve Vai (Jack Butler)  
    Dennis Lipscomb (Lloyd)  
    John Hancock (Sheriff Tilford)  
    Harry Carey, Jr. (Bartender)  
    Allan Arbus (Dr. Santis)  
    Gretchen Palmer (Beautiful girl/Dancer)  
    Al Fann (Pawnbroker)  
    Wally Taylor (O. Z.)  
    Tim Russ (Robert Johnson)  
    Tex Donaldson (John McGraw)  
    Guy Killum (Willie at 17)  
    Akosua Busia (Woman at boardinghouse)  
    Edward Walsh (Harley Tethune)  
    Allan Graf (Alvin)  
    Royce Wallace (Hotel proprietress)  
    J. W. Smith (Man at auto wrecking yard)  
    Diana Bellamy (Hospital supervisor)  
    Johnny M. Reyes (Orderly)  
  Nurses: Karen Huie    
    Robin Townsend    
    Jeanne Kiely    
    Winifred Freedman    
    Dolores Aguanno    
    Debra Laws    
  [and] Diane Robin    
    Leslie Morris (Bus station clerk)  
  Jookhouse women: Gloria Delaney    
    Jo-Marie Payton-France    
    Angela Robinson    
  [and] Deborra Hampton    
    Le Van Hawkins (Jookhouse man)  
    Jason Ross (Jookhouse man)  
    Natasha Peacock (Young girl at crossroads)  
    Agnes Narciso (Miss Narciso)  
  Jookhouse musicians: Frank Frost (Harmonica/Vocalist)  
    John Price (Drums)  
    Otis Taylor (Lead guitar)  
    Richard "Shubby" Holmes (Bass guitar)  
  [and] Terry L. Evans (Keyboard)  
  Guitar duel seq singers: Bobby A. King    
    Sam King    
    Arnold McCuller    
  [and] Willie J. Greene, Jr.    

Summary: Blues musician Robert Johnson travels to a crossroads in Mississippi, then records his music for a producer in a seedy hotel. Many years later, aspiring blues musician Eugene Martone obsessively researches the life of Robert Johnson. One day, Eugene visits patient Willie Brown at a criminal rest home in New York City, but a nurse says that Willie does not want visitors, and he is turned away. Undaunted, Eugene takes a job as a part-time janitor to gain access and hears the musician play harmonica in his room. Willie wants to be left alone, but Eugene presses him to admit that his stage name was “Blind Dog Fulton” when he was touring from 1939 to 1968. Eugene believes Willie was friends with Robert Johnson, changed his name to Blind Dog and moved to Chicago, Illinois, after Robert’s tragic death, but Willie denies it. A few days later, Eugene reveals that Robert was supposed to record thirty blues songs during his famous Texas sessions, but only twenty-nine exist. Eugene hopes that Willie will help him find the missing song. The fact that Eugene is a blues musician from Long Island, New York, makes Willie laugh. Later, The Juilliard School professor, Dr. Santis, tells Eugene he was accepted to the school as a classical music student, but lacks passion. The professor hints that Eugene is not a blues musician because he was not born into it. Either way, Eugene must choose the course of his musical future. One day, Eugene gives Willie a photograph of Robert Johnson, Willie, and other musicians, then leaves. Willie remembers signing a contract with the devil in the guise of a slick record promoter at a Mississippi crossroads, where Robert told him he would find his fortune as a harmonica player. In the present, Willie continues his needling as Eugene plays the blues on his guitar. Then, Willie admits to being Blind Dog, but contends that Eugene has not "suffered enough" to play the blues. Eugene explains that he can acquire this experience after he graduates from Juilliard, but Willie insists there is no time to waste. When Eugene wants to record the missing song at the rest home, Willie proposes that Eugene help him escape to Fulton’s Point where he has property just outside Yazoo City, Mississippi, and then he will give Robert’s missing song to Eugene. At first, Eugene refuses to bargain, and Willie calls him a coward. Then, Willie shows him the money he has saved, and Eugene agrees to take him to Mississippi. The next day, Eugene and Willie evade an orderly, escape in a taxicab, and board a Greyhound bus, where Willie tells Eugene about his friendship with Robert. Although the men were friends from 1932 to 1938, they parted ways when Willie wanted to go to Chicago, and Robert wanted to return to Mississippi, where he died a few months later. Willie also reveals that he was imprisoned for the shooting death of guitar player, Snooks Jordan. When they reach Memphis, Tennessee, Eugene discovers that there is not enough money for a two-hundred-mile ride to Yazoo City, and the travelers must hitchhike. They do more walking than riding, and even jam a little. When Willie suggests his playing lacks a certain something, Eugene responds that maybe he will go to the crossroads and make his deal with the devil. Willie slaps him in the face. Later, Willie calls Eugene a know-it-all, who plays a beat up guitar because he thinks it makes him look cool. At a music store, Eugene tries out an electric guitar with a portable amplifier worth $400, and they barter Eugene’s $1,100 watch for it. Later, they take shelter from the rain in an abandoned house in the woods where a seventeen-year-old runaway named Frances threatens Willie with a knife. After Willie disarms her, Frances leaves to hitch a ride, and the musicians join her. On their journey, Frances propositions a bar owner named Lloyd, but Eugene does not like the situation and rescues her. However, Frances wants to steal Lloyd’s money before they leave the apartment, and orders Eugene to knock him out. Willie barges in with a gun as Eugene flails around. He orders Eugene, under protest, to steal Lloyd’s car keys. They tell Lloyd they plan to “borrow” his car for twenty-four hours. If he contacts the police sooner, Frances will accuse him of statutory rape, and trafficking in prostitution. On the road, they find a barn to stay for the night. There, Frances does not believe Willie is a famous blues harmonica player, who will lead Eugene to the missing song, and thinks Eugene is a fool to trust him. Eugene is angered by her cynicism, but apologizes and asks her to continue on the trip. They make love but are soon interrupted by sheriff’s deputies, who detain the friends. Sheriff Tilford sends them to the next county out of his jurisdiction. Later, Willie suggests Eugene play a few songs at a local bar, then use his gun to rob customers. Feeling uncomfortable, Eugene accuses Willie of being a con man, and Willie tells him to go home to his mother. Then, Willie goes to drum up some money at a bar frequented by black patrons. After Frances fails in her attempt to pick the pocket of a customer, the friends search for Willie inside the bar. Locals taunt Eugene and Frances until Willie gets on stage with his harmonica and invites Eugene to join him. They spontaneously launch into a set and people dance. Eugene is complimented by the bar owner, but Willie laces into him, claiming Eugene still has not acquired enough experience to be great. Later, Willie has nightmares about Robert Johnson’s ghost. In the early morning, Willie catches Frances before she leaves for Los Angeles, California, to seek her fortune as a dancer. He cannot convince her to stay, but gives her some travel money. When Eugene discovers Frances is gone, Willie will not discuss it. He does admit that there is no missing song. He lied so that Eugene would help him escape from the rest home. As Willie and Eugene get closer to Fulton’s Point, they stop at a former brothel turned boarding house, where Willie asks for directions to the crossroads from the granddaughter of a former lover. They get a ride to the spot and Willie instructs Eugene to play under a dead tree. Soon, the Devil appears in a new suit. Willie says their deal is off and asks that the contract be destroyed. He claims not to have received anything that he was promised, but the Devil responds that nothing ever turns out the way it should, and sees no reason to break their agreement. Willie offers money, but the Devil wants to put Eugene in a contest with another musician named Jack Butler. Willie does not want Eugene to cut any deals, but Eugene thinks he is helping Willie, and does not perceive a threat. At a club, as Willie and Eugene watch Jack Butler play, Willie gives a Louisiana voodoo charm to Eugene to bolster his confidence and help him win. The Devil takes a seat, and Jack throws down some heavy metal guitar licks. Eugene answers by playing his own power chords. It goes back and forth. When Eugene looks like he might be in trouble, Willie joins him on stage with his harmonica. Jack stirs up the crowd with his showmanship and theatricality, but Eugene responds by laying down some choice notes. Soon, Jack runs out of steam, puts down his guitar, and walks off the stage. Eugene and Willie resume their spirited playing, and end with a rousing finale. The next day, Willie and Eugene walk by the crossroads, and Willie says he is tired of Mississippi and wants to introduce Eugene to big time musicians in Chicago. However, he warns Eugene that after Chicago, he will be on his own. He insists that Eugene take the music some place other than where he found it.  

Production Company: Columbia Pictures  
  Delphi IV Productions  
Production Text: Columbia Pictures presents
A Mark Carliner Production
A Walter Hill Film
From Columbia-Delphi IV Productions
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures  
Director: Walter Hill (Dir)
  Ray Hartwick (Unit prod mgr)
  Chris Soldo (1st asst dir)
  Bob Yannetti (2d asst dir)
  Barry K. Thomas (DGA trainee)
Producer: Mark Carliner (Prod)
  Mae Woods (Assoc prod)
  Tim Zinnemann (Exec prod)
Writer: John Fusco (Wrt)
Photography: John Bailey (Dir of photog)
  Louis Barlia (Cam op)
  Richard A. Mention, III (1st asst cam)
  Frederick Hamm (2d asst cam)
  Ronald W. McLeish (Chief lighting tech)
  Dustin Huber (Best boy)
  Ty Suehiro (Best boy grip)
  Al La Verde (Key grip)
  George Schrader (Dolly grip)
  John Powers (Grip)
  Edmond Wright (Grip)
  Gary Theard (Playback op)
  Stephen Vaughan (Still photog)
  Ron Phillips (Still photog)
Art Direction: Jack T. Collis (Prod des)
  Albert Heschong (Art dir)
Film Editor: Freeman Davies (Ed)
  Carmel Davies (Asst film ed)
  Robert Hernandez (Asst film ed)
  Yoko Seto (Asst film ed)
  Donah Bassett (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Marvin March (Set dec)
  James Tocci (Set des)
  Nancy Patton (Set des)
  Rick Young (Prop master)
  Dennis DeWaay (Const coord)
  Steve Fegley (Const foreman)
  Terry Nagel (Const foreman)
  Larry Shephard (Gang boss)
  Willard O. Livingston (Propmaker foreman)
  Sam Brinson (Labor foreman)
  Randy Szucs (Labor foreman)
  Robert Clark (Paint foreman)
  Edward Louis Zingelewicz (Standby painter)
  Paul Myerberg (Leadman)
  George Hardwicke (Leadman)
Costumes: Dan Moore (Men's costumer)
  Barbara Siebert-Bolticoff (Women's costumer)
Music: Ry Cooder (Mus/Blues guitar)
  Sonny Terry (Blues harmonica)
  John "Juke" Logan (Blues harmonica/Blues harmonica coach)
  Scott Grusin (Mus ed)
  Martin J. Bram (Mus ed)
  Arlen Roth (Guitar coach for Ralph Macchio)
  William Kanengiser (Classical guitar coach)
  Sonny Terry (Main title harmonica)
  Ry Cooder (All mus prod)
Sound: Richard Goodman (Prod mixer)
  Donald O. Mitchell (Re-rec mixer)
  Rick Kline (Re-rec mixer)
  Kevin O'Connell (Re-rec mixer)
  James Cavarretta, Jr. (Rec)
  Mike Haney (Rec)
  Bonnie Koehler (Supv sd ed)
  Randle Akerson (Sd ed)
  Beth Sterner (Sd ed)
  Dave Stone (Sd ed)
  Maggie Greenwald (Asst sd ed)
  Janet Mason (Asst sd ed)
  John Paul Fasal (Spec sd eff created by)
  Gary Wright (Foley ed)
  Andy Aaron (Sd eff rec)
  Carl Fischer (Boom)
  Anna Delanzo (Cable)
Special Effects: Larry Cavanaugh (Spec eff coord)
  Mary Meacham MGM Title (Title des)
  MGM (Opticals by)
Make Up: Michael Germain (Makeup artist)
  Dagmar Loesch (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Judith Holstra (Casting)
  Marcia Ross (Casting)
  Jan Kemper (Scr supv)
  Barbara Harris (Voice casting)
  Eric Schwab (Loc mgr)
  Shari Leibowitz (Prod office coord)
  Ken Ryan (Prod auditor)
  Hilary Clark (Unit pub)
  Rich Mar Casting (Extras casting)
  Marie Pastor (Prod assoc)
  Sheila Barnes (Prod assoc)
  Ann Douglas (Asst to Mark Carliner)
  Deborah Johnson (Asst to Walter Hill)
  Harriet Monroe (Asst to Tim Zinnemann)
  Gail Mutrux (Research consultant)
  For Stars Catering (Caterer)
  Danny Anglin (Transportation coord)
  Ron Riner (Transportation capt)
  Warner Hollywood Studios (Post prod facilities)
Color Personnel: Bob Raring (Col timer)
  Technicolor® (Col by)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: “Turkish March,” arranged for guitar and performed by William Kanengiser, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Songs: “Crossroads,” performed by Terry Evans and Ry Cooder, written by Robert Johnson; “He Made A Woman Out Of Me,” performed by Amy Madigan, written by Fred Burch and Donald Hill; “If I Lose,” performed by Amy Madigan, written by Ralph Stanley; “Cotton Needs Pickin', ” performed by The Wonders, written by Richard Holmes, Otis Taylor, John Price, and Frank Frost; “Maintenance Man,” performed by The Wonders, written by John Price and Frank Frost; “Willie Brown Blues,” performed by John Seneca, John “Juke” Logan, The Wonders, and Ry Cooder, written by Joe Seneca and Ry Cooder; “Feelin’ Bad Blues,” written and performed by Ry Cooder; “Butler’s Bag,” written and performed by Steve Vai and Ry Cooder, Steve Vai appears courtesy of Capitol Records; “Head Cuttin’ Duel,” written and performed by Steve Vai and Ry Cooder, Steve Vai appears courtesy of Capitol Records; “Eugene’s Trick Bag,” written and performed by Steve Vai, reprise of “Turkish March” arranged by William Kanengiser; Steve Vai appears courtesy of Capitol Records; “Walkin’ Blues,” written and performed by Sonny Terry and Ry Cooder.
Composer: Fred Burch
  Ry Cooder
  Frank Frost
  Donald Hill
  Richard Holmes
  Robert Johnson
  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  John Price
  Joe Seneca
  Ralph Stanley
  Otis Taylor
  Sonny Terry
  Steve Vai
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. 3/4/1986 dd/mm/yyyy PA294087

Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  Lenses/Prints: Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision®

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Adventures
  Blues music
  The Devil
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  New York City
  Record producers

Note: End credits state: “Filmed on location in Mississippi, New York, and at The Burbank Studios.”
       According to a 14 Mar 1986 NYT article and production notes in AMPAS library files, writer John Fusco based his screenplay on adventures that he documented as a sixteen-year-old keyboardist, songwriter, and blues singer touring in the South. A warning from a doctor concerning his seriously injured vocal chords ended his journey after five years, but redirected his creativity toward scriptwriting. Producer Mark Carliner was introduced to Fusco after he received first place for his original screenplay entry at the 1983 Nissan FOCUS Awards. The men forged a relationship that lead to the development of the Crossroads script. Fusco’s story was originally set in Louisiana, but Hill and executive producer Tim Zinnemann thought that the most dominant blues tradition originated in the Mississippi (MS) Delta, and felt that historically and visually, the region would be more interesting to film. A Mar 1986 Box article suggested that the title, Crossroads, was chosen because blues legend has it that aspiring musicians go there to sell their souls to the Devil in return for fame and fortune.
       A news item in the 29 Mar 1985 DV stated that actor-singer Sammy Davis, Jr., agreed to a screen test for a role in the picture, but he does not appear in the finished film.
       A 15 Jul 1985 People brief stated that actor Ralph Macchio spent four months learning how to play guitar per director Walter Hill’s suggestion. Macchio had no previous experience on the musical instrument, but became proficient enough to play notes although he did not learn to read music. Macchio’s guitar playing was dubbed in the film.
       According to a production chart in the 3 May 1985 HR, principal photography began 29 Apr 1985 in MS and Los Angeles, CA. Production notes stated that principal photography was completed on 31 July 1985 in New York City. The production began filming in Greenville, MS. About fifty miles north of the city, filmmakers found a crossroads with a long, dead tree that captured the chilling atmosphere where a blues musician might strike a deal with the devil. Other MS locations included the towns of Beulah, Bolivar, Chatham, Murphy and Winterville, down the road from Highway 61.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   29 Mar 1985.   
Hollywood Reporter   3 May 1985.   
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 1986   p. 3, 40.
Los Angeles Times   14 Mar 1986   p. 1, 11.
New York Times   14 Mar 1985   Section C, p. 8.
New York Times   14 Mar 1986   p. 15.
People   15 Jul 1985.   
Variety   12 Mar 1986   p. 14.

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