"Staying up all night, burning yourself out. You’re just walking around to save funeral expenses...You look like hell!"
Description: Valerie Perrine as Charlotta Steele who wants her husband Sonny Steele (Robert Redford) to finalize their divorce in the motion picture The Electric Horseman (1979). Sonny had been avoiding the judge's order to end their marriage, but finally, he says, "Give the papers," and signs them.
Norman "Sonny" Steele (Robert Redford) is the spokesperson for "Ranch Cereal", a breakfast food owned by a multi-billion dollar conglomerate known as AMPCO, whose head corporate executive is Hunt Sears (John Saxon).
As AMPCO's spokesman, Sonny travels to personal appearances at supermarket openings, convention centers and half-times at football stadiums. He is assisted by Wendell (Willie Nelson) and Leroy (Timothy Scott), two buddies from the days he rode as a bronco buster.
"For all you hardworking folks, hard playing little folks whose bodies are growing every day you remember Ranch Breakfast. Ah, It's a cereal that builds CHAMPIONS, exploding with a kind of energy...it's got more stuff in it than toast, bacon, eggs, and toast and bacon and ah meatloaf, olives, nuts. It's just got more good stuff in it...." - Sonny Steele
Sonny is a former five-time championship rodeo rider but he gave his life of roping and riding and broken bones for a better, softer life as a celebrity pitchman.
Now instead of living on a ranch, Sonny lives a life of luxury in a house in Malibu. As he tells his helpers, "Your not on the bacon and bean circuit anymore. You got room service. Your flying around in first class. You got limousines, ladies in the lobby, the laundry comes up with tissue paper in it. Your living like a bunch of fat oil barons. Living better that we got a right to....It beats going to work every night with a bull doing a tap dance on you back. And it beats having you legs braided for you. And it beats some bull using you head for a some floor mat. Don't it?"
Although, Sonny lives a life of comfort, he feels he has sold out, and he drinks too much to forget. His drinking has gotten so bad, AMPCO reps hired another rider to gallop around an arena during the half-time highlights wearing his signature electric-lighted cowboy suit. When Sonny sees the new guy, he says, "What in the hell? That's not me!" The AMPCO rep explains, "They don't know the difference."
Meanwhile, AMPCO has added another advertising mascot to represent the growing company. The mascot is a $12 million dollar race horse named Rising Star. The horse will be the new symbol for the company. A TV promotional spot uses the horse as the focus of an ad that declares, "Ladies and Gentlemen for AMPCO Industries, Rising Star. Horse racing's most honored stallion. In industry, in energy, in development, in research, entertainment, in nutrition, recreation, and in science, AMPCO Industries is...the Rising Star."
With such a valuable new asset to their stable of other products, AMPCO plans to showcase their new corporate logo at an upcoming Las Vegas promotional appearance at Caesar's Palace where Sonny Steele is scheduled to ride the champion thoroughbred race horse on stage.
When reporters show up to cover the event, one of the AMPCO reps donwplays Sonny Steele as someone the press should steer clear of, considering his drinking problem, (He's probalby drunk in Barstow") but reporter Alice "Hallie" Martin (Jane Fonda) Martin smellls a story and seeks out Sonny to learn all about him. When Hattie asks Wendall why AMPCO does not want her to interview Sonny, his friend says, "Sonny hasn't been himself lately...he's okay. He's just a cowboy. Sometimes he looses the best part of himself."
Later, when Sonny realizes Rising Star's injured tendon needs attention and that the horse has been tranquilized to control its behavior and pumped with steroids, he decides to rescue the horse from the hands of its corporate owners and return the horse to nature where it can roam free. And so mounting Rising Star, Sonny rides the horse off stage, through a casino and out into the streets of Las Vegas, where the two gallops away in the night.
TV reporter Hallie Martin is eager to be the first to break the Rising Star story, and so she locates Sonny and follows him on his unusual cross-country quest to release the kidnapped horse in a remote canyon where herds of wild horses roam.
At first, Sonny refuses to let Hallie tag along, but he relents and lets her film his story. She sends a video tape to a local affiliate that airs the video which explains Sonny's rationale for taking the horse.
"Have your ever "seen" this horse race? You ever seen him? I seen him run. I saw him stumble and fall back and lose his stride and pick himself up. I saw him stretch himself out when he had "nothing" left to give but he found it. Somewhere. And he won. Lady that horse is a champion and he's got a heart the size of a locomotive. He's got more heart, and more drive and more soul than most people you'll ever know and their hanging lights all over him. They're trotting him around on stages with dancing girls ta dee da taa. They'd have him wearing short pants and smoking a cigar if they thought it sell their damn junk. Look it. Look it, they got him all tanked up with tranquilizers and buets. They're sticking him full of needles, they got him...look at this tendon, look at this tendon, they got him shot all filled with steroids. It's just for looks...makes the horse sterile. Seems they...God this is so damn funny, even if they wanted to breed and pass on some of them fine qualities they couldn't. To say nothing what the horse hisself is missing. And so, so, I took him." - Sonny Steele [to Hallie filming his speech]
AMPCO files charges against Sonny and posts a $50,000 reward for Rising Star's safe return. To further control the situation Sears plans to use the media to destroy Sonny's credibility by highlighting his drinking problem but Sonny's video reaches the airwaves before the company can trash Sonny in the eyes of the public, who now see Sonny as a hero.
"What have I got to be worked up about? I've only got a stole horse; everybody except the Coast Guard is after me; I've got nothin' but miles of open country to cross; and now I'm carrying a crazy woman around wearin' shoes from Bloomingbirds who thinks she's seen a rattlesnake round up." - Sonny Steele [to Hallie Martin]
As Sonny and Hallie trudge through the desert toward their destination, Sonny says, "I knew a fella once misjudged a Brahma - put a rib right through his lung. He could barely breathe, and he still got up and rode the rankest mare there." Perplexed, Hallie replies, "I will never understand why you find that kind of behavior admirable!" Sonny answers, "It'll get you up the hill."
Sonny and Hallie continue to elude the authorities, being helped by a farmer (Wilfred Brimley) who trucks Sonny, Hallie and the horse past a police roadblock so they can reach Silver Reef, Utah where Sonny releases Rising Star to run with its own kind.
Hallie, who has grown fond of Sonny, agrees not to reveal the location where they released Rising Star so the horse would not be retrieved and returned to the hands of the greedy corporate sponsors who mistreated and misused the animal in the first place.
Meanwhile, to save face and protect their image with the public and their investors, Sears Hunter of AMPCO claims he had no idea that Rising Star had been abused and drops Sonny's the horse-napping charges.
After releasing Rising Star into the wilderness, Sonny escorts Hallie to a bus station. As Hallie waits for her bus to New York City where she will deliver an expose on the whole affair, she asks, "Tell me Norman...did you think it was going to be this tough to get rid of a pain in the ass like me?" Sonny replies, "Ma'am, I had no idea."
As Hallie boards the bus, Sonny gives her a kiss and wishes her well. Then Sonny picks up his belongings and starts to hitchhike on the highway, where he hopes for find a new and simpler way of life.