Most people know Sam Elliott for two things: his voice and his mustache. Currently, he is the closest thing to a cowboy we have on the big and small screens. Back in 1981, though, he shed his mustache and was far from his current cowboy persona. Instead, the clean-shaven Elliott took the role of a high-profile plastic surgeon in the made-for-TV movie, “Murder in Texas.”
Sam Elliott wasn’t the only big name in that movie, though. His co-stars in the film included Farrah Fawcett, Craig T. Nelson, and the legendary Andy Griffith. Elliott plays Dr. John Hill. In real life, Hill may or may not have killed his wife Joan Robinson-Hill. Fawcett portrays the tragic wife in the film. Griffith takes on the role of her father and oil millionaire Ash Robinson.
Sam Elliott in ‘Murder in Texas’
We can get a good idea of Sam Elliott’s character from the trailer above. The cowboy legend plays a self-absorbed, rich, and talented surgeon. It seems that he is cold and neglectful to his loving wife. His treatment of Joan puts him up against her father. Andy Griffith plays the role of an angry but devoted father like he was born to do it.
The Washington Post ran a piece about the film before its release back in May of 1981. In that post, they briefly discuss the real-life case that inspired the film. They also point out that Sam Elliott is sans-mustache for his role. This just goes to show that it was as surprising then as it would be today. More interesting than that is the true crime story, though.
According to the article, Joan Robinson-Hill died a miserable death in the hospital. People close to her and the doctor were pretty sure he had some hand in her passing. In fact, he was indicted on a murder charge. However, he was never convicted. Instead, he was gunned down by a home invader.
Many people, law enforcement included, suspected Joan’s father orchestrated the murder. However, he was acquitted on all charges.
The article says that Dr. Hill was a man with a “psychopathic dedication to the shrine of his own existence,” he was cunning and always got what he wanted. From the trailer, it seems that Sam Elliott stepped into the role with ease. We know him now for his gruff exterior and deep gravelly voice. However, his character in “Murder in Texas” is a refined city-slicker type.
If you want to see Sam Elliott play a possibly-murderous plastic surgeon, you might be out of luck. It isn’t currently streaming anywhere and never got a proper DVD release. The only format in which this movie is available is VHS, and you’re going to have to drop a pretty penny on it. This is unfortunate because it looks like a solid movie with a great cast.