‘The Longest Yard’ Starring Burt Reynolds Premiered in Theaters on This Day in 1974

by Joe Rutland

Moviegoers grew even more in love with actor Burt Reynolds, who starred in “The Longest Yard” which premiered on this day in 1974.

Reynolds played former star quarterback Paul “Wrecking” Crewe who ends up in prison after taking his girlfriend’s Citroen SM out for a spin. He did without permission and goes behind bars for 18 months. “The Longest Yard” opened in New York City on Aug. 30, 1974.

Crewe is not getting lots of admiration from convicts. They know why Crewe was booted from the National Football League. Apparently, ol’ Paul was shaving points while on the field. That was an egregious mistake in their eyes.

“The Longest Yard” features quite a cast as prison warden Rudolph Hazen is played by veteran actor Eddie Albert. Hazen, a huge football fan, puts Crewe on his prison team. Team captain and head prison guard Wilhelm Knauer, played by Ed Lauter, recruits Crewe to play quarterback. So, he joins the team.

James “Caretaker” Farrell, played by James Hampton; Nate Scarboro, a former pro player, played by Michael Conrad; and “Granny” Granville, played by Harry Caesar, become important to Crewe’s plan. What plan? We will get there, Outsiders. Crewe forms the team with the name “Mean Machine” on its uniforms. Who got the uniforms from the prison guards? “Caretaker” does before getting killed by Unger. Those uniforms were for the other team.

Before the “Mean Machine” plays, Crewe decides he will, too. Hazen and other prison guards are watching Crewe and Co. As they take the field, Hazen and his crew of prison guards get mad as they see their uniforms on the opponent.

Movie Pitted Crewe and Co. Against Warden’s Team In Key Game

They get on the field and take a 15-13 lead. “The Longest Yard” showed Hazen getting to Crewe in a fit, telling the one-time pro to lose the game to the guards by 21 points. If he didn’t, then Hazen would charge Crewe with being an accessory to “Caretaker’s” murder.

The “Mean Machine” got back to within 35-30. Scarboro gets stopped by an opponent who hits Nate’s bad knee. Nate sees Crewe while leaving the field and yells “Screw Hazen.” That’s all Crewe needs as he goes to win the game, which he and the “Mean Machine” did, 36-35.

“The Longest Yard” featured former pro players like Ray Nitschke, Joe Kapp, Pervis Atkins, Ernie Wheelwright, and Ray Ogden. Albert S. Ruddy produced the movie and got Tracy Kennan Wynn to write the script. Robert Aldrich directs the movie, which opened in New York City before being sent out to other theaters in October 1974. Over the years, it has earned more than $49 million in box-office receipts and rentals.