Starring: Sam Elliott

Director: Peter Levin
Released: 1986

Mood: If for some reason you like the bad ‘80s biographical films they made you watch in high school history lessons better than actual Westerns.


It pains me to say this, but Gone to Texas made me lose interest in Sam Elliott.


That is akin to blasphemy, because Sam Elliott is like a religion to me. I have spent much of my life worshipping him from afar. So know that if I could find anything good at all to say about this TV movie, I would.


But since it made me feel the opposite of idolatry for one of my Western heroes – and stole two-and-a-half hours of my life – I’m going to keep this review short and sweet. Then I can hopefully get on with forgetting it exists.


If you love Sam Elliott, don’t let this cloud that perfect image of him in your mind. Just fast forward three years to Roadhouse and enjoy his long, wavy salt-and-pepper hair and thick moustache in a character and movie that are actually enjoyable to watch.


photo of the movie Gone to Texas


Gone to Texas (also known as Houston: The Legend of Texas) is about the life of General Sam Houston.


  • He was a huge deal in Texas
  • He lived with Cherokee people, had great respect for them, and learned their language
  • He was nowhere near as good-looking as Sam Elliott, and he never had a moustache
  • Apparently he did own one of the ‘foundation sires’ of the American Quarter Horse breed

That’s all I could be bothered to learn about Sam Houston after watching Gone to Texas – and I LOVE learning about historical figures from movies and getting all jazzed about doing research! I’m a former journalist and briefly worked as a private investigator, you have to be extremely f*cking boring to deter me from snooping for more facts.


Anyway. In the early scenes you get a bunch of skinny white guys with long hair playing Cherokee people, some truly atrocious acting by his ‘Cherokee’ wife (Devon Ericson), and cheesy dramatic narration the likes of which I haven’t heard since suffering through Into the West.


I actually yelled “Barf!” at the screen while Ericson was narrating. If I’d had any kind of snack nearby I would have thrown it in protest. It’s that bad.


The costumes feel lazy, and the acting from pretty much everyone is just abysmal. Lots of finger waving and other crutches that fail to communicate any kind of passion or commitment to the characters.


Sam Elliott spends most of the story being loud and angry, or loud and stubborn, or just kind of surly. I get that Houston was keeping his army from getting themselves killed so they could win their final stand, but it’s a joyless performance and does nothing with his range. And because everyone around him is so flat, he often comes across as overacting.


Although Gone to Texas gets mildly better once Houston’s story actually gets to Texas and he starts doing battle stuff, the tone has been set and for me, I was already zoning out. I think the plot is more of a straight-up history lesson than engaging storytelling, like “these are the facts that happened in this order” rather than “let’s put some effort into character development and production.”


And I couldn’t tell you if it’s at least historically accurate, because I just wanted to quit. It was like 7pm and I would have rather gone to bed in full late-spring daylight than stick it through to the end – although I did, for my imaginary fans.


Even with tons of horseback action and long battle scenes and epic historical events represented, I was B-O-R-E-D.


If I’d caught the first episode when this thing originally aired, I’d never have kept watching. Honestly, I don’t even feel like writing more than what I’ve said. Gone to Texas gets a huge BOOOOO-URNS from me for taking up a night I could have watched an awesome Western. And more importantly, for marring my love of Sam Elliott.