Semi-Tough (1977) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A three-way friendship between two free-spirited professional football players and the owner's daughter becomes compromised when two of them become romantically involved.

  • A comedy about two football players and their mutual girlfriend. Includes many spoofs and parodies about various self-help groups and personal self-improvement seminars that were wildly popular during the 1970's.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The Miami Florida professional football team earns a playoff spot on a last-second pass play from running back Billy Clyde Puckett (Burt Reynolds) to receiver Marvin "Shake" Tiller (Kris Kristofferson). The team celebrates their victory in the locker room under the watchful eye of team owner "Big Ed" Bookman (Robert Prestman) and his business manager, Phillip Hooper (Richard Masur).

    The next day at the airport, Billy Clyde and Shake pick up their roommate, Big Ed's twice-divorced daughter, Barbara Jane Bookman (Jill Clayburgh), as she returns from a trip to Africa. Bud McNair (Jim McKrell), a book publisher whom Barbara Jane met on the plane, gets a ride into the city with the three friends. In the car, McNair expresses interest in a tell-all book by Billy Clyde, exposing the drugs, gambling, homosexuality, and orgies that he presumes to occur in the world of professional football.

    Back at the trio's penthouse apartment overlooking Biscayne Bay, Barbara Jane is appalled by the mess. Shake speaks in pseudo-profound language about photographs Barbara Jane took in Africa and Billy Clyde tells her that Shake "found" himself while she was away.

    At football practice, Barbara Jane gets a lecture from her father, who asks her to stop living with Billy Clyde and Shake because the team is now in the playoff spotlight. When she claims she is not sleeping with them, Big Ed responds that that makes the situation even more "unnatural."

    Shake explains to Barbara Jane that he attended a Bismark Energy Attack Training (B.E.A.T.) seminar and that it is helping him live in the present. When Billy Clyde asks where they want to go to dinner, Shake says that he is taking Barbara Jane to a consciousness seminar. Later, on the flight to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the playoff game, Billy Clyde notices a new intimacy between Shake and Barbara Jane. At the hotel, Barbara Jane and Shake turn in early and Billy Clyde takes a middle-aged groupie back to his room. The next day, Miami defeats Green Bay, 7-0, to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

    Back in Miami, Billy Clyde claims he is going to write a book. During a barbecue for the team at Big Ed's mansion, Shake introduces Barbara Jane to Friedrich Bismark (Bert Convy), the leader of B.E.A.T. Later, lineman T. J. Lambert (Brian Dennehy) dangles a woman by her ankles from the roof and Shake, using his newfound inner peace, talks him out of dropping her. Impressed, Friedrich asks Shake to be a B.E.A.T. trainer when he retires.

    Billy Clyde announces that a writer needs solitude and retreats to the house, but he is unable to get any peace, even in the bathroom. First, Hooper wants to ensure that Billy Clyde is not writing anything unflattering about the team. Then, Shake and Barbara Jane inform Billy Clyde that they are getting married. Billy Clyde is not pleased and visits Big Ed's office, only to find the team owner crawling on his hands and knees, practicing something called "Moviegenics." He orders Billy Clyde to get "pelfed," a combination of deep tissue massage and psychological abuse administered by an older German woman named Clara Pelf. Afterward, Billy Clyde goes for drinks with Shake, who expresses concern that Barbara Jane is rushing into the wedding.

    While the men are fitted for tuxedos at a department store, Barbara Jane picks out a dress. Billy Clyde confides Shake's trepidation and Barbara Jane wonders why she and Billy Clyde never made love despite being friends since childhood. The team defeats Denver for the conference championship to advance to the Super Bowl.

    Back home, Barbara Jane is anxious about the wedding and Shake attempts to reassure her. Later, Shake takes her to the 48-hour B.E.A.T. training at a hotel and waits for her. Locked in a ballroom and forbidden to use the restroom, the seminar participants are verbally abused by Friedrich and told to "experience" one another. Barbara Jane is surprised to discover Billy Clyde among the attendees. The participants writhe on the floor and are instructed to let out their emotions. Two days later, they emerge, wrecked. Billy Clyde claims he got "it," the wisdom B.E.A.T. proponents allegedly achieve, while Barbara Jane remains dubious.

    Prior to the Super Bowl, Billy Clyde is interviewed by sportscaster Dick Schaap on television alongside Dreamer Tatum (Carl Weathers), the captain of the Dallas team. When Billy Clyde quotes Friedrich, Tatum says that B.E.A.T. is "out" and Pyramid Power is "in." Afterward, Barbara Jane worries that she did not get "it" at the seminar and Billy Clyde tells her not to worry. Barbara Jane is also concerned that their friendship will be different after her marriage.

    At the wedding rehearsal, teammate Puddin Patterson tells Billy Clyde that he knows he is faking his affinity for B.E.A.T., so Billy Clyde admits he has feelings for Barbara Jane and plans to break up the wedding.

    On Super Bowl Sunday, Miami plays poorly in the first half, but becomes energized when placekicker Vlada Kostov (Ron Silver) boots a 63-yard field goal kick and the team mounts a comeback. With three seconds left to play, Billy Clyde runs for a touchdown and Miami wins.

    Prior to the wedding, Friedrich counsels Shake that the marriage can still work even if Barbara Jane does not have "it." Billy Clyde lays on the B.E.A.T. terminology while planting doubt in Shake's mind. During the ceremony, Barbara Jane hesitates and Shake tells her he cannot marry her. Big Ed becomes enraged and threatens to trade Shake. When Friedrich says that everything will be all right, Big Ed punches him, and a brawl ensues.

    Meanwhile, Billy Clyde admits to Barbara Jane that he thinks Friedrich is a fraud and she realizes that he orchestrated the whole collapse of the wedding. Billy Clyde tells her he does not want to get married and suggests they go to Hawaii.

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