There was a genuine ballad behind The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, based on a real-life character. Cortez, a San Antonio cowpoke, was arrested in 1901 because he resembled the actual criminal. Unable to speak English, Cortez fights off the authorities, inadvertently killing a sheriff in the process. His subsequent life and death as a fugitive from the Texas Rangers forms the core of this independently produced project. Adapted from a novel by Americo Paredes, Ballad of Gregorio Cortez stars Edward James Olmos (who wrote some of the film's incidental music) in the title role. Originally produced for PBS' <I>American Playhouse</I>, the film was released to theatres in 1984.