Gloria is a young woman of the Depression. She has aged beyond her years and feels her life is hopeless, having been cheated and betrayed many times in her past. Fantasizing about movies, she sees herself as an actress and decides to head for Hollywood, having got the idea from a movie magazine while recuperating in the hospital from a suicide attempt which resulted from another unhappy love affair. Robert, a desperate Hollywood citizen unsuccessfully trying to become a director, never doubting that hell eventually make it. Robert and Gloria meet and decide to enter a dance marathon, one of the crazes of the thirties. The grueling dancing takes its toll on Glorias already weakened spirit, and she tells Robert that shed be better off dead, that her life is hopeless - all the while acting cruel and bitter, alienating those around her, trying to convince him to shoot her and put her out of her misery. After all, they shoot horses, dont they?
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This movie is so good, that I hope someone doesn't ruin by trying toremakeit. It is one of those few that stands the test of time and will alwaysbeone of Sydney Pollocks crowning achievements. There is nothing thatshouldhave been changed. It is a perfect movie.
This film is a unique experience. It is a tale set during the Great Depression in the setting of a Dance Marathon where hope and perseverence are seemingly the only factors driving the contestants. Eventually, after days and days, the contestants rise up and plod on more out of a sense of habit and expected exhaustion. Near the end of the story it matters very little who will win but rather who is still dancing. Each couple pushes themselves to the brink of collapse...and beyond. This is a truly fascinating tale about living on through the worst of times even though the best of times is nowhere in sight. As for the acting there are many standout performances, my particular favorites being Jane Fonda and Gig Young. Jane Fonda plays a character cast in iron (in fact, she and her dance partner are sponsored at one point and forced to where jackets advertising "Jonathan's Iron Tonic"), but as she progresses through the competition she slowly begins to break down. Piece by piece is thrown aside; her staunchly moral character at the beginning of the story gradually unravels until she is an empty shell, devoid of hopeful emotions. Gig Young's performance is no less mesmerizing as the Master of Ceremonies selling suffering to the spectators at two bits a head. But just when you think you've pegged the villain of the story he shows that he too is a lost soul trapped on the "merry-go-round" of life and conveys compassion and understanding to those most in need. His performance garnered him a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The actual filmmaking is edgy and spectacular. With all the dancers struggling to stay upright during a portion of the Dance Marathon called the "Derby" the background music is light-hearted and frollicking while the contestants are gasping for breath, stumbling in pain, all for the sake of entertainment. They are dancing and racing toward a cash prize, but their anguish is on display for all who pay to see it. There are also some flash-forward scenes that are effectively shot on sound stages, with all the surrounding echo in the chamber as the main character speaks, adding to the reflective quality of his remembrance. This film is crammed with many brilliant scenes that make it a remarkable experience to behold. Highly recommended. "The Marathon goes on and on and on."
I WOULD HAVE TO AGREE THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE GREAT FILMS FROM THE LATE 60'S - EARLY 70'S. MOVIEGOERS AT THE TIME OF THE RELEASESAW IT AS A METAPHOR FOR THE VIETNAM WAR BUT EVERY OTHER "SERIOUS" FILM AT THE TIME WAS SEEN IN THE SAME PERSPECTIVE.JUST TO CORRECT ONE ITEM. THIS IS JANE FONDA'S FIRST ROLE WHERE SHE WAS SEEN AS A SERIOUS ACTRESS. SHE WON THE NY FILM CRITICS AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS. KLUTE WAS RELEASED TWO YEARS LATER IN 1971. IT HAD NO AFFECT ON HER NOT WINNING THE OSCAR FOR THIS ROLE.
Horace McCoy's depression era play, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is tragically brought to life through the performances of an ensemble cast. Jane Fonda delivers her greatest performance, as Gloria, a loner trying to cope with an everyday painful existence.Be prepared for a shocking ending, if that's possible. There arises a glimmer of hope that life is better.Sydney Pollack directs a masterpiece in the exploration of the human condition under the throngs of depression. The utter despair, agony, and suffering of each character is felt, heard, seen, and endured by the viewer. It becomes so intense that you want to scream, "Enough, I can't watch any more." There's no need to scream out. Horace McCoy solves the problem for the viewer, and for Gloria.
I just saw the last third of this film, and kicked myself for sittingthrough "Mrs Doubtfire" on the other channel while this famous film wason. It was dubbed into Spanish, which I don't understand very well, soI really concentrated on the look of the film. I found the clothes andhairlsytles and sets -- all that dark wood and faintly sordid-lookingred velvet -- really convincing, as well as beautiful to look at. Thesprinting scene, with all that bug-eyed desperation, was alsobrilliantly done. That "Bonnie and Clyde" rubbish, made at more or lessthe same time, I think, and set in the same era, was on the telly amonth or two ago. It really makes you appreciate the quality of thisfilm. I thought Susannah York went nuts quite convincingly andtragically, though I was surprised that showering in her clothes wasenough to convince the other dancers that she'd lost it. My biggestgripe is that Jane Fonda kept looking fresh-faced and beautiful for fartoo long, even as Susannah York got convincingly haggard. And right atthe end, when she and Robert are out there looking at the sea, theydon't move like exhausted people. After just one hard night when I wasyoung one would move a lot more slowly and erratically than those twomoved after supposedly dancing for more than 40 days.
An awful movie! The characters are all so deplorable, that the ending,instead of being sad, is joyous! I thought, thank God that thishorrible movie with hardly any plot, is finally over. It says moreabout the writer and director, than it does about the era depicted.Audiences accept this piece of junk as an accurate depiction of 1930'sAmerica. Let's remember that movies are not reality. This started as anidea in a writer's mind, and was then brought to picture form by abunch of people who had a very warped sense of entertainment. Not toomany good films have come out of Hollywood since the 1950's. If onewants to see films about the Depression era, I recommend the Hollywoodfilms made during the 1930's. Those films say more than this ratty filmever could. That the despicable Jane Fonda was nominated for BestActress for this trash, only sounded a death toll for the greatnessthat was once Hollywood.
As I watched American Idol recently I kept thinking of this movie. It stands as one of my all-time favourites. Seems like the wheel's going round again.
A few months ago, I saw 1969's THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? for thefirst time in its entirety. I had heard a lot about this film when itwas first released and had seen bits and pieces of it in the past,but Ifound watching the entire film to be a devastating and shatteringexperience. I must concur with another poster's comparison to themarathon dance contest participants to today's reality showcontestants...there is an air of desperation surrounding these peoplethat is sad and frightening to watch. Some of these people have pinnedtheir entire existence on winning this marathon and you just knoweveryone can't win. As a matter of fact, if memory serves, we neverfind out who won, because the film focuses on those losers who havepinned their entire lives on this and don't make it. Jane Fonda shouldhave won the Best Actress Oscar for her Gloria Beatty, a strong yetpathetic creature who MUST win this marathon. Michael Sarrazin had therole of his career as Robert, the young man who becomes Gloria'spartner by fate and becomes drawn into her web of depression andloneliness. Gig Young won an Oscar for his ultra-slick turn as the hostand promoter of the marathon. Memorable characterizations of otherparticipants in the marathon are offered by Suhsannah York, RedButtons, Bonnie Bedelia, and Bruce Dern. This film is not for verytaste, but can be a haunting yet satisfying film experience for thosewho can handle it. Definitely not for the faint of heart and way aheadof its time. Exceptional direction by Sidney Pollack.
This review is from: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (DVD) I won't repeat the comments made earlier on this gem of a movie that I discovered by accident myself.Where most releases are in 4:3 cropped format, I had hoped this to be the better release. In a sense it is, but in this day and age it should be forbidden to release letterbox releases where anamorphic widescreen is equally simple. So - fewer pixels available to enjoy a letterboxed image. Even if it is Region-free.All in all - we're still waiting for a proper release of this movie. BluRay would do too...
This is one of my most favorite movies. It personifies the desperationof the depression. The dance contest, pitched as fun in the beginning,is gradually exposed as the evil monster it is. The contestants areunforgettable. The supporting cast is made up of several big name starswho perform their roles in near-perfect form. You care about all ofthem in spite of their individual character flaws. It is heartbreakingto see the gradual destruction of Jane Fonda's unsinkable, independentfemale spirit. The round leading to Sailor's (Button's) eliminationfrom the contest to the tune of "California, Here I Come" is hauntingand surreal. The contest itself is interesting. The most interestingcharacter was Rocky, played by Gig Young. This guy is emotionless userof others. He is a shameless huckster. He knows what he is and candidlyadmits it to Fonda late in the movie. Any concern he has for thecontestants is motivated by how their collapse will affect the contest,not by sympathy or empathy for their plights. The tragic ending islogical and believable. This movie is entertaining from start tofinish. It can be enjoyed over and over.
This beguiling and mesmerizing piece of cinematic poetry is amelancholy masterpiece, a great companion piece to the more sinisterand despairing DAY OF THE LOCUST. Both films detail the depression erasadness and desperation of wannabees and losers rendered prickly anddesperate by poverty and Hollywood imagery. THEY SHOOT HORSES is areally great and bitter film, a superbly realized reality check in itsanti musical point of view on life in the early 30s. Perhaps CABARETcan be added to make a trilogy of deluded people and their astonishingdisillusionment...... Today in 2009 I realize I am 40 years beyond thefilm's production which was 40 years beyond the time it is set.... andwe are in another financial depression. The irony! With simply terrificemotional performances by a truly gorgeous post-Bonnie Jane Fonda andthe mysteriously now AWOL Michael Sarrazin with sub leads creepy BruceDern and gasping Red Buttons and a fragile Harlow-like Susannah York...all in a grinding music stew of financial nervousness. Gig Young as anoily MC was a clear front-runner before Joel Grey trumped him in theOscar stakes for such a similar role. Other films like QUEEN OF THESTARDUST BALLROOM, or the incredible ruined ballroom scene from THEWRESTLER only add to the admiration of this film when each seen inquick succession as I did. THEY SHOOT HORSES is a major piece ofgenuinely epic suspenseful sadness. Just great. The human spectacle asa carnival race of ordinary people's small lives.
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Set in the 1930s, itrevoleved around a group of people entering/running a depression dancemarathon. The group entering the contest(The principle characters beingFonda, Sarrazin, York, Buttons, Bedilia, Fields)Can't pass up the sevenmeals a day, or the top prize of 1500 dollars, no matter how grueling thedance will be. Fonda, is a drifter looking for money, Sarrazin wanders intothe contest by accident, York and Fields are an actor and actress hoping tobe "Discovered", and Buttons is also looking for money. The management ofthe contest is represented by Young, Lewis, and (To a lesser extent)Conrad.While this is not a "Pick me up" movie, it is definitely worth seeing. Thecast is excellent, and the movie moves along well. Director Sydney Pollackfilmed the movie in sequence, which helps to show the fatigue that thecharacters are feeling. They Shoot horses was nominated for nine academyawards, inglinging Best actress(Fonda), Best Supporting Actress(York) andBest Director(Pollack).However, only Gig Young walked away with the statuette(For best SupportingActor) and he deserved every inch of it. Playing against typecasting, heknew he was getting the role of a lifetime and he gives one of the bestperformance of his career. I actually liked Rocky, with his White Tux andhis "Yowza!Yowza!Yowza!" I don't know if I would have liked the characterifGig Young had not been in the role.Overall, this movie is definitely worth seeing. If you have a chance, giveit a look.10/10***** out of *****
The one line summary is a quote from the DVD package, and it's apt. Anunusual and downbeat film that earned Jane Fonda her first Oscarnomination and established her as a serious actress. She was named BestActress by The New York Film Critics Circle. In the diverse cast, BruceDern Bonnie Bedelia, Red Buttons, and Susannah York provide excellentsupport, and Gig Young is brilliant and deservedly won the Oscar. Theediting,camera-work,costuming, and art direction are all first-rate.This is Pollack's most interesting film and arguably his best film;only Tootsie comes close. It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, butnot best picture; Midnight Cowboy, Z, Hello Dolly, Anne of the ThousandDays, and Butch Cassidy haven't aged as well, and in 1969 The NationalBoard of Review named TSHDT? Best Picture. Not flawless but, a 9 out of10. The recent MGM/DVD release seems to have brightened the image toomuch. The trailer for the movie,included on the DVD,is good.
Sydney Pollack drives me a bit crazy. I like his ideas, when he hasthem. I like his approach to cinema as cinema first, story second andacting as support. I'm particularly fond of his ambitions in this film,especially the urgencies; life, context, camera.But it all seems a waste because he never has enough confidence Â inany of his films Â to matter. He's terrific at the engagement part, andthen while he has us captivated, we simply discover that he has nothingto say. It isn't the greatest sin, or is it? We only have so manyepisodes in life that could matter; why waste them on mere Uncle Remustales?You'll find this has two engaging things apart from the assembly. Oneis the intermingling of the camera in the contest, and particularly inthe periodic races the dancers have to go through. This was in an erawhen this effort was both rare and risky. It matters though it seemstame today.The other is that there are a couple of terrific actresses, at neartheir peak. I prefer York of the pair. Its a more nuanced character,and the microhesitations seem perfect. We really care what happens toher. Fonda shines also, but all she has to do is spit.If that's enough for you, you'll find this an interesting visit to abold Hollywood experiment.Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
1932 - hard-up couples in Hoover's America enter a dance 'marathon' -if they are the last couple still on their feet, they will win $1500.Original and rarely seen on TV. Rather like NETWORK or THE DAY OF THELOCUST, it interrogates 'we the audience' in our ceaseless search for'entertainment.' As the film rolled on, I was continually drawingcomparisons with the sickening drivel of BIG BROTHER and all its tattycopies, with every tawdry 'talent show,' and with the excruciatinglyembarrassing annual pantomime of 'Red Nose Day.' The very fact thatit's done for good causes doesn't excuse it - it makes it all theworse. When Gig Young (the sleazy compÃ¨re of the show, looking like a ghastlymixture of Hughie Green, Bob Monkhouse, and Garner Ted Armstrong) helpsto pull together one of the over-wrought contestants who is havinghallucinations, Jane Fonda remarks caustically, 'I thought you'd havedone that in the show - increase the admittance charge.' But Youngreplies, 'No, it's too real for them.' (Like the difference betweenEASTENDERS and NIL BY MOUTH, between EMMERDALE and THE WAR ZONE.) Andwhen one of the contestants loses her dress and make-up, Young admitsthat he did it himself in order to improve the show. Michael Sarrazinnaively retorts, 'But this is supposed to be a contest, not a show.'Young corrects him: 'They come to see this in their own misery. SeeingYOUR misery makes them feel happier...' One of the contestantscollapses and has to be evicted from the dance floor. Young'sannouncement could be Davina McCall outside the Big Brother house:'After we've been together all these hours and days, it's sorry to haveto say goodbye to Shirley...' Gig Young is just superb - he's not simply a corrupt, insincerefairground huckster, but a fully formed character. Young uses hisageing face to portray a man who's seen it all... and yet found nothingto believe in. He mentions that his father was a phony 'faith healer';when Young was a boy he had to pretend to be miraculously healed whenthe 'show' was flagging. To prove that nothing has changed, watch Rory& Alec's so-called GOD TV when they have one of those 3- or 4-hour long'conferences' of boring 'Christian' music, healing, and 'anointing inthe Spirit.' Al Lewis (yes, Grandpa from THE MUNSTERS) is Young's right hand man. Heonly says a few words, but his looks and mannerisms add to thehard-wired atmosphere of cheapness and dishonesty. Michael Sarrazin(recently deceased), Susannah York (ditto), Jane Fonda (a great actressin her youth - shame about the Identikit 'liberal' politics), BruceDern, Red Buttons - you couldn't ask for a better cast, but I stillthink it's Gig Young who steals the show (literally, as it turns out).Sydney Pollack uses great looming close-ups and strange camera angles;even the colour of it all looks rather weird and somehow tacky.Slow-motion sections often irritate me (think of the terrible 'runtoward the funeral' at the end of CAPRICORN ONE - so embarrassing thatit almost completely ruins the whole picture) - but the use of it inthe second 'Dance Derby' to which the contestants are subjected worksvery well.
Sydney Pollack's best film contains Ms. Fonda's first Oscar bid andmost intense performance. This depression-era nightmare is unrelentingand tragic. Gig Young also gives the performance of his lifetime as theseedy, Master of Ceremonies, of this sadistic show with a payingaudience. A 9 out of 10. Best performance = J. Fonda.Michael Sarrazin is fine as Ms. Fonda's dance partner, Red Buttons(Oscar Winner for SAYONARA) is demented and driven, Bonnie Bedelia issweet and sad, Bruce Dern is animal-like as her husband, and SuzannahYork is incredible as a Harlow-wannabe that doesn't quite live up toit. 9 or 10 Oscar nom's with one win. Adapted from a great novel byHorace McCoy!
This is a film which should have been much better. Fonda, Buttons and Sarazin are all enormously talented actors...their lines and moves in this film, however, were far too mechanical. Gig Young, however, was the bright light of the film...his performance was very real. It seemed like the entire story existed to have Sarazin say the title of the film at the very end as if this would impact the viewer in some way. All it did was make me even sorrier that I had sat through the whole film.
THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? is a brilliant film, almost an existentialallegory of the meaningless monotony of the dance of life, whichunfortunately is also a fairly realistic portrait of suffering andexploitation during the Depression of the 1930s. When I first saw thisfilmI was awakened to what a great actress Jane Fonda could be. (This filmmakesa worthy Depression film-bookend with her father's THE GRAPES OF WRATH.)Thedirection, writing, and acting in this film are wonderful. Susannah York,Bonnie Bedelia, and Gig Young are especially good, in addition to Fonda.Highly recommended, a classic.
You cannot make a tribute to Sydney Pollack without highlighting one ofhis earliest and greatest works "they Shoot horses Don't They" made in1969 which one an Oscar and was nominated for several others as well asa string of awards. A long film about a dance marathon set in the time of the greatdepression of the thirties. Starring Jane Fonda she got this role after"Barbarella" and just before her fantastic performance in "KLUTE".Surely this period was the peak of Jane Fonda's career and SydneyPollack was wise to choose her for this role which required intensityand endurance. Hailed by critics as not only one of Sydney Pollacks greatest works butalso set the benchmark for films with unusual endings for theseventies. Now is the time to catch up on this classic on DVD and get a furtherreminder how the films of today mostly lack substance. A great event inAmerican Cinema History.
I decided to watch this film because I wanted to see what those dancemarathons were like. I figure it would be a 24 hour thing, but this film isalmost like a horror film when you learn this kind of contest can be easilyover a 1000 continuous hours of nearly constant motion.When you know that, the interest goes to the people to find the basicquestion, what kind of person would be willing to submit themselves to thiskind of endurance run/freak show? Well, the film runs the gamit from adesperate young couple with a baby due, a retired sailor, a young hopefulactress, an older despairing one and one young drifter who almost getspushed into this experience.Red Buttons as the sailor is one of the best characters in this film withhis humour, humanity and will to win, which unfortunately is not enough.Jane Fonda is the star, but she turned me off with her character thatdoesn't so much speak her lines as snarl them to any target she can find.Yet, she does win you over when you learn that all the effort has less worththan she thought, and she felt there was only one way out.In short, if you want to learn what a soul destroying experience the GreatDepression was, and how people tried to cope with it, then this is the filmfor you.