7 July 2013

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 1969
  • Director: Sydney Pollack
  • Based on book: by Horace McCoy
  • Cast: Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Gig Young, Susannah York, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, Bruce Dern
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jane Fonda – Stanley and Iris, The Morning After, On Golden Pond, 9 to 5, The Electric Horseman, The China Syndrome, Coming Home, Julia, A Doll’s House, Klute, Barefoot in the Park, Cat Ballou
    • Michael Sarrazin – actually, nothing, though he made many films
    • Gig Young – I may have seen something as a kid but I don’t remember anything specific
    • Susannah York – Superman the Movie, Happy Birthday Wanda June, Oh! What a Lovely War, Tom Jones
    • Red Buttons – The Poseidon Adventure, The Longest Day, various TV shows
    • Bonnie Bedelia – Anywhere but Here, Die Hard,
    • Bruce Dern  The Homecoming, The Laughing Policeman, The King of Marvin Garden, The Glass House, Silent Running, The Fugitive (TV series)
  • Why bought: One of the best movies I’ve ever seen
  • Seen: Two or three times. Now: May 9, 2013 (somehow I missed posting this on the blog in the chronological order of the movies I’ve been seeing)

           This is one of the first DVDs we bought when we got our first DVD player but it took until now to see it.  Hal didn’t want to see it again – too depressing. I wasn’t ever ready to risk having one of the movies that had made an enormous impact on me when I was young prove to be a disappointment.
But this weekend Hal is at a cousin reunion in Värmland in western Sweden. So I watched it.
Depressing? Oh yes. But so very good.
Fonda and Sarrazin, two desperate lost souls in a country of desperately lost souls in the Great Depression of the ‘30’s.  Hopelessness creates madness. In this case in the form of a dance marathon.  Two hours of dance, ten minute break. Day after day. Night after night. Once a week a ten-minute derby. Couples clutching each other, heel-toe power walking as fast as they can around and around the track. The last three couples are out.
The last couple still dancing wins $1,500. Minus expenses. Even in those days that probably didn’t go far.
These dance marathons really happened. People were that poor, that desperate. Gloria (Fonda) has given up on her lousy life before the movie even starts. Robert (Sarrazin) doesn’t seem to even have had a life except for his beloved horse being shot after breaking its leg.  They dance and they dance, slower and slower, egged on by the equally despairing emcee (Gig Young got an Oscar for the role), while one after another the dancers go crazy, collapse, die of heart attacks, leave in a rage.
There’s no happy ending.
This could well be Jane Fonda’s best performance. They’re all magnificent on their quiet road to hell.


10 * of 10

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