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Drama - US

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969)

Duration2h 9m
RatingsUK: AA, USA: M, Spain 18, 
Source of storyA novel of the same name by Horace McCoy, published in 1935
DirectorSydney Pollack
Writers/ScriptJames Poe, Robert E. Thompson, Sydney Pollack
StarringJane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, Bruce Dern, Al Lewis, Madge Kennedy, 
RatingsIMDb: 7.9 by 15,895 people. Rotten Tomatoes: 83% by 30 reviewers.

Elevator Pitch: It is 1932 in America, and there is a craze for marathon dance events where hopeful participants keep on dancing for weeks, with brief rest periods every few hours. Gloria Beatty, a beautiful young woman with issues arrives to participate in such an event, but her partner is disqualified, however a young man who accidentally strays into the ballroom is recruited and the two take part. Over weeks competitors fall away, and the two change partners at times, but in the end are together again, cheered on by the spectators. When Gloria finds out from the MC that even if they win they will receive little money, it may be the last straw.

Content: There is no nudity but a couple of implied sexual events, but otherwise a concentration on the marathon, and the interaction between the participants. Over the duration of the event the dancers who have started off pretty smart, particularly Alice, the actress, gradually become more distressed. In order to entertain the audience the dancers have to take part in races, the last three couples being eliminated and in a particularly traumatic event Gloria hauls the sailor over the line, only to find that he has died. The event causes the actress, Alice to lose her marbles.

A View: Someone said that no studio today would make such a nihilistic movie. Gig Young as the MC won a Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and it remains the movie with the most Oscar nomination, but not for Best Picture. It also won a lot of other awards. I had never seen it before the other day, so it had some impact and some of the scenes are quite memorable. It has hardly aged, and those of us with a few years under our belts remember that at the time Jane Fonda had replaced Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s affections, and some have said that she did not win Best Actress because of her political activities. So, in conclusion, well worth  the cost of a download.

Additional Info: When the Rolling Stones were touring in 1969, the used the set for a couple of day’s rehearsals. 

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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