The Lusty Men (1952) Poster


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Excellent Mitchum Vehicle
Eric Chapman22 February 2001
Fascinating, penetrating glimpse into the world of rodeo competitions and the often foolish lengths that men will go to prove their manhood. Superbly shot, written and acted, it's also a chance to see Robert Mitchum in top form. Criminally confident and cool, he absolutely carries the film despite exhibiting the demeanor of a man dozing in a hammock under a hot summer sun. Fed a steady diet of dead-on dialogue like "Never was a bull that couldn't be rode, Never was a cowboy that couldn't be throwed," and "Hope's a funny thing. A man can have it - even when there ain't no reason," he feasts with a wink and a smile. He and feisty Susan Hayward have great chemistry together and the movie is consistently eventful and exciting, with particularly realistic rodeo footage. (Maltin is right about the very last scene though - it does feel false.) By all means, seek it out - it's one of the most purely entertaining 1950's films I can recall.
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Pain and poetry (Spoilers!)
Kalaman22 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"The Lusty Men" is one of my all-time favorites and certainly one of Nicholas Ray's best. I love the strange and subtle relationship between Robert Mitchum's Jeff McCloud, Susan Hayward's Louise Merrit, and Arthur Kennedy's Wes Merrit. I love the audacity with which Ray puts it in everything: the painful and believable performances by three actors; the cinematography and the mis-en-scene have peculiar poetry and preciseness that often recalls John Ford's "Wagon Master"; the rodeo footages are daring and stunning.

The ending is not that hokey or fake as one critic suggested, but a daring act of poetry and subtlety. In Ray's work, there is always a strong need to constitute the couple and the family; the emotional pull this creates is always extremely strong, and never merely "formal" (even in "Bigger Than Life"). That high-angle shot, after Jeff's death, the word "EXIT", indicating both that the couple (Wes and Louise) are leaving this world, and that the film is about to end. The compression here is characteristic of melodrama and of Ray. Jeff's return performance makes Wes realize that he'll never be as good in the rodeo as Jeff. So, the competitive motive that has been driving Wes has been removed. Second, Jeff's death relieves Wes of the need to die in the arena. It's a symbolic sacrifice, Jeff in place of Wes.
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My favorite Mitchum film
dunn3603524 October 2003
This is my all-time favorite Robert Mitchum movie. In fact, it's the movie that made Mitchum one of my favorite actors. I saw this movie as a child on television and could not understand why Susan Hayworth would prefer Arthur Kennedy to Robert Mitchum.

It's a dusty, exhausting rodeo film, so realistic that one can almost smell the horses. Seeing how the participants usually had to pick up their winnings ("day money") in a bar after what could have been a physically crippling time in the arena shows how easy it would have been to start drinking to kill the pain and the fear. Also the rodeo "groupies", so ready to soothe the pains and massage the ego, have probably changed very little since the early '50s. The character of Jeff McCloud has obviously been there and done that, and Mitchum plays the weariness with authenticity and sympathy. He also reveals his ability to play comedy in the scene in Rosemary's trailer with Frank Faylen.

I heartily recommend this film to anyone wanting to see a realistic slice of Americana, and good performances by all the leads.
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Great 50's Classic
whpratt19 October 2005
After viewing this film, it is truly a great 1950's classic with outstanding acting by the entire cast; and a great story with a realistic view of what the Rodeo life really is and the pain and suffering that is experienced by men and woman. Robert Mitchum(Jeff McCloud),"Farewell',My Lovely",'75, played a real calm cool veteran star of the Cowboy game shows and was very successful, but was beginning to show wear and tear. Arthur Kennedy, (Wes Merritt),"Peyton Place",'57, was originally a ranch hand trying to buy his dream house for his wife Louise Merritt,(Susan Hayward),"With A Song in My Heart",'52, and loved her husband very much. However, when Wes Merritt got together with Jeff McCloud, all hell broke loose and Louise did everything she could to hog tie her husband down from very hot women, wild horses, and bulls with angry tempers. Great film, don't miss it, it will be around for many generations to enjoy.
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Life On the Rodeo Circuit
bkoganbing8 October 2005
One of Robert Mitchum's best films from his days at RKO is The Lusty Men about the rodeo circuit. Mitchum plays Jeff McCloud a burned out rodeo rider who spots some potential star talent in Wes Merritt. He also spots Merritt's wife and the Merritts are played by Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward.

Mitchum's been thrown by one too many bulls and horses and he's a burned out man. Still the allure of the circuit holds him in sway. He mentors Kennedy until they come to a parting of the ways and not just over Susan Hayward. The part is a perfect fit for Mitchum, his own footloose past made him understand the character of Jeff McCloud and bring it to life.

This was the first of two films Mitchum did with Susan Hayward. She's clearly in support of him and she knows it. Her big moment on screen is dispatching a rodeo groupie at a party who had designs on Arthur Kennedy. Her footage had to be shot first, according to Lee Server's biography of Mitchum, as Hayward had a commitment in Africa to shoot The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Among the supporting cast Arthur Hunnicutt, one of the biggest scene stealers around, is very good as another burned out rodeo rider. Mitchum looks at him and sees that is his future. In fact in the end, so does Kennedy.

The Lusty Men is a fine depiction of rodeo life, ranking up there with the later Junior Bonner and 8 Seconds. Good entertainment all around.
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Ignore the misleading lurid title, this is a really good movie
chaos-rampant8 February 2009
Don't let the illfitted lurid title mislead you, this is a really good movie played serious, the kind of conventional in its arc but altogether engrossing drama old Hollywood used to make in its golden age. It may have little to offer in the way of lust but quite a lot of rodeo excitement. Robert Mitchum is worn-out bronco rider Jeff McCloud, once a rodeo legend and now a peniless drifter who drunk and gambled away the small fortune he made by falling out of horses' backs. He becomes attached to a man working as a cowhand in a nearby ranch and his lovely wife and soon convinces the man to make him as his rodeo mentor. What at first seems like quick easy money will soon prove to involve a whole lot more, from broken bones to broken marriages. This is a three-character drama that bounces off inside the triangle formed by washed-up, has-been bronco rider McCloud, the ambitious and reckless up-and-comer played by Arthur Kennedy and his wife (Susan Hayward) who desperately wants her husband off the rodeo business while he can still walk in one piece, all this seasoned for good measure with footage of bronco riding, bulldogging and what have you. Ray's direction is good, the rodeo setting provides an exotic backdrop of western Americana which should appeal to lovers of open vistas and wild landscapes and the performances are ace all around. Mitchum is at the top of his game playing the kind of character he could play with eyes closed. It was red-haired Susan Hayward who was the big revelation for me though. This was the first time I saw her in a movie but she enchants like few.
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"Men -- I'd like to fry 'em all in deep fat!"
marcslope9 November 2009
Yes, as one commenter noted, Susan Hayward seems a bit Eastern-glamorous to be kicking up dust on the rodeo circuit. But she glowers and snarls with the best of them, and, top-billed in this man's-man movie, she's great fun. But even she's dominated by a supremely confident and virile Robert Mitchum, as a has-been rodeo champ trying to turn her husband (a rather miscast, but hard-working, Arthur Kennedy) into a king of the saddle. It's location-filmed and has no traces of studio hackery, and Nicholas Ray keeps it wonderfully outdoorsy, with some fabulous stunt-riding footage and an authentic atmosphere of the hardscrabble rodeo life. The initial Hayward-Mitchum shower scene has to be one of the sexiest in all 1950s cinema, and there's a great sexual undercurrent to all their encounters. Kennedy seems a little pallid by comparison, and is playing a character that's hard to root for, but he does try hard. I didn't know this movie and am grateful to TCM for running it -- it's a real discovery. However, their print has awfully uneven sound, and you'll have to keep adjusting your volume up, down, up, down.
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Good rodeo melodrama with punch
funkyfry3 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
*******SPOILERS *******

A very macho story that fits its handle -- this is the story of an ex-champion bull rider (Mitchum) who tries to help an ambitious rancher (Kennedy) who wants to become a rodeo star. Mitchum tries to latch on to his fiery wife (Hayward) too when Kennedy's fame and fortune begin to turn him into a cheating drunkard.

Some very nice footage of rodeo riding, probably of considerable documentary/historical value for fans of the sport.

Hayward and Mitchum have good chemistry, and Kennedy plays his role very well, giving conviction to a role that might have been thankless. The inevitable flare-up between the two determined men takes place, of course, with fists and in the rodeo ring.
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Big brothers.
dbdumonteil25 March 2002
Nicholas Ray had always been fascinated by the relationship between two guys,the older one and the younger one.That was the story of "rebel without a cause" and "run for cover".Even in "Johnny Guitar",there 's a subplot displaying a relationship of the same kind between Johnny(and Emma) and Turkey.

This is a cyclic movie ,beginning with a rodeo ,and ending the same way.A recurrent subject is the childhood nostalgia:Mitchum searching for his old rusty money-box in his parents house echoes Dean with his toy in the gutter in the opening scene of "rebel".Robert Mitchum , the stand-out of the film,portrays a cowboy down on his luck who meets another cowboy(Kennedy) and his wife (Hayward).He urges him to ride the rodeo,to make his dream come true:buying a ranch.

The depiction of this cruel world is devoid of leniency:we're far away from that of ,say,"Bus stop".And in this man's man's man's world,Ray does not forget the women in the shadow,who hide their fears,suffer and cry.If they made a remake ,I'm sure their parts would be passed over in silence.Women in Ray movies are strong:Crawford in "Johnny Guitar" ,Gardner in "55 days at Peking" and even young girls like Wood in "Rebel" and O'Donnell in "they live by night".

One can wonder whether this is an optimistic or a pessimistic ending.Most of Ray movies include death,but from this death,something new is born.Death is almost necessary to allow the others to go on.In "rebel',Wood and Dean reconcile with the adults who have understood Plato/Mineo's plight and near sacrifice;in" Johnny Guitar",monstrous Cambridge's shooting allows Crawford and Hayden to pick up the pieces;in "55 days at Peking",it's Gardner's sacrifice-while trying to help the children-who will lead Heston to adopt the little Chinese orphan girl.Here ,Mitchum did not die in vain: the young couple is now armed against life's harshness.
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Dark Side of Rodeo Life!!!
kidboots16 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Along with "With a Song in My Heart", "The Lusty Men" really pushed Susan Hayward toward international stardom. Her role as Louise mirrored her own real life attitude to love and marriage. She tried to stick to her marriage both in the movie and in real life and it could have been Susan saying about her own circumstances "Men!! - I'd like to fry them all in deep fat"!!! Even though the movie garnered excellent reviews and rated a movie review page in the prestigious "Look" magazine it wasn't as big a hit as her other releases.

Rodeos are Jeff McLeod's (Robert Mitchum) reason for living and when he is gored by a Brahma bull he is emotionally and physically spent. He desperately wants to rebuild his life and returns to his childhood home. Remembering some "buried treasure" he had hidden under the floorboards as a kid, he retrieves it only to find an old rodeo program and a couple of coins. Wes and Louise Merritt (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward) are keen to buy Jeff's home and Wes, who recognises him as a former Rodeo star, gets him a job as a ranch hand. Wes has won a few events himself and feels that with Jeff as his manager they would be a great team. Louise is unimpressed with Jeff's cool and lacksadasical attitude, she wants Wes in one piece and to save his money for a house deposit.

Wes, with childhood memories of a father who was never his own boss, quits his job for a life on the rodeo circuit and what he thinks is easy money. What with busted legs and faces scarred from Brahma bull hooves, Wes is getting a taste of grim reality - and it's only their first day!!! The film creates an exciting atmosphere with wild horses, bucking broncos and leisure time spent carousing in the bars where a day's prize money could be lost in drinking and gambling. Louise sees Wes being sucked into the itinerant way of life and Jeff, after being taunted by Wes for sponging on his earnings, signs up the next day for all events, even though he is far from being in good shape. He hits trouble when his foot gets caught in a stirrup and his death sets up a pretty contrived ending where Wes, realising Jeff had only his best interests at heart, gives up the circuit for a little home in Texas.

Susan gives an unusually restrained performance as Louise (except for one hilarious cat fight) in this movie that shows not only the downside but the excitement that drives cowboys to give their all in the ring. It goes without saying that both Kennedy and Mitchum give superlative performances but a couple of the women step up as well - Maria Hart and Lorna Thayer, actresses I have never heard of. Actual shots of rodeos were filmed in Tuscon, Arizona and Pendleton, Oregon with some of America's most famed rodeo stars including the appearance of Cy Taillon - "The World's Greatest Rodeo Announcer". In fact I can heartily recommend Cyra McFadden's wonderful memoir about life on the rodeo circuit as well as what it was like to be the unofficial mascot as well as Cy Taillon's daughter - "Rain or Shine".
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