Sonny Steele used to be a rodeo star, but his next appearance is to be on a Las Vegas stage, wearing a suit covered in lights, advertising a breakfast cereal. When he finds out they are ... See full summary »
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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. While recovering from a suicide attempt, she gets the idea from a movie magazine to head for Hollywood to make it as an actress. Robert is a desperate Hollywood citizen trying to become a director, never doubting that he'll 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 Gloria's already weakened spirit, and she tells Robert that she'd be better off dead, that her life is hopeless - all the while acting cruelly and bitterly, alienating those around her, trying to convince him to shoot her and put her out of her misery. After all, they shoot horses, don't they? Written by
Robert tells Gloria about a film he saw starring Anita Louise and Richard Cromwell in which Anita Louise's character has a brain tumor. However, Louise and Cromwell only made two films together, The Most Precious Thing in Life and The Villain Still Pursued Her. The depression-era dance marathon, which is the subject of the film, presumably takes place in 1932. Earlier in the movie, we hear Mrs. Layton tell Robert and Gloria that they are her favorite couple because they are number 67, the same year that she was born (1867). Shortly thereafter, Gloria tells Robert that she's figured out Mrs. Layton is 65-years-old. Sixty-five years after 1867 is 1932, which is prior to either of the Louise/Cromwell films. See more »
This is the movie that "The Day of the Locust" might have aspired to be. It captures the tone of desperation and helplessness of Depression-era characters (would-bes, wanna-bes, and fade-outs) like few films I've seen. It's a fascinating downer, ripe with interesting losers and gritty drama. Jane Fonda's performance as a marathon-entry at the end of her rope ranks with her very best work, and Oscar-winner Gig Young is smashing as the M.C. Also superb: Susannah York as a glamor girl who gets her clothes (and sanity) dirty, and Red Buttons as an over-the-hill sailor. There's not a happy or hopeful moment in sight, but for gripping human drama you could do no better. James Poe and Robert E. Thompson adapted their screenplay from Horace McCoy's novel; Sydney Pollack directed, impeccably. ***1/2 from ****
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