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They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

M/PG | | Drama | 1970 (Norway)
The lives of a disparate group of contestants intertwine in an inhumanely grueling dance marathon.



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 9 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Fields ...
Jacquelyn Hyde ...
Felice Orlandi ...


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 he'll make it. Robert and Gloria meet and decide to enter a dance marathon, one of the crazes of the 1930's. 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 alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


People are the ultimate spectacle




M/PG | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

1970 (Norway)  »

Also Known As:

El baile interminable  »

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Actress Jane Fonda and director Sydney Pollack later both collaborated on The Electric Horseman (1979). See more »


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, 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 »


Rocky: I may not know a winner when I see one, but I sure as hell can spot a loser.
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References Little Caesar (1931) See more »


Easy Come, Easy Go
Lyrics by Edward Heyman
Music by Johnny Green (as John Green)
Music played often during the film
Played on piano and Sung by Lynn Willis (uncredited)
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User Reviews

An exhausting movie in every way...
29 May 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969)

This is almost a mainstream experimental film, coming out of the New Hollywood transformation, and it has a huge reputation. It centers around the basically true events of a typical late-1920s dance marathon, with contestants dancing (and resting at times) for weeks straight (four or five weeks wasn't unusual). Naturally, contestants freak out and get obsessive and generally push their limits, and that ultimately is what the movie portrays.

I found it a bore. I like Sydney Pollack's approach to movies, in general, and he's directed some real gems. I can tolerate Jane Fonda, too, and she is an irritable, pushy young woman in this one, pretty convincing. There are other characters with similar selfish, and increasingly tired, attitudes, and by half way through you realize that it's a downer movie with nearly everyone snarly and mean and deceptive. By the end, with the great climax hinted at a couple times along the way, you expect and get the culmination of all that.

But it's a pretty linear experience, almost entirely shot in the gymnasium serving as a dance hall. The spectators are barely mentioned (and there are generally very few). The bands providing the dance music are dull (and maybe incorrect for the times--not only is there an all-Black group, which might have been included, but one of them is a mixed race group, and this isn't a barrier crossed until the late 1930s, a decade later). People's attitudes struck me as more 1960s than 1920s, with women openly crude and aggressive, and maybe this is my own shortcoming (I see the aggressive, successful women in Reds as more accurate, for whatever reason).

Mostly there is nothing much happening except a kind of petty competition between two women, and with two men half caring and just tagging along. And everyone getting weary. It's a spectacle, for sure, but imagine watching it for a month? And then squeezing that boredom into a two hour movie, narrative one liner with a strained script. Loaded with awards and praise, but not here.

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