The Lusty Men (1952) Poster


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Excellent Mitchum Vehicle
abooboo-222 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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So, You Still Want to Be a Cowboy
dougdoepke28 November 2008
The movie's a real sleeper. Rodeos were never a popular theme for Hollywood, outside of Saturday matinées. Maybe that's why the studio came up with a misleading title that cheapens expectations. The movie certainly doesn't glamorize rodeo-ing. In fact, it's a pretty scathing look at both the inside and the outside. Jeff's (Mitchum) character is brilliantly conveyed early on as he drifts across the empty field along with other wind-blown discards. He's going back to his roots now that he's quit the circuit, with no other place to go.

So he hooks up with ambitious Wes (Kennedy) and his no-nonsense wife Louise (Hayward). For half of Wes's winnings, veteran rodeo-er Jeff can guide the talented newcomer as he joins the circuit. The trouble is Jeff is attracted to the loyal Louise even as Wes begins to live the fast life on his big winnings. Louise, however, only wants what she's always wanted-: a little spread of her and Wes's own where they can make a home. But Wes is forgetting those plans as he succumbs to the hard-partying of the rootless circuit. So, what will Louise do and just as importantly what will the love-lorn Jeff do now that the marrieds are growing apart.

The partying scenes are particularly well done, conveying just the right touches of cheap booze, loose women, and tall tales. Note that telling camera angle of the grizzled Booker (Hunnicutt) as he gazes up a shapely leg from floor level--- one shot can speak the proverbial volumes. Note too, the subtle way the script implies that trick-rider Rosemary has been sleeping-around, apparently an approved practice in these circles, contrary to the mores of the time (1952). Also, the shower scene when Al (Faylen) walks in is a neat bit of implied humor that depends on audience savvy for its chuckles. It's quite an intelligent screenplay, except for maybe the abrupt, but oddly satisfying, last scene.

Cult director Ray oversees with his usual artistic sensibility, though it looks like he was still suffering intermittent illness since an uncredited Robert Parrish gets a credited appearance from IMDb. And, of course, Mitchum is Mitchum, so low-key here it's hard to read his feelings at any point. No, in my little book, it's Susan Hayward's movie. By golly, she's escaped that dead-end tamale shop and nothing's going to stop her little dream. The guys may be physically tougher, but none can match her inner strength, and Hayward brings it all off in thoroughly convincing fashion. I can't conceive that the movie made money, as downbeat as it is. And I wonder what audiences lured in by the lurid title thought once they saw rodeo. Nonetheless, the film remains an outstanding example of movie-making in a minor key.
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A kind of Casablanca of westerns? ...
AlsExGal17 July 2016
where the enemy is time and your own over-confidence and not those nasty Nazis? That MIGHT describe it The magnificently laconic Robert Mitchum turns in one of his most captivating performances in Nicholas Ray's brilliant modern day western.

Set in the down and dusty world of professional rodeo riders, it also stars Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy. Mitchum is Jeff McCloud, a former rodeo star, now somewhat adrift and down on his luck. He stumbles into town and quickly latches onto Wes and Louise, a married couple with aspirations of someday having a place of their own. Wes also harbors dreams of becoming a star on the rodeo circuit, a world McCloud is all too familiar with and one that Wes figures could be his ticket to a more rewarding life. It doesn't take a whole lot of encouragement on Wes' part to convince McCloud to become his mentor and before long this trio is on the road in search of those elusive cowboy dreams. Likewise it doesn't take a genius to figure out that an uncomfortable romantic triangle will emerge, sparking an unsettling and inevitable chain of events.

This is one Nicholas Ray film that rarely gets mentioned, yet it is one of the director's most emotionally satisfying works. Masterfully shot in black & white by Lee Garmes ( "NIGHTMARE ALLEY", "PORTRAIT OF JENNIE", "CAUGHT", etc) it has a beautifully lived-in look that enhances the exotic world it portrays. The performances are all sterling and the dialogue provided for them (most likely compliments of Horace McCoy, one of the most remarkably and honestly expressive writers of the period) rings remarkably true even in the midst of some overtly romanticized (it is a Nicholas Ray film, after all) moments.

The rodeo sequences are exceptionally exciting. Of course, the movie is quite atmospheric and nicely captures the lifestyle of the rodeo crowd. There are some exciting moments (like Wes riding Yo-Yo) and some great lines. ("Men... I'd like to fry 'em all in deep fat!") Highly recommended, and you don't necessarily even have to be a western fan, just a student of human nature.
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Perfect but don't like the title
moonchildiva31 October 2005
I see they had a choice of some other titles here - anything's better than the one they used on TCM on Saturday (10/29/05.) But I loved this movie! Arthur Kennedy has always been one of my favorites and Susan Hayward, who was born on my birthday, is amazing, always. Whew, in this movie, she beats up another chick TWICE! With good reason, of course. I am really glad I never saw this movie before because although Leonard Maltin called the ending "hokey" in his video guide, I liked it so much that it made me cry. Maybe it's a 'girl thing.' Robert Mitchum was incredibly handsome and sexy - if I owned the movie, I just might watch it again TO SEE HIM WALK, whew. I bet he had the girls heated up in the 50s. Sorry I didn't tape it for my own use, then. I feel that this film is an example of why Nicholas Ray has a following. It's a beautiful work of art, and I thank him for it.
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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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Lousy title but a really good movie
rooster_davis29 May 2010
Don't let the title fool you. Apparently part of the studio's design to tempt a broader audience in to see this film, 'The Lusty Men' is just not a very good title for it. Two other titles were considered - one even worse, "This Man is Mine", and one that was better if not exciting, "Cowpoke". Briefly, this is the story of a young ranch worker (Arthur Kennedy) and his new bride (Susan Hayward) trying to save up money to buy a ranch of their own. Faded rodeo star Mitchum crosses their path and changes their lives, showing the young husband Kennedy a shortcut to big money by riding in the rodeo. There's a lot of friction resulting as time goes on, with Kennedy hooked on the easy money and attention, while Hayward fears for his safety and blames Mitchum for driving a wedge between the couple. I won't give away any of the story beyond that.

I do want to give a broader review of this movie for the type that it is. I don't think I've ever seen a seriously-made movie which depicts rodeos or bull riding that was not at least fairly compelling, as this one is. Whether it's 'The Lusty Men' or 'Eight Seconds' or 'The Ride', those who ride rodeo put their lives and safety on the line for relatively little pay in most cases. They pursue their sport with an intensity that may be hard to understand for those who live a more ordinary existence. Just as a compulsive gambler gets that little rush every time he scratches off a lottery ticket or pulls the handle on a slot machine, every time the bull or bronc rider nods his head and the chute gate swings open, he has a brief chance at success and a win and the thrill that goes with it - but he has hundreds, maybe thousands of people playing the game along with him. If he has a great ride, the crowd goes wild. If he gets bucked off, or gets hurt - maybe even killed - he has done so trying to please all those people in addition to himself.

The complexities of the motivation of the rodeo rider belie what some may feel to be a very simple or even 'dumb' pursuit. It is these motivations which create the opportunity for fascinating characters living lives that follow different rules. They live outside the box, even now as they have for decades, in pursuit of their dreams. That's why 'The Lusty Men' and the other rodeo / bull riding films I've seen have been so good. When you start with characters filled with the 'heart and try' to compete at rodeo, people who are not so bound to logic and common-sense, the storyline possibilities are nearly endless.

Things in the world of rodeo have changed since this movie was made. As one other reviewer pointed out, a rodeo rider of the past having to retrieve his winnings at a saloon after having gotten banged up riding that day would be the perfect formula for the start of a drinking problem. Fortunately, they don't get their winnings at a saloon anymore. On the other hand, the 'buckle bunnies' who pursue rodeo riders are still drawn to the lean, lanky, quietly courageous cowboy no matter whether he rode for eight seconds or got bucked off in two. He doesn't need to be a big money winner, because the cowboy's appeal has never been about money. To the contrary - his lack of wealth may be part of his appeal by making him seem more down-to-Earth and approachable, maybe even vulnerable because he is nearly broke. In this movie however, the young cowboy / rising rodeo star does attract the wrong kind of women because he has amassed some money winnings.

You don't have to be a fan of rodeo or bull riding to enjoy this movie. While it does revolve around those sports, the real story is what happens to the young couple and the old rodeo star who enters their lives.
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Second chance is better, yet
nachocorces24 October 2001
It seems that after the shooting of "Macao", director Nicholas Ray (who replaced Josef von Sternberg) and actor Robert Mitchum were prepared for a second match. This was "The Lusty Men", a poetic and sensitive film about a man at the moment of his decadence as a rodeo figure. Beautifully shot in black and white, this picture is ready to stay as one of the most impressive achievements in film history on the subjects of maturity and enthusiasm, destiny, despair and true naivety.
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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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Good rodeo yarn with a top cast
NewEnglandPat30 August 2003
This fine western about life on the rodeo circuit is more about drama than action but still packs a wallop, thanks largely to Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward. Mitchum is a washed up bronc rider who becomes a mentor to Arthur Kennedy who has dreams of becoming a big time rodeo performer. Eager to buy a ranch but lacking money, Kennedy learns the ropes of rodeo performing and the three decide to travel the rodeo circuit although Hayward is cool to the idea. Under Mitchum's tutelage, Kennedy career takes off but he doesn't seem to notice the attraction between Mitchum and Hayward. Mitchum, rough and virile, looks the part of a cowboy and he and Hayward have great chemistry in their scenes but Kennedy is no cowboy and he doesn't seem to be a good match for Hayward. Arthur Hunnicutt does his usual good work in a key supporting role.
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surprisingly decent
rupie11 August 2003
I wasn't expecting much from what appeared to be a garden-variety drama set in the world of rodeo performance, but was drawn to it by the presence of Robert Mitchum and Arthur Kennedy. I was pleasantly surprised by director Nicholas Ray's ability to put together a pretty engrossing story of life on the rodeo circuit and the personality types one encounters. Mitchum does his usual fine job; Arthur Kennedy was an excellent B-list actor who here shows his talent well. Susan Hayward, unfortunately, is a bit miscast; she is too much the East coast debutante to fit into the Western locale. Another quibble would be the many travelogue-style bits meant to educate the viewer as to the various rodeo events; they should at least have had a trained actor narrate these bits rather than using the obviously local "talent." Also, the production values are not the highest, seeming at times more on the level of television. On the whole, though, the movie keeps us involved.
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A good film...but it makes you wonder why any sane person would choose such a life!
MartinHafer26 October 2010
This film begins with an ex-rodeo champion (Robert Mitchum) wandering around the property where he grew up--and hasn't seen in two decades. He meets up with the current owner (Burt Mustin--everybody's favorite old man) and they chat a bit--until a cowhand and his wife (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward) come to Mustin's home. It seems they'd love to buy it but have little, if any, money.

When Kennedy recognizes Mitchum as a rodeo star, he gets a bright idea--he can get Mitchum to train him so he can take up rodeo. That way, he reasons, he and his wife can buy the property much sooner. The problem is, Kennedy's wife hates the idea of Kennedy breaking his neck this way! Yet, despite her misgivings, he pushes ahead. Surprisingly, he is a success--and every step of the way, she is miserable as she knows it's only a matter of time until he's hurt. Throughout the film, he promises to quit...but the longer it takes, the less likely it is that he'll ever stop...until it's too late.

As for the stars, they are all very good. Hayward is emotional but good (and plays a great dame), Mitchum is his easy-going self and Kennedy surprisingly macho--something you don't see very often. The script is dandy and entertaining as well--especially as you see Kennedy becoming more and more of a butt-head. I also appreciated how the rodeo footage wasn't the usual grainy footage--and they did a pretty good job of making you think it was the actors actually doing these crazy stunts. I also liked the ending--it was downbeat but worked very well.

By the way, there are two bit parts to look for in the movie (aside from Mustin's). The foreman of the ranch near the beginning is Glenn Strange. While you probably won't recognize his craggy face, he's the last guy to play Universal's Frankenstein monster---having last appeared in this capacity in 1948's "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein". Also, a few times throughout the film, it's Jimmy Dodd (of "The Mickey Mouse Club") playing one of the rodeo contestants. At a party later in the film he's playing a guitar. If you'd just given him some mouse ears, he would have looked more familiar.
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Spare tough drama
jjnxn-126 September 2013
Spare tough little drama of the rodeo circuit with fine performances all around. Reminiscent in ways of The Misfits but without that film's crushing sense of disillusionment. However you can see many of the peripheral characters and perhaps Mitchum's too as following the same path as those men.

Ray's direction keeps the film on a steady forward course to tell it's at times simple at others complex story. He is mightily aided by his three superior leads, all fine performers, all stars in their day but none truly appreciated for their subtle skill and all contributing some of their best work in this film.

Mitchum pitches his performance perfectly, a rambler who knows no other way but is starting to wonder if what he's pursuing is worthless. Arthur Kennedy, a tremendously under rated actor, is excellent in a part that could have been eclipsed, since the real conflict is between Bob and Susan, but for his subtle shading of the role. As the main female protagonist of the piece Susan Hayward is all tough, flinty grit. Always a memorable screen presence whether playing it big, i.e. Demetrius and the Gladiators, or subdued as she is here she always carried a grounding gravitas that made her characters memorable. Her Louise is a sensible, down to earth woman who is clear in what she wants, has no problem laying it on the line and taking on anybody that gets in her way.

Strangely obscure film considering Ray's reputation and the superstar standing of its two main stars probably owing to its unavailability on DVD although there are rumors of a remastering and upcoming release. Very much worth seeking out.
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Mitchum and Hayward's star vehicle breeds more than meets the eye.
bobsgrock5 February 2013
Two very different yet compatible stars of the early 1950s, Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward sizzle on the screen together in a film focusing on the world of rodeo, which includes a significant amount of media frenzy, partying and drinking, as well as putting one's life on the line every time out.

Director Nicholas Ray has a beautiful set-up here: once-famous rodeo star Jeff McCloud (Mitchum) gets involved with an ambitious cowboy and his beautiful wife who desire to buy their own ranch and settle down. In order to pay for this dream, they set out on the road to tour various competitions. Along the way, the husband gets carried away with success while Mitchum finds himself ever more attracted to the steel-eyed wife (Hayward).

Ray maintains a competent degree of seriousness and professionalism within the personal scenes, not allowing them to become fodder for soapy action. This balances nicely with the rodeo footage, taken from live competitions but edited beautifully for a smooth addition to the story. It helps, of course, that the chemistry between Hayward and Mitchum is palpable, yet Mitchum still steals the entire show with his trademark disinterested, aloof personality. He remains ever so slightly out of our understanding yet remains the kind of mystery we feel needs to be solved. Just another reason why after all these years Robert Mitchum remains one of the most iconic and iconoclastic actors in Hollywood history.
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Usual Understated Mitchum In Ray Rodeo Film
CitizenCaine5 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Nicholas Ray directed this excellent melodrama about ordinary folks trying to make their American Dream happen by utilizing the rodeo circuit. Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward star as Wes and Louise Merritt, an ordinary couple living an ordinary life as a ranch hand and a ranch hand's wife respectively. In walks Robert Mitchum as Jeff McCloud, a virile stranger who may be an opportunist and a lothario as well as an ex rodeo champion. Director Ray, known for his strong characterizations, excels at meshing the three lives of the principals in this film. Kennedy tires of ranch life just as Mitchum enters the picture, worrying his wife Hayward.

Mitchum is outstanding as usual in the role of Jeff McCloud and fits right in with the rough and tumble rodeo world. Kennedy is perhaps too old to play a new rodeo star, and he certainly does not have the athleticism and physicality of Mitchum to be as believable as a rodeo star. However, Kennedy's character changes as the film progresses from an ordinary ranch hand to an egotistical star, becoming more distant from his wife's perspective. Hayward's character character changes too from a dutiful spouse to a woman willing to fight to keep her husband and in one piece. Mitchum's character change near the end is not quite believable, and as a result, the ending is not entirely satisfying.

Director Nicholas Ray was always ahead of his time, focusing on characters' conflicts with themselves as well as each other; in that, the conflicts served as catalysts for action and/or change. Ray filmed the rodeo scenes with a 16 millimeter hand-held camera, a device that modern filmmakers have returned to with digital cameras in recent years in filming within close quarters, to intensify emotion/horror, or to portray an environment with more realism. Ray made an interesting choice to film in black and white in between two films in color he did: Flying Leathernecks and Johnny Guitar, mirroring the very real black and white results of his characters' decisions in The Lusty Men. Arthur Hunnicutt has a supporting role as an aging ranch hand. Horace McCoy contributed to the screenplay. *** of 4 stars.
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Mitchum's Misogyny and Narcissism
tr-8349527 May 2019
...make this very hard to watch, and after hearing of some of the things he did to Susan Hayward, I did not want to see his image onscreen. She fought back against him in the ways women could in the early 50s, going to the very top of the studio system, but the men had a "code" of their own and they were going to make the women pay for being movie stars. How dare they aspire to the same rank as men! And try to draw salaries that came close to theirs! This angered Mitchum no end, and according to TCM, one of the women he took it out on was Hayward. In their kissing scene, he loaded himself up with garlic and then went in for the shoot, just to get the horrified reaction from the star. Mitchum and Hayward had NO chemistry between them. They hated each other. What you see is a great acting job by Hayward. Mitchum is a sleaze of the first order in his treatment of women, and in his expectation that HE was always the star. A woman's place was to be his underling, his plaything -- when he so desired. All this went on behind the movie. But it colors my thinking just like the behavior of other so-called "stars" does. Even recently, we've had male eruptions in the director's roles. Hollywood can be a sordid place, and it's to Susan Hayward's credit she was professional and complained to high heaven about Mitchum's antics. Mitchum had a high opinion of himself that was to continue to play out as the decade progressed.
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lovethesun18 May 2019
You would think someone portraying a cowboy would know how to pronounce Brahma. It's "brah-ma" not "bray-ma". I found that extremely annoying and distracting throughout this movie.
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Meet the Rodeo Wives.
mark.waltz18 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
One thing was very clear to me as I was watching this movie. It was extremely difficult to try and imagine Miss Susan Hayward living in a trailer, traveling around with husband Arthur Kennedy and his best pal Robert Mitchum and in constant fear that her husband will be injured while riding the bull. Throughout, Susan establishes friendships with the other women following their own husbands around, another interesting aspect because normally in her movies, Ms. Hayward was more the rival to other women than friendly with them. Of course, with Robert Mitchum top-billed over Susan's on-screen husband, there's bound to be chemistry between them, even though Susie really can't stand Robert's character. But the lust in the title isn't just for the men risking being gored, it's also for the frustrated women, and while Arthur Kennedy may not seem the most sensual of love interests for someone as heated as Hayward, their marriage isn't shaken by Mitchum's presence.

While this has more of an interest perhaps for the male fans of rodeos, it will stir up controversy as a part of America's past that today, animal rights activists look on with in disdain. Yes, the whole point of man risking life and limb by riding the hot-tempered bull simply to win a large monetary prize (or the even more controversial calf roping, not seen here), seems somewhat ridiculous when compared with other sporting events, and the idea of it as entertainment for the masses is also bewildering when compared to other distractions. So while this might not be for all tastes, it gets by merely on the casting and the unconventional relationship of the leading man and leading lady. Some interesting supporting players (particularly Arthur Hunnicutt) round out (or round up) the cast to offer the little details to make it better than it would have been without them. In a sense, it's almost a companion piece to the same year's "Clash By Night" which also took lusty characters in squalid settings, placing them in situations they emotionally could not handle.
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Busted Down Bronc Rider.
rmax30482324 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Lusty Men." What a deplorable title. Sounds as if it ought to star Audie Murphy, with Joan O'Brien as the mammus girl and John McIntyre as "the sheriff." But it's considerably better than that.

Not that the plot is very original. An older guy takes a talented newcomer under his wing and the tyro gets an attitude. It could be Paul Newman and Tom Cruise as pool players or, more aptly, it's likely to have been drawn from a successful movie about boxing, "Champion," with Kirk Douglas.

Nor is the acting especially outstanding. When Mitchum got his hands on the right role he could really swing, but here he's his usual sleepy self. Arthur Kennedy, as the talented newcomer, is good enough but the role itself is formulaic. With each successful appearance at a rodeo, busting broncos, bull dogging, calf roping, riding the Brahma bull (pronounced Bray-ma), his head expands along with his ego and he begins to neglect his loving and dutiful wife, Susan Hayward, developing instead a taste for drinking, gambling, and loose blonds. Hayward herself is miscast. She's not a slightly worn waitress from a tamale joint. That's Patricia Neal's role. Hayward projects toughness but I'm afraid she's Edythe Marrener from Brooklyn.

It occurs to me that the film borrows from another pattern: the conflict between two partners in life, one of whom wants to settle down and the other who wants to keep moving and living the free life. Kirk Douglas was the rootless drifter in "Lonely Are the Brave," but he had no companion except his horse, Whiskey. A closer fit has Mitchum as the happy drifter and Deborah Kerr as the tough wife who longs for a farm in "The Sundowners." Crossing the line into the absurd, Bob Hope always wanted to go home to Sioux Falls and Bing Crosby kept coming up with plans to find a secret gold mine in the Road pictures of the 40s.

There's another thing too. Mitchum is an ex prize winner at rodeos and he stumbles on Kennedy more or less by accident. Kennedy agrees to split any winnings at the contests if Mitchum shows him the ropes and teaches him the tricks. But we see NONE of that teaching. All I learned was that when you're aboard an animal in the chute and you want it to open, you shout "Outside!" And when you ride a bull you tie your left hand into place with a rope, but I already knew that thanks to a shipmate of mine in the service who was a kinsman of such a contestant. There isn't one second of Kennedy's practicing with a bucking horse or a laso. Plenty of scenes of the contests themselves, aimed at an audience who loves to see some guy thrown on his bum and mauled by a one-ton brute.

So those are all the irritants. What lifts it above the average are the character touches, presumably from Horace McCoy's adaptation of Claude Stanush's novel. Whoever was responsible for the screenplay knew a thing or two about rodeos and what goes on behind the scenes. What goes on can be pretty retrograde. A man has to prove to himself and others that he's not "afraid." Kennedy often protests indignantly that he's not "scared" of being hurt.

The other thing is Nicholas Ray's direction, to the extent that he can unshackle himself from the more banal parts of the script. Mitchum dies at the end. But he doesn't declare his love for Hayward on his deathbed. That love, which has only been intimated, goes unspoken. The death itself is bloodless. And instead of grimacing, then closing his eyes and rolling his head on its side -- the side facing the camera -- as almost all Hollywood's dying people do, he rolls AWAY from the camera onto his side and clutches Hayward's hands. The camera drifts up from Mitchum's naked back to Hayward's face. It's only from the change in her expression that we know he's given up the ghost. There are a couple of other scenes, equally nuanced, and if Ray had been able to get more out of Mitchum and had someone with brains and sensitivity buff the script, it could have been a very good movie indeed.
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