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
Screenwriter James Poe planned to make his directing debut with this film, seeing it as a low-budget movie without stars. He had planned to use Shirley Knight as Gloria, Lionel Stander as Rocky, Allen Jenkins as Sailor and his own wife Barbara Steele in another role. The deal fell through, the film became much more expensive, Poe's script was rewritten (and, he claimed, softened) and stars were cast in the leading roles - some of them former clients of ex-agent Martin Baum, who was involved in producing the film. See more »
The film is supposed to take place in 1932. However, during the opening sequence posters for the films Varsity Show (1937) and Off the Record (1939) can be seen outside the ballroom on the pier. 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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