113 user 60 critic

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

M | | Drama | 1970 (Norway)
3:04 | Trailer
The lives of a disparate group of contestants intertwine in an inhumanely grueling dance marathon.


Sydney Pollack


Horace McCoy (novel), James Poe (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 9 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Fonda ... Gloria
Michael Sarrazin ... Robert
Susannah York ... Alice
Gig Young ... Rocky
Red Buttons ... Sailor
Bonnie Bedelia ... Ruby
Michael Conrad ... Rollo
Bruce Dern ... James
Al Lewis ... Turkey
Robert Fields Robert Fields ... Joel
Severn Darden ... Cecil
Allyn Ann McLerie ... Shirl
Madge Kennedy ... Mrs. Laydon
Jacquelyn Hyde ... Jackie
Felice Orlandi ... Mario


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. See more »




M | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Jack Clayton at one point was slated to direct this film. See more »


Shadow of camera and operator on Derby contestants. See more »


[repeated line]
Rocky: Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!
See more »


Featured in Film Extra: Sydney Pollock (1973) See more »


Till We Meet Again
(1918) (uncredited)
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Played at the Dance Marathon
See more »

User Reviews

Desperate dancing.
22 November 2009 | by st-shotSee all my reviews

There's a bushel of fine performances to be found on the pier dance hall floor in this grim depression era story about marathon dancers. A popular entertainment in its day the competition would go on round the clock for days with contestants working themselves into a state of exhaustion and collapse in the hope of winning a meager prize. With massive unemployment across the country there was no shortage of contestants and Horses is filled with hard luck cases.

Director Sidney Pollack keeps the pace brisk by inter-cutting scenes between his large cast then amps things up further with dizzying elimination races. Hard luck hoofers Michael Sarrizin, Sussanah York, Red Buttons, Bruce Dern and Bonnie Bedelia all contribute powerful performances while Jane Fonda with hard edged cynicism delivers arguably the best acting job of her career. It is Gig Young as the emcee however that steals the film. A light comedy actor in most films Young's jaded good looks and forced optimism ("Yowsa, yowsa") to rouse the audience into thinking the torture on the floor is wholesome entertainment is an incredible portrait of calibrated hypocrisy and exploitation.

Horses oozes cynicism from start to finish with no let up. There is not an ounce of comedy relief and the few scenes that take place outside the dark stifling dance hall in the welcome sun serves only the despair back inside where a sentimental audience tosses coins to a pregnant Bonnie Bedelia warbling "The best things in life are free." Without any upbeat distractions the film can become an endurance of melancholy for the viewer but Pollack and company keep things highly absorbing most of the way in what might be termed a dark piece of historical nostalgia .

9 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 113 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

1970 (Norway) See more »

Also Known As:

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(original) | (current)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed