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They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

M/PG | | Drama | 1970 (Norway)
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3:05 | Trailer

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The lives of a disparate group of contestants intertwine in an inhumanely grueling dance marathon.

Director:

Sydney Pollack

Writers:

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

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Cast

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 Jacquelyn Hyde ... Jackie
Felice Orlandi ... Mario
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

People are the ultimate spectacle

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

M/PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1970 (Norway) See more »

Also Known As:

Baile de ilusiones See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(original) | (current)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Warren Beatty and Robert Redford were considered for the role of Robert Syverton. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Rocky: The doctor's decision is: Lillian Kramer stays on in the marathon! The doctor's assured me Lillian just has a slight sinus headache.
Gloria Beatty: Headache. For all that quack knows she's... she's got a brain tumor.
Robert: No, I don't think so. Only I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's different with a brain tumor. Different symptoms.
Gloria Beatty: Yeah? How do you know?
Robert: I saw it in a movie. Anita Louise and Richard Cromwell. That's what she died of. Anita Louise. A brain tumor. But it was different. Everything just suddenly ...
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Designing Women: They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They? (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Coquette
(1928) (uncredited)
Music by Carmen Lombardo & Johnny Green
Played at the Dance Marathon
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
unique for its time
21 May 2007 | by mukava991See all my reviews

THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY? This movie stays in the memory, partly because it stands out from other mainstream Hollywood products of its time in subject matter (the dance marathons of the 20s and 30s) and tone (pitilessly and harshly negative; even the humor is bleak). The message: life (the marathon) is a desperate rat race with a rigged outcome.

How certain actors end up with certain roles depends on the crazy complicated game known as Hollywood casting, but sometimes even a miscast performer will bring an unexpected something to the table and triumph. Such was the case with Bette Davis in ALL ABOUT EVE (written with Claudette Colbert or Gertrude Lawrence in mind) and such is the case with Jane Fonda in a role that would have been better suited to someone like Stella Stevens. Fonda overcomes the odds as Gloria, the morbidly cynical and impoverished young woman whose brief life has been a series of abuses, disappointments and defeats. Even though the actress looks and speaks like a patrician, her defiant, angry, controlled desperation burns through the superficialities. Her performance culminates in an emotional meltdown which she handles with skill. It was her great breakthrough as a screen actress.

Another career peak is reached by Gig Young who, as the master of ceremonies, personifies all the dishonesty, cruelty and pathos of the marathon itself. Bonnie Bedelia and Susannah York also score as different kinds of vulnerable innocents. Michael Sarrazin as Fonda's dance partner serves as the passive instrument that allows Fonda to play out her tortured personal drama. His unchanging wounded puppy dog expression speaks for itself.

Ironically, the musical arrangements by John Green, a brilliant and very active composer of early 30's popular songs (including "Body and Soul"), sound more like Lawrence Welk than a real third-rate dance band of the early Depression era. As musical supervisor of this film I wonder if it was Green who anachronistically included songs that hadn't even been written when the story takes place, including "I Cover the Waterfront" (1933) and "Easy Come, Easy Go" (1934), both of which Green composed himself.

For some reason the scriptwriter chose to move the story to 1932 from its original placement in 1934 by author Horace McCoy in the novel on which this film is based. At one point an old lady tells Fonda and Sarrazin that they are her favorite dance couple because they're wearing the number "67" which is the year she was born (1867). Later Fonda calculates her age: "Sixty-five." Which enables us to figure out that the action is taking place in 1932. In another scene Fonda, referring to Bonnie Bedelia, quips, "If she's not pregnant, then I'm Nelson Eddy." Eddy didn't become a nationally known name until 1935 when he teamed with Jeanette MacDonald. He didn't even appear in a major motion picture until 1933 (DANCING LADY, MGM). A woman of 1932 would have been more likely to say "Bing Crosby" or "Rudy Vallee" or even "Russ Columbo." So one can't help wondering why the screenwriter bothered to move the action backwards by two years.

Exhausted couples staggering around a dance floor under a shining, spinning ball composed of mirror fragments that reflect off the ceiling, walls and floor - a symbol of Earth and the cosmos around it and oppressed humanity on the bottom grimly pressing on. That's the film in a nutshell.


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