7.9/10
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104 user 50 critic

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

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

On Disc

at Amazon

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 »
Reviews
Won 1 Oscar. Another 9 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

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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

Gig Young was sick with the flu when he acted in this movie. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Robert: Suppose we did win? What would you do with it?
Gloria Beatty: What, what, what?
Robert: The money.
Gloria Beatty: Maybe I'd buy some good rat poison.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Sydney Pollack (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Pop Goes the Weasel
(1853) (uncredited)
Music anonymous
Arranged by Charles Twiggs (1859)
Played at the Dance Marathon
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A memorable, tragic story with roots in reality
21 November 2002 | by mufeedahSee all my reviews

"They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is such a fascinating film that it made worthwhile a little research into the dance marathon craze of the 1920s and early 1930s. According to the DVD extra, the set was modeled on the old Aragon Ballroom, built in the 1920s on the Lick Pier at Santa Monica, California. The once-elegant ballroom had grown seedy by the early 1950s, at which time it enjoyed a brief revival as the location of early Lawrence Welk show broadcasts. In the 1960s, the Aragon was again revamped under a different name as a short-lived rock concert venue - with appearances by Alice Cooper (is his pre-Cooper days) and Jim Morrison of the Doors. It was destroyed by fire shortly afterward.

Marathon dancing was, according to most historians, as brutal and exploitive as it is depicted in "Horses." It was for that reason that this early 20th century variety of Roman coliseum culture was banned in much of the country by the late 1930s.

This movie uses fictitious characters to tell a story that appears to be remarkably accurate from a historical point of view. Jane Fonda's ultra-cynical, sharp-tongued character, Gloria, along with ruthless manager/promoter Rocky (played by Gig Young), contrast perfectly with the eerily-resigned and unpretentious Robert (Michael Serrazin). The casting and dialogue are brilliant. The visual effects are haunting.

This film is not for everyone. But for those interested in the social pathology that allows human suffering to become a form of amusement, the malicious ill-treatment of the poor, or the harsh realities of the depression era, this is multifaceted cinema that can be watched again and again, each time yielding new subtleties. It is a morbidly fascinating character study that reflects a truly desperate time.

For those watching on DVD, it is advisable to see the short background feature before the movie in order to fully appreciate its context. The movie is unforgettable, a true classic.


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