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
According to an interview with star Michael Sarrazin, this film was shown to the public in Russia as a piece of anti-American propaganda on the evils of capitalism. See more »
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 »
That's what were all interested in, isn't it? The show?
No, it's a contest. Isn't that what it's supposed to be? Isn't that what you advertised? A contest?
Not for them. For you maybe, but not for them. Do you think they're laying out two bits a throw just to watch you poke your head up into the sunlight or Alice look like she just stepped out of a beauty parlor? They don't give a damn whether you win or James and Ruby or Mario and Jackie or the Man in the Moon and Little Miss Muffet. They just...
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Viewing "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" is like rubbernecking a horrific traffic accident, or watching a train wreck. The images, no matter how painful, are too disturbing to turn away. This movie documents the depression era pathos by showing us a glimse of a group of dance-marathon contestants battling it out for a winner-take-all purse. Their lives become symbolic of their efforts in the marathon: inexorable pain, constant cramping, and a constant questioning of just "why live in all this misery?" Eventually, the lead performances, especially those of Susanna York and Jane Fonda, show at once characters strong-willed but overcome by simple animal survival. The rest of the stellar cast captures this bleakness as well (watch a young Bonnie Bedelia sing for thrown pennies!!!). Eventually the movie painfully climaxes to let one realize the issues raised by the movie title. The film is stunning in capturing the simple struggle of humanity; it's a must-see, but only once!!!
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