Sunday, November 8, 2009
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Set during the Great Depression, this story of a dance marathon provides an existential reflection of life under immense pressure. The dancers represent all the difficulties and hopes of this dark period in American history. Jane Fonda plays a self-loathing woman bent on her own destruction. She somehow attracts the interest of Michael Sarazin with shocking results.
The despair of people during the Depression is ever present in the collection of dancers. The "contest" is a destructive attack on the physical and emotional endurance of all the participants. How each of them handle this pressure is the true tale told here.
Gig Young plays the caring and sleazy promoter of the dance marathon. He received an academy award for his attention-demanding performance. But it is the story of the dancers, led by Fonda and Sarazin, upon which the movie rests. The cast does a fabulous job. Desperate for the prizes the contestants battle for weeks against all odds. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? requires your attention through the last moment.
Director Sydney Pollack handles the adaptation of the Horace McCoy novel with a deft touch. The subject matter requires respect, but Pollack keeps the film from falling into the maudlin. The adaption of the script by James Poe and Robert E. Thompson is bravely done. The novel is hardcore and so is the film.
Filmed in 1969, Directed by Sydney Pollack, Written by James Poe and Robert E. Thompson, Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarazin, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Susannah York and Bruce Dern.