Monday, December 18, 2006

The Lusty Men (1952)

Posted by Curt

The one thing I've always enjoyed about Nicholas Ray's movies are the completely unpredictable things that happen in them. Also, his films have a trait of being on the verge of losing control that always seems to pull me in further to the viewing experience of watching them. The Lusty Men is one of his finest films and also the best rodeo movie ever made imho.

Robert Mitchum plays an ex-rodeo star who no longer is a part of the riding circuit because of a severe injury to his leg after being thrown off a horse. Arthur Kennedy plays a novice cowboy who is new to the world of rodeo riding and he hears about the wonderful skills and talents of Robert Mitchum, so he hires him on as his mentor to teach him the tricks of the trade and to follow him around from one rodeo show to the next to keep him on course. Susan Hayward plays Kennedy's wife and she doesn't want him to get involved with the wild world of rodeo because of all the injuries that happen to the men who do this type of sport for a living. Nonetheless, Kennedy is all fired up about becoming a big time rodeo star and making tons of money, so that him and his wife can go back to Texas and buy a farm there and live a quiet life, once he's ready to retire from the sport. Once Kennedy gets trained in by Mitchum he joins the rodeo circuit and slowly makes his way up the ladder to becoming a star and big money winner in the world of rodeo riding.

Before all this happens though, there's a beautiful and unique scene at the beginning of this film where Robert Mitchum returns to his boyhood home, a small ramshackle and rundown farm in Texas, where we see him get down and crawl underneath the house and he finds a toy six shooter gun that he left there when he was a small boy. Mitchum's parents are long passed away by now, and an old duffer who Mitchum is unfamiliar with owns the place now. The old man, played by Burt Mustin, thinks Mitchum is a thief or some kind of intruder, and he levels his rifle at him. Mitchum raises his hands and shows the old man the toy gun and relates to him why he showed up at this place. This is a very tender and delicate scene, kind of wistful but not in the least bit sentimental.

As I said before, this is one of Nick Ray's very best films, and even if you don't care for rodeo's, the story, acting, and directing are so well done, you can't help but get pulled into the viewing experience of watching it.


X-Evolutionist said...


I found your blog when doing a search on Carol Burnett. I was hoping to find a clip of her doing Norma Desmond on her show. Any way, I love old movies, including Film Noir, and I just want to say hi.

Nice blog!

Well, gotta go. I have Sunset Boulevard on my DVR.


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