Friday, March 11, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest: The Lusty Men (1952)

The Lusty Men is #578 in  
My Quest to watch the 1000 Greatest Films

Screened 01/30/11 on DVD

Ranked #788 on TSPDT

*There be spoilers ahead for those who care about such things.

"A Fast Buck... A Fast Bronc... A Fast Thrill!" 

Judging from the title (and the film's tagline above), one could reasonably think this to be a somewhat homoerotic movie, and since it is directed by the bisexual Nick Ray, such reasonability is given that much more credence.  In all reality though, unless one were to dig deep for such things (and some will certainly dig), The Lusty Men is not all that homoerotic.  Much less so than that other Ray film, the deeply and quite obvious Rebel Without A Cause.  Anyway, this is neither here nor there when it comes to talking about the film, so I will just drop such thoughts now, and get on with the show.

Actually, this is the story of an aging (at least aging for his business) rodeo man, played with the usual macho sensitivity by the great Robert Mitchum and his befriending of a wouldbe rodeo newbie played by Arthur Kennedy, with his typical snarky charm, and (to keep the aforementioned homoeroticism at bay) the woman that is stuck in the middle - the beautiful, sad-eyed Susan Hayward.  We watch as Mitchum's Jeff McCloud teaches the insistent Wes Merritt (Kennedy) the ways (and dangers) of the rodeo world - much to the dismay of Hayward's Louise Merritt (Kennedy's suffering but faithful movie-wife) - only to fall into (an inevitably unrequited) love with Hayward.

Once Kennedy's cocksure cowboy surpasses his teacher and begins to believe the sudden hype of his newfound rodeo circuit fame (another inevitability), Mitchum begins to question what he wants out of live - or actually deepens his already questioning attitude from frame one.  What he wants (not surprisingly) is Hayward.  Of course, this being a Nick Ray film, do not waste your time hoping for the ending anyone wants - though we do get the ending that is most deserving of drama - and in a way, a happy ending for some.

"There never was a bronc that couldn't be rode, there never a cowboy that couldn't be throwed. Guys like me last forever."
- Robert Mitchum as Jeff McCloud in The Lusty Men

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