Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Rediscovered '50s classics: The Lusty Men
THE LUSTY MEN, 1952. Nick Ray’s drama about rodeos (produced by Jerry Wald, with authentic rodeo locations) has not been seen for a long time, I had a disk filed away, so time for a view as it is one of 20 films being restored and will be showing at the London Film Festival in October.
I thought this was a Fox film, but its RKO Radio. It may be one of Ray’s best films, with certainly among the best work of the three leads: Robert Mitchum is Jeff McCloud a rootless, broke rodeo star, Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy as the married couple who want a ranch. He teaches Kennedy how to become a rodeo champion, to the disquiet of Hayward, giving a solid, reined-in performance, as she and Mitchum fight their attraction. This is nicely downbeat – seeing Mitchum crossing a wind-strewn rodeo arena brings THE MISFITS to mind, particularly Montgomery Clift playing that other rootless rodeo rider. Also that sequence when Mitchum returns to his childhood home … Lee Garmes’ camerawork makes it all look authentic, and the final scenes are deeply affecting. This is one film that deserves rediscovery.
The film creates an exciting atmosphere with wild horses, bucking broncos and leisure time spent carousing in the bars where a day's prize money could be lost in drinking and gambling. Louise sees Wes being sucked into the itinerant way of life and Jeff, after being taunted by Wes for sponging on his earnings, signs up the next day for all events, even though he is far from being in good shape .... Ray sticks so tenaciously to the modest dreams of his characters and makes so real their world that for awhile we actually believe that managing to stay on a bull for 10 seconds in Calgary is enough to make a man legendary and wealthy beyond imagining. In all its as powerful as THE MISFITS and deserves to be a lot better known. I like Hayward a lot and never saw this one till now. Mitchum too is as solid here as he is in say RIVER OF NO RETURN or HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON. One of Ray's best then, along with JOHNNY GUITAR and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.