They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
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Movie InfoThey Shoot Horses, Don't They? is one of the best dramas about the Great Depression. The film concerns a marathon dance in the '30s, where, in order to win a cash prize, contestants are forced to keep dancing until they're exhausted. The dance is a metaphor for the Great Depression--some can survive the grueling ordeal, some cannot. Over the course of the film, a number of subplots are revealed, following the intertwining lives of these small-town citizens, most notably of Jane Fonda, a self-destructive young girl. Gig Young won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the dance contest master of ceremonies. … More
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Critic Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
The material is simple and irresistible, and Sydney Pollack stages it well (though without transcending the essential superficiality of his talent).
A sordid spectacle of hard times, a kind of existentialist allegory of life.
The acting is strident and overblown, the narrative technique gimmicky and obvious, and the implication that the competitors' situation is a microcosm of a wider-reaching American malaise rather pretentious.
The movie is by far the best thing that Pollack has ever directed (with the possible exception of The Scalphunters).
It's depressing as hell, so it's not a movie I would watch repeatedly, but I'm sure glad I saw it. This is an important film about a time in America's history that wasn't so glamorous. You won't forget it.
There has never been a film quite so original as this, featuring a wealth of noted actors fighting for their lives in a dance competition taking place during the Great Depression.
An allegorical, socially conscious response to the injustices of the Depression era.
Pollack's adaptation of Horace McCoy's depression era novel has not dated well.
Grim but compelling tale set in a Depression era dance marathon. Gig Young deservedly copped the Oscar.
Sydney Pollack's screen version of the powerful Depression-era dance marathon is extremely well acted, particularly by Jane Fonda as the suicidal actress, her first great performance.
Overblown, but good anyway.
Dated, condescending moralizing
Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin portray one of the more sordid depression stories about survival on a dance floor to bring home the bacon.
Endlessly negative, the movie goes out of its way to deny the audience any moments of joy, opting instead to retreat further and further into the phantasmagoric fever dreams of the exhausted group.
Any fan of dark, dark comedy will need to seek this film out (and it's kind of hard to find), as its influence is still palpable 30 years later.
The performances are uniformly excellent, the actors -- desperate, hungry, fraught, close to breakdown -- live their roles.
Audience Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
A dance hall requires poor drifters and lost Depression-era souls to keep dancing for prize money.
This film shouldn't work: set almost entirely in one location with the main characters fatigued to the point of almost passing out, the film's pace could slow to a standstill, much like the "dancing" we see by the end of the film. But it does work, thanks to the fantastic performances by Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. Gig Young adds some energy to the film as one of the few conscious characters.
The film is about the Depression, but it's more about class issues. Watching poor people dance to their deaths, the rich are shown getting pleasure out of others' misery, benefitting from the society that deems them superior.
Overall, with everything against it, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? nevertheless delivers.
In Depression era down-and-out Los Angeles a dance marathon on Santa Monica pier affords the opportunity to look in on the various lives involved. Overdone, yes, okay, but still moving as the cast embraces the cut out characters presented. Sarrazin, York, et al deliver the goods, but the picture belongs to Henry's little girl who manages to do Daddy proud. Gig Young as the ringmaster is nothing short of phenomenal.More
A mostly competently made, fascinatingly bleak tale concerning a dance marathon and how some very different characters are affected by its rigorous rules. This movie came so close to being a great, uncompromisingly grim look on the state of show-business, but it makes a deadly mistake at its conclusion, going a step over-the-top and opting to be poetic not naturally, but just for the sake of being so. Still, despite it taking a while to get into it, once you get adjusted to the pace it becomes enamoring. Jane Fonda couldn't be better, and she gets solid support from Michael Sarrazin as her on-again, off-again dance partner, Red Buttons as a likable sailor, and Susannah York who is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. Sydney Pollack creates a dark atmosphere for his depressing picture, but doesn't quite bring it into classic/greatness territory, as evidenced by its melodramatic finale.More
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