Saturday, February 25, 2012

Its That Damned Old Rodeo

When it comes to actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, not enough people mention Robert Mitchum. He had true screen presence, making his craft look easy. His strong, willful personality was often reflected onscreen, and with The Lusty Men he gives a performance that he executes with such relative ease you then realize that his acting and himself are one and the same. It could also speak to why he was often overlooked, aside from the fact that Mitchum made one too many B-movie style film noirs. Famous director Nicholas Ray recognized Mitchum's talent, and casted him in The Lusty Men, a movie about the modern day rodeo cowboys, men of the west in a time when the west had been tamed.

Interjected into this movie is a sly love triangle, as a lowly ranch hand named Wes gets a taste for the rodeo thanks to one Jeff McCloud, an old rodeo star who wanders back to his old town after years of being in rodeos. Completely broke, Jeff takes job at the ranch Wes is employed at, and quickly notices Wes' lovely wife Louise Merritt (Susan Hayward). Once Wes starts being in rodeos, things completely changes between him and Louise, resulting in a rather subtle love triangle that develops between her, Wes, and Jeff. This only makes the film more interesting, as Wes starts to not only stray from Louise, but experience personality changes that Jeff notices as Wes becomes more and more successful.

Ultimately this is Ray not only mediating upon the dangers and perils of developing an addiction to something as dangerous as being in a rodeo and how easily someone can suddenly change as a result of success. In this case, its for the worse, as Wes starts to drive away the people he cares about-first Louise, then later on Jeff. Thus leading to a final act that is rather dramatic and even tragic, which is a bit unexpected, perhaps. Mitchum turns in another fine performance here, taking his real persona and showcasing it onscreen in the character of Jeff, who in one magnificent scene tells Louise about how he feels he has wasted his earnings, and his life, with very little to show for it. If anything, Jeff in that particular moment is warning Louise to try and get Wes out while she still can.

Another remarkable aspect of this movie is how Ray mixes in both real and fake rodeo footage, thus giving the viewer an actual authentic look at modern day cowboy culture. In doing so, Ray give this film an added dose of realism, giving a window into the world of the cowboy's gritty determination to win. Such honestly is to be admired, for this film is quite true and really its brashness was perhaps Ray's own way of showing his opinions on life and love. 90

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