Jeff is a rodeo rider broken by one-too many steers and over-reaching for the American Dream. He falls in with a young rancher who has the two things Jeff could never grasp: a clod of earth and the love of a good wife. Yet the rodeo circuit’s fast money are also luring the couple.
A western for after the death of the west, about a toxic combo of adrenaline highs, money rolling in, and masculine pride. It would make an intriguing double bill with something by Howard Hawks—Only Angels Have Wings, say—because whereas Hawks romanticizes men at work, Nicholas Ray sees bruised pathologies. Beautifully scripted and shot all around, with full use of Robert Mitchum's outsider seen-it-all charisma.
Rich in emotional resonances, this beautifully shot production stands as one of the finest rodeo pictures ever made, stressing the hardships and constant danger of life on the circuit. Ray's genius as a director included his ability to understand 'character' and in this project he was gifted the rich character of McCloud, an ex-rodeo champ who mentors a rookie performer. A touching, humane and rather wonderful film..
"Everything always proceeds from a simple situation where two or three people encounter some elementary and fundamental concepts of life. And the real struggle takes place in only one of them, against the interior demon of violence, or of a more secret sin, which seems linked to man and his solitude." - Rivette
A rodeo film by a master of noir and melodrama. In this film, though, Nicholas Ray takes his time a bit and lets us sink into the rodeo life while relationships develop and alliances shift.
Robert Mitchum is well cast as laconic, cagey Jeff McCloud. Susan Hayward plays a strong, self-assured Louise Merritt.
Decent piece of insight on rodeo subculture, especially detailing it with semi-documentary riding sequences. Not much of a story, though, but enough is squeezed out of it to keep it going all the way through.