They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

129 mins | Drama | 10 December 1969

Director:

Sydney Pollack

Cinematographer:

Philip H. Lathrop

Production Designer:

Harry Horner

Production Company:

Palomar Pictures International, Ltd.
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HISTORY

Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, sold only 3,000 copies when it was first published in 1935, according to the 20 Nov 1969 DV review of the film, but the book was later described as a “minor classic” in the 11 Dec 1969 NYT. It was republished in 1948, 1955, and 1966, an article in the 6 Mar 1966 LAT noted. In 1947, screenwriter James Poe became interested in optioning screen rights, but his acquisition of the property was not announced until summer 1966, when a 25 Jul 1966 LAT article reported that Poe would produce, write, and make his feature film directorial debut on the project. The 10 Jan 1969 DV named Charles Chaplin as one of several other filmmakers who had previously optioned the novel.
       The original budget was cited as $850,000, and $1-$1.5 million, in 10 Jan 1968 and 27 Aug 1969 Var articles, respectively. Principal photography was initially scheduled to begin in spring 1968. Set to be produced by Palomar Pictures International, Ltd., a subsidiary of ABC Pictures Corp., the film was delayed until late fall 1968. In the meantime, Jane Fonda’s casting was announced in the 17 Jul 1968 LAT, and a 7 Oct 1968 LAT brief named Donald Sutherland as the top contender for Fonda’s co-star. Previously, the 16 Sep 1968 DV had reported that Michael Sarrazin, Alex Cord, and Scott Wilson were the three candidates being considered by producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff. Sarrazin, who was under contract with Universal Pictures at the time, was ultimately cast, as ... More Less

Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, sold only 3,000 copies when it was first published in 1935, according to the 20 Nov 1969 DV review of the film, but the book was later described as a “minor classic” in the 11 Dec 1969 NYT. It was republished in 1948, 1955, and 1966, an article in the 6 Mar 1966 LAT noted. In 1947, screenwriter James Poe became interested in optioning screen rights, but his acquisition of the property was not announced until summer 1966, when a 25 Jul 1966 LAT article reported that Poe would produce, write, and make his feature film directorial debut on the project. The 10 Jan 1969 DV named Charles Chaplin as one of several other filmmakers who had previously optioned the novel.
       The original budget was cited as $850,000, and $1-$1.5 million, in 10 Jan 1968 and 27 Aug 1969 Var articles, respectively. Principal photography was initially scheduled to begin in spring 1968. Set to be produced by Palomar Pictures International, Ltd., a subsidiary of ABC Pictures Corp., the film was delayed until late fall 1968. In the meantime, Jane Fonda’s casting was announced in the 17 Jul 1968 LAT, and a 7 Oct 1968 LAT brief named Donald Sutherland as the top contender for Fonda’s co-star. Previously, the 16 Sep 1968 DV had reported that Michael Sarrazin, Alex Cord, and Scott Wilson were the three candidates being considered by producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff. Sarrazin, who was under contract with Universal Pictures at the time, was ultimately cast, as announced in the 21 Nov 1968 DV. The 11 May 1969 LAT later noted that Sarrazin had almost lost the role due to Universal’s demands for a high “loanout” fee.
       On 2 Dec 1968, an LAT brief reported that Martin Baum, who had recently taken over as ABC Pictures Corp. president, was having second thoughts about first-time director Poe. Leonard Goldenson, Jerry Lewis, and Roger Vadim (then married to Jane Fonda) were considered as replacements before Larry Peerce was hired to take over, as reported in the 13 Feb 1969 LAT. However, Peerce was forced to drop out of the project “when he couldn’t be cleared of a Paramount pre-empt.” Sydney Pollack then replaced Peerce, as announced in the 31 Dec 1968 LAT. A 13 Feb 1969 LAT item explained that Baum had decided to fire Poe when he “found the budget was well over $3 million, and the script in no condition to use.” Possibly with the aid of another, unnamed writer, Pollack made revisions to the screenplay, according to a news brief in the 16 Jan 1969 LAT, which also noted rumors that Pollack might fire Sarrazin. Items in the 3 Feb 1969 and 13 Feb 1969 LAT confirmed that Sarrazin would remain on the film, despite Baum’s attempt to replace him with Warren Beatty, who was said to be Pollack’s first choice for the role.
       Palomar originally planned to shoot the film at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios, as noted in the 16 Oct 1968 DV, but the production company ultimately rented soundstages at the Warner Bros.—Seven Arts, Inc., studio lot in Burbank, CA. The 27 Dec 1968 DV noted that in Santa Monica, CA, location shooting was slated to take place at Ocean Park Pier, and at the derelict Aragon Ballroom on the Santa Monica Pier, the onetime setting of the The Lawrence Welk Show (ABC, 2 Jul 1955—4 Sep 1971). The following month, the 10 Jan 1969 DV stated that filming at the Aragon was cancelled due to a protest by the Teamsters Union, which had insisted on transportation for background actors to and from Santa Monica, even though the Screen Extras Guild (SEG) had reportedly agreed to waive its mandatory transportation rule. Irwin Winkler claimed that such transportation would have added $45,000 to the $3.2 million budget, and to save costs, the Aragon was constructed on Stage Four at Warner Bros.—Seven Arts, instead, as noted in the 13 Mar 1969 LAT. Set decorations included period movie posters for Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) and Five Star Final (1931, see entries), and, according to an item in the 31 Mar 1969 LAT, some scenes shot on the dancefloor entailed camerawork done by Pollack, who wore a sky-diver’s helmet with a camera attached as he roller skated ahead of actors. Principal photography began on 17 Feb 1969 and ended in Jun 1969, according to a 21 Feb 1969 DV production chart and a 25 Nov 1969 LAT article, which quoted Jane Fonda as saying (of her time on the film), “God, it was hard!” The actress claimed that playing “Gloria Beatty,” whom she described as “miserable,” led her to discover “a black side” to her own character, and, although she was opposed to “taking work home,” she had been unable to break from the character during the shoot.
       On 21 Nov 1969, a DV brief reported that test screenings had been met with favorable reviews, but nevertheless, five minutes were set to be trimmed from the film, and music was due to be changed in one sequence. The post-production work was slated to be completed at MGM before another round of sneak previews in late Nov 1969, prior to the 10 Dec 1969 New York City opening at the Fine Arts Theatre.
       A final budget of $4.5 million was cited in the 27 Aug 1969 Var. James Poe, who was due to receive a thirty-percent share of the profits, speculated that the film would not break even unless it grossed $12 million at the box office. The 6 Jan 1971 Var later listed They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? as the fifteenth-highest-grossing picture of 1970, with cumulative film rentals of $6.5 million.
       For his portrayal of “Rocky,” Gig Young received an Academy Award for Actor in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Actress (Jane Fonda), Actress in a Supporting Role (Susannah York), Art Direction, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Music (Score of a Musical Picture—original or adaptation), and Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium); and Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Susannah York), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture (Red Buttons), and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Jane Fonda).
       Marvin Paige was named as the casting director in a 17 Sep 1968 DV brief, and the following actors and actresses were listed as cast members in DV and NYT items dating from 21 Feb 1969 to 10 Apr 1969: Kippie Kovacs; Beverlee McKinsey; Murray McLeod; Eric Sevareid; and Carolan Daniels. Lionel Stander, who was originally cast as “Rocky,” as announced in the 16 Sep 1968 DV, later sued ABC Pictures Corp. for loss of the role without compensation, according to the 27 Aug 1969 Var. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Sep 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1969
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1969
p. 10.
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1969
p. 6.
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1969
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
6 Mar 1966
Section M, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1968
Section G, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1968
Section C, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
2 Dec 1968
Section F, p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1968
Section B, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jan 1969
Section G, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jan 1969
Section H, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1969
Section H, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1969
Section I, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1969
Section F, p. 1, 13.
Los Angeles Times
31 Mar 1969
Section G, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
11 Apr 1969
Section G, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1969
Section O, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 1969
Section H, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1969
Section D, p. 1, 15.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1969
Section R, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1969
Section F, p. 1, 21.
New York Times
10 Apr 1969
p. 55.
New York Times
11 Dec 1969
p. 63.
Variety
10 Jan 1968
p. 4.
Variety
23 Apr 1969
p. 19.
Variety
27 Aug 1969
p. 26.
Variety
12 Nov 1969
p. 4.
Variety
10 Dec 1969
p. 75.
Variety
6 Jan 1971
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler-Sydney Pollack Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st cam asst
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Sketch artist
MUSIC
Mus and orch arr
Orch arr
Mus ed
SOUND
Boom op
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Marathon choreography & supv
MAKEUP
Makeup
Body makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Miss York's hairstyles
Miss Fonda's hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Dialogue coach
Stills
Gaffer
Casting
Casting
Casting
Main titles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy (New York, 1935).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Easy Come Easy Go," music and lyrics by John Green and Edward Heyman.
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 December 1969
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 December 1969
Los Angeles opening: 17 December 1969
Production Date:
17 February--June 1969
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
129
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22402
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During the Depression, while awaiting execution for the murder of an acquaintance, Robert Syverton recalls the circumstances of the crime: Wandering on an amusement pier beside the Pacific Ocean, he recalls when, as a child, he witnessed the destruction of a favorite horse. Robert is then attracted to a dance marathon about to begin in the dilapidated Aragon Ballroom. As he watches, a contestant is disqualified because of an ominous cough. Pressed by the man's aggressive partner, cynical Gloria Beatty, host Rocky recruits Robert as a substitute. Among the throngs competing for the prize are a middle-aged sailor suffering from heart trouble; aspirant actress Alice and her partner, Joel; an impoverished farm worker, James, and his pregnant wife, Ruby; and other destitute couples. As the marathon continues, the weaker pairs are quickly eliminated, while the vulnerabilities of the stronger contestants are observed and exploited by the master of ceremonies. The theft of Alice's alternate gown stimulates mutual suspicion. After observing Alice and Robert together, Gloria takes Joel as her partner. Joel, however, receives a job offer and quits the role. Gloria's next partner is the sailor. To rekindle the spectators' enthusiasm, Rocky stages a series of derbies in which the exhausted contestants, clad in track suits, must circle the floor. In these races the last three couples are eliminated. As Gloria and the sailor participate, her partner has a heart attack. Undeterred, she lifts the man to her back and crosses the finish line. Horrified, Alice sequesters herself in the shower, where she suffers a mental breakdown. Robert and Gloria are again partners. Inspired, Rocky suggests that they marry during the marathon. When Gloria refuses, the host reveals the ... +


During the Depression, while awaiting execution for the murder of an acquaintance, Robert Syverton recalls the circumstances of the crime: Wandering on an amusement pier beside the Pacific Ocean, he recalls when, as a child, he witnessed the destruction of a favorite horse. Robert is then attracted to a dance marathon about to begin in the dilapidated Aragon Ballroom. As he watches, a contestant is disqualified because of an ominous cough. Pressed by the man's aggressive partner, cynical Gloria Beatty, host Rocky recruits Robert as a substitute. Among the throngs competing for the prize are a middle-aged sailor suffering from heart trouble; aspirant actress Alice and her partner, Joel; an impoverished farm worker, James, and his pregnant wife, Ruby; and other destitute couples. As the marathon continues, the weaker pairs are quickly eliminated, while the vulnerabilities of the stronger contestants are observed and exploited by the master of ceremonies. The theft of Alice's alternate gown stimulates mutual suspicion. After observing Alice and Robert together, Gloria takes Joel as her partner. Joel, however, receives a job offer and quits the role. Gloria's next partner is the sailor. To rekindle the spectators' enthusiasm, Rocky stages a series of derbies in which the exhausted contestants, clad in track suits, must circle the floor. In these races the last three couples are eliminated. As Gloria and the sailor participate, her partner has a heart attack. Undeterred, she lifts the man to her back and crosses the finish line. Horrified, Alice sequesters herself in the shower, where she suffers a mental breakdown. Robert and Gloria are again partners. Inspired, Rocky suggests that they marry during the marathon. When Gloria refuses, the host reveals the contest's fraudulent nature. From the prize will be deducted numerous expenses, leaving the winner with nothing. Rocky boasts that he stole Alice's dress to excite spectator interest and to stimulate the rivalrous instincts of the contestants. Disgusted with this duplicity, the couple departs. Outside Gloria attempts to shoot herself, but she cannot pull the trigger. When she requests his help, Robert obliges. Questioned by the police as to the motive for the murder, Robert can only say, "They shoot horses, don't they?" Meanwhile, the marathon continues. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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