Cast & Crew
After being roughed up by a Brahma bull, veteran rodeo champion Jeff McCloud retires from the circuit and returns to his childhood home in Texas. Jeff is surprised to discover that his parents' rundown ranch is now owned by the aging Jeremiah Watrus, who indulges Jeff as he reminisces about his youth. Before Jeff leaves Jeremiah's, a young couple, Louise and Wes Merritt, who are interested in buying the place, drive up. When Wes, a ranchhand for a neighboring outfit, hears Jeff's name, he excitedly introduces himself and later helps the penniless cowboy secure a job with his boss. That evening, while dining at the Merritts', Jeff talks about his successful career in rodeo and his reckless way with women and money. Louise, a former waitress, criticizes Jeff's limited ambitions and proudly states that she and Wes have saved $1,100 toward the $5,000 purchase price on Jeremiah's ranch. Later, Wes reveals to Jeff his plan to earn easy money on the rodeo circuit and persuades Jeff to help him train. When Louise discovers that Wes has used $125 of their savings to enter the San Angelo, Texas, rodeo, she explodes in anger, denouncing the sport as too dangerous. Despite Louise's protests, Wes competes at San Angelo and, with Jeff's backing, wins an impressive $410. Flush with victory, Wes then informs Louise that he has quit his ranch job and is joining the rodeo circuit, with Jeff as his coach. Sure that Jeff, who is to get half of Wes's winnings, is behind the scheme, Louise confronts him and calls him a "saddle tramp." Jeff is nonplussed by Louise's insults, pointing out that she, too, "latched onto" Wes to better her life. Unable to dissuade Wes, Louise decides to accompany him, and the three set out the next morning. Upon arriving that night at the rodeo camp in Tucson, Jeff stops a fight instigated by the drunken Buster Burgess, a rodeo performer whose recent goring by a bull has scarred him physically and mentally. Jeff then reunites with his old friends, Booker Davis and his teenage daughter Rusty. The next day, Buster's long-suffering wife Grace befriends Louise, as does trick rider Rosemary Maddox, Jeff's old flame. After Rosemary warns Louise about Jeff's womanizing ways, Jeff flirts with Louise in the shower stall of Rosemary's trailer, but is rebuffed. At the rodeo, Wes enters five events, including bull riding, a stunt he has never before attempted. Louise is terrified when she hears Wes's name announced for the bull riding, but Wes stuns the crowd by winning the event. Later, Wes, Louise and Jeff celebrate at a rodeo-sponsored party, where Wes's success attracts the attention of the seductive, young Babs. Spotting Babs flirting with Wes, Louise kicks her would-be rival in the rear end. Grace then arrives at the party and, distraught because Buster again was gored by a bull, starts ranting about the cruel nature of rodeo. The next morning, an apologetic Grace declares that she and Buster are quitting the circuit and sells her trailer to Wes. Over the next several months, Wes competes successfully in a series of rodeos, quickly building up his savings. Upon reaching the Annual Pendleton Roundup in Oregon, Louise reveals to Jeff that Jeremiah has agreed to sell his ranch for $4,100, the amount she and Wes have saved. When Louise tells Wes the news, he refuses to give up rodeo for the boring life of a rancher and storms off to a party hosted by Babs. Although angry, Louise dons her most alluring dress and, with an admiring Jeff in tow, heads for Babs's. There, she brawls with her rival in front of a drunken Wes and is thrown out. In the hallway outside Babs's apartment, Jeff comforts Louise and admits that he has loved her from the beginning. After Louise gently rejects Jeff, she begs him to do what he can to save Wes. Wes then sees them together and, jealous, calls Jeff a coward for not competing. Jeff slugs Wes, and the next day, enters all the events in the rodeo. Although Jeff amazes the crowd with his enduring skills, he slips off his saddle during the bucking bronco ride and punctures his lung. As Rusty watches tearfully, Jeff dies in Louise's arms. Later, stunned by his mentor's death, Wes announces that he is returning to Texas with Louise. Wes then offers Booker and Rusty jobs on his new ranch, and they happily accept.
Jim Van Horn
Mary Jane Carey
Albert S. D'agostino
Thomas S. Gries
The Lusty Men
Co-adapted by former cowboy David Dortort (a creator of television's Bonanza and High Chaparral) from a Life magazine story by Claude Stanush about rodeo champions Bob Crosby and Casey Tibbs, The Lusty Men uses footage from actual rodeos to create perhaps the most convincing and atmospheric portrait of rodeo life ever contained in a commercial movie. Nicholas Ray directs with the eye for the offbeat that distinguished such personal films as Johnny Guitar (1954) and In a Lonely Place (1950).
Mitchum plays a banged-up former rodeo star forced into retirement after being gored by a bull. He's hired by Kennedy to train him so he, too, can become a champion. Once the sparks fly between Mitchum and the headstrong Hayward, Kennedy challenges his mentor to a showdown in the rodeo ring.
To give the film its gritty, semi-documentary feeling, Ray spent months shooting on the rodeo circuit. He reportedly had only the bare outline of a script when filming began, so that scenes were written one night and shot the following day. Despite the hectic pace, Ray took so much time with individual scenes that Mitchum nicknamed him "The Mystic" because of his habit of staring silently at the actors as he led them to probe the complexities of their characters.
Susan Hayward, who was borrowed from 20th-Century-Fox at great expense to RKO, was leery of the project from the start since her part was practically non-existent and had to be completely rewritten and expanded once she signed on. According to Lee Server in his biography, Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care, Nicholas Ray tried to stimulate her interest in the role: "He zeroed in on a mutual enjoyment of Thomas Wolfe - and certainly drew from her an excellent performance, but she remained typically tempestuous and cranky - Mitchum called her "the Old Gray Mare" - and on one occasion held up production when she refused to play a scene as written." She took issue with the dialogue proclaiming her character had the foulest mouth she'd ever heard in her life. Eventually, they managed to come up with new lines that met with Hayward's approval.
Unlike Hayward, Mitchum and Arthur Kennedy relished the macho rodeo atmosphere surrounding the shoot and even violated the terms of their studio's insurance coverage by performing some reckless stunts on horses and bulls. Mitchum recalled, (in Server's biography) "I get on...and they all say, 'It's OK, he's just a retired old bronc,' and this thing is turned loose...and I can't get off him. They'd go in and try and pick me off and my horse would turn around and kick the pickup horse...I'm bleeding from my hair by this time.." Even Ray felt compelled to show he had what it took, hopping aboard a bucking bronco at the San Francisco Cow Palace. "I guess," he said, "we all have a little of that wildness in us."
Mitchum, who usually pretended indifference to his own performances, responded well to Ray's painstaking direction and requested to see the film when it was two-thirds complete. Ray later recalled that Mitchum was so proud of what he saw that the two went to a bar to celebrate. Ray's final memory of a drunken evening was Mitchum encountering a pair of FBI agents, borrowing a gun from one of them and firing it into a stack of dirty dishes.
Producers: Jerry Wald, Norman Krasna (uncredited)
Director: Nicholas Ray
Screenplay: David Dortort, Horace McCoy, Alfred Hayes (uncredited), Andrew Solt (uncredited), Jerry Wald (uncredited), from story by Claude Stanush
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Alfred Herman
Original Music: Roy Webb
Editing: Ralph Dawson
Principal Cast: Susan Hayward (Louise Merritt), Robert Mitchum (Jeff McCloud), Arthur Kennedy (Wes Merritt), Arthur Hunnicutt (Booker Davis), Frank Faylen (Al Dawson), Walter Coy (Buster Burgess).
BW-114m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe
The Lusty Men
The working titles of this film were Cowpoke and This Man Is Mine. The film's opening credits are superimposed over footage of a rodeo parade. Claude Stanush's screen story was inspired by his "King of the Cowboys," an article about a cowboy named Bob Crosby, which was published in the May 13, 1946 issue of Life magazine. To research his script, screenwriter Horace McCoy spent five months on the rodeo circuit, according to a Los Angeles Daily News item. Modern sources note that co-screenwriter and novelist David Dortort was a former cowboy.
In late 1950, Hollywood Reporter announced that Robert Parrish was to be the picture's director, and George Montgomery one of the male stars. According to modern sources, Parrish worked with Stanush on the story for about six weeks, and helped Dortort complete a first-draft treatment. Dissatisfied with the treatment, Parrish went on to another project, and writer Richard Wormser was hired to redo the treatment. Modern sources claim that after Parrish's departure, producer Jerry Wald considered John Huston, Raoul Walsh and Anthony Mann as directors.
Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: By late August 1951, director Nicholas Ray and star Robert Mitchum were hired for the project. RKO assigned cinematographer George E. Diskant to the crew in September 1950; it is not known if Diskant worked on a second unit, or was replaced by Lee Garmes prior to principal photography. Rodeo footage was shot at the Sheriff's Annual Rodeo in the Los Angeles Coliseum, in Tucson and Phoenix, AZ, San Angelo, TX, the Denver Rodeo in Colorado, and at the Annual Pendleton Roundup in Oregon. Exterior scenes were filmed in Agoura, CA. According to Hollywood Reporter, Wald and co-producer Norman Krasna acquired exclusive screen rights to the September 1951 Pendleton Roundup and promised to make the film's stars "available for participation in the rodeo."
An April 1952 Los Angeles Times item reported that Mitchum did his own riding and bulldogging in the film and was planning to become a "full-fledged rodeo star" in late spring 1952, if arrangements with RKO, his contract studio, were worked out. Actor John Mallory was Mitchum's brother. Mallory changed his professional name from his real surname, John Mitchum, to Mallory in 1951, but changed it back to Mitchum in 1953. Although Hollywood Reporter announced that ranch scenes had been planned for Dahlert, TX, and Roswell, NM, it is not known if any location shooting took place there. RKO borrowed Susan Hayward from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Although both Paul E. Burns and Emmett Lynn were listed by CBCS in the role of "Travis Waite," that character was not identified in the viewed print. According to a September 5, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was to have its premiere on October 1, 1952 in San Antonio, followed by openings in Houston, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The Lusty Men marked the last collaboration between Wald-Krasna Productions and RKO.
According to modern sources, because of Hayward's schedule, principal photography had to begin before a shooting script was completed. Consequently, Ray and Mitchum wrote much of the story as filming went along. Some scenes were written by Wald, Alfred Hayes and Andrew Solt. Wald ordered that the ending be changed to have "Jeff" reunited with a former sweetheart instead of dying. Modern sources report that, after the revised scene was shot, Mitchum claimed to have sent his secretary to steal the reel and throw it in an incinerator. The original ending, in which Jeff succumbs to his injuries, then was shot. Modern sources also note that, during principal photography, Ray became ill and Robert Parrish took over direction for a few days. According to modern sources, rodeo performers Gerald Roberts and Jerry Ambler appeared in the picture.
Released in United States 2013
Released in United States Fall October 1952
Released in United States June 1989
Released in United States 2013 (Revivals)
Released in United States June 1989 (Shown at Film Forum in New York City June 3 & 4, 1989.)
Released in United States Fall October 1952
Shown at Film Forum in New York City June 3 & 4, 1989.