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The Lusty Men

One of Robert Mitchum’s greatest performances in Nicholas Ray’s subtle, evocative portrayal of the lives and modest dreams of proud rodeo performers.

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  • Director Nicholas Ray
  • Producer Jerry Wald
  • Screenwriters David Dortort, Horace McCoy
  • With Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt
  • USA 1952
  • 113 mins

Beautifully restored by Warner Bros. from the original negative and materials held in the Royal Belgian Film Archive, this is not only one of Nicholas Ray’s finest films, but it boasts what is surely its star’s greatest performance. As former rodeo champion and ranch-hand Jeff McCloud, who takes up with the likewise rootless Merritts – ostensibly to train Wes (Kennedy) in rodeo but also, perhaps, to be close to Louise (Hayward) – Robert Mitchum provides a magnificently naturalistic portrait of watchful masculinity, McCloud’s stoic pride barely concealing an aching need to belong and be loved. Thanks to superb performances and to Lee Garmes’ atmospheric camerawork, Ray achieves a rare authenticity in evoking the lives and modest dreams of those traipsing the post-war rodeo circuit; at the same time, he handles the dynamics of the relationship between Jeff, Louise and Wes with great subtlety and sensitivity, so that the final scenes are deeply affecting.

Geoff Andrew

Restored by Warner Bros. in collaboration with The Film Foundation and The Nicholas Ray Foundation.

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