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Western films, from silent to today

The Lusty Men (1952)

Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy are Louise and Wes Merritt, a young couple looking forward to settling down on their own ranch one day.

Robert Mitchum is Jeff McCloud, a retired rodeo champ who takes a job on the same ranch where Wes is a hired hand.

Jeff’s presence gets Wes thinking that their might be a quicker way to get that ranch — by starring in the rodeo where there’s better money to be had.

So they hatch a plan. They’ll be partners on the rodeo circuit, with Jeff teaching Wes the tricks of the trade and pocketing half the money he wins.

But if the money’s better as a rodeo champ, the risks are greater too, and they are risks Louise would rather not see her husband take.

She reluctantly follows her husband from rodeo to rodeo, mostly to make sure he doesn’t wind up a saddle tramp like McCloud did after 18 years riding broncs.

What she doesn’t know is that McCloud agreed to become her husband’s partner partly in hope that she’d fall out of love with Wes and in love with him.

Review:

One of the better rodeo Westerns you’ll find, even if it is a bit predictable, with solid performances from all three leads.

Kennedy is quickly lured into the rodeo lifestyle, where you risk your life by day and party away your winnings at night.

Hayward is the young woman who never knew a real home growing up but yearns for a quiet family life, a dream threatened by her husband’s rodeo ambitions.

And Mitchum is the injured rider who can’t resist the urge to hop into the saddle once more, especially after Kennedy accuses him of mooching.

The film also features an excellent performance by Arthur Hunnicutt as Booker Davis, another retired rodeo champ who’s managed to reach old age in spite of suffering a host of injuries.

Arthur Kennedy as Wes Merritt with Susan Hayward as Louis Merritt in The Lusty Men (1952)Directed by:
Nicholas Ray

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
Carol Nugent … Rusty Davis
Maria Hart … Rosemary Maddox
Lorna Thayer … Grace Burgess
Burt Mustin … Jeremiah Watrus
Karen Randle … Ginny Logan
Jimmie Dodd … Red Logan
Eleanor Todd … Babs

Runtime: 113 min.

Memorable lines:

Wes Merritt: “A fella’s bankroll could get fat quick rodeoing.”
Jeff McCloud: “Nah. Chicken today; feathers tomorrow.”
Merritt: “Not if he played it smart when he had the chicken.”

Louise Merritt: “You’re not the only guy who tried to take me from behind the counter in that hash house and set me up in business. You ain’t the biggest. You ain’t the strongest. You ain’t the richest. And you ain’t the prettiest. But you’re the only one wanted what I wanted — a decent, steady life.”

Jeff McCloud, explaining his partnership with Wes Merritt: “I just want to see one guy in this world get what he wants.”

Louise Merrett to Jeff McCloud: “I picked Wes out to marry. And I picked him real slow and real careful. And I didn’t pick him for the wild horses he could ride or the gold buckles he might win. But if he still wants to go (rodeoing) in the morning, I’m going with him. Because there’s one thing I’m not going to let you do. And that’s turn him into a saddle tramp like yourself.”

Wes: “Sure is the worst lookin’ leg I’ve ever seen.”
Booker: “Twenty years of rodeoing done that. Leg busted nine times. Kneecap five and the ankle four.”
Jeff: “Booker’s got about one of the most busted legs in the world.”
Booker: “No one will beat it unless they jump off one of those New York skyscrapers.”

Drunk girl to Wes: “One little ride, Wes.”
Louise: “Beat it, sister, he’s got a horse.”

Jeff McCloud to Louise Merritt: “Lady, the world’s full of prizes. Every fella likes to take a shot at ’em. If he misses fine. At least he tried.”

Jeff after punching Wes, and knocking him down: “You bounce real good.”

Ranch owner: “How are you with horses? Can you break colts without makin’ broncs out of them?”
Jeff McCloud: “”I got a special callin’ for handlin’ horses like some folks got the callin’ for bein’ a preacher. I can make them do anything but talk Mexican.”

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