Sog.: dal racconto di Claude Stanush. Scen.: David Dortort, Horace McCoy. F.: Lee Garmes. M.: Ralph Dawson. Scgf.: Albert D’Agostino, Alfred Herman. Mus.: Roy Webb. Su.: Phil Brigandi, Clem Portman. Int.: 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), Maria Hart (Rosemary Maddox). Prod.: Thomas S. Gries, Jerry Wald e Norman Krasna per Wald/Krasna Productions. Pri. pro.: 24 ottobre 1952. 35mm. D.: 113′. Bn.
The Lusty Men is near-impossible to categorise into any single genre: as a rodeo movie, it is closely linked to the Western, but at the same time, the plot is at least partly a love story, while the semi-documentary style of most of its rodeo scenes lends it the feel of a non-fictional sociological study. Indeed, the shots beneath the opening credits of a typically American parade (featuring Indians as well as cowboys and drum majorettes) are a hint that, on one level at least, the film may be seen as being about America itself; this interpretation is justified by the account of independence, ambition, success and failure – in other words, of the American Dream – that is at the core of the narrative. Ray himself described the film as, in part, a response to the desire of many Americans during the postwar years to settle down with a family in a home of their own, and it certainly exudes a mood of authenticity in its unromantic portrait of poverty, rootlessness and people’s desperate dreams of a better life. At the same time, as in On Dangerous Ground, this tendency towards downbeat realism is allied to a lyrical poeticism verging on the abstract, and the depiction of everyday life in the rodeo world is partly a framing device for a meditation on moral and metaphysical questions. […]
Arguably the most elegiac of Ray’s films – thanks partly to Lee Garmes’s spare, sombre monochrome camerawork – The Lusty Men also pointed the way forward, with its ballad-like structure, to the loose, less conventional plots of films as diverse as Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause, The True Story of Jesse James, Wind Across the Everglades and The Savage Innocents. […] Ray effectively used and probed Susan Hayward’s aggression and Arthur Kennedy’s cockiness, and found new dimensions in Robert Mitchum’s moody, masculine taciturnity to uncover an aching vulnerability: watchful, sensitive, tough, but never once stereotypically macho, Jeff McCloud is perhaps Mitchum’s finest role ever, certainly his most moving and dignified, thanks largely, one suspects, to the director’s ability to empathise fully with loner figures. At every turn, Ray and his actors appear to understand exactly what they are doing (surprising, perhaps, given the circumstances of the film’s making): as painted through images, dialogue, décor and performances, the portrait of rodeo life is never less than completely plausible, while the deeper themes – of love, loss and redemption, of self-respect and self-sacrifice – are allowed to emerge naturally, almost organically, from what is for the most part a relatively undramatic plot about men wanting to exchange their lives with one another. The film’s beauty, in fact, derives from the deceptively simple way in which Ray examines, through the unusual, colourful context of the rodeo world, a universal predicament: the need for love, respect and a home; the need, in other words, to feel that one belongs.
Geoff Andrew, The Films of Nicholas Ray, BFI Publishing, London 2004
Restored by Warner Bros in collaboration with The Film Foundation and The Nicholas Ray Foundation. Restored from the original 35mm camera negative using traditional photochemical methods. The original soundtrack negative had been destroyed, therefore sound restoration was completed from a 35mm nitrate re-record negative held by the Royal Film Archive of Belgium. Warner Bros also used a nitrate picture dupe from Belgium to replace sections damaged in the original camera negative