The Lusty Men

The Lusty Men is a 1952 western film made by Wald-Krasna productions and RKO Radio Pictures. The film stars Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, Arthur Kennedy, and Arthur Hunnicutt. It was directed by Nicholas Ray and produced by Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna from a screenplay by David Dortort, Horace McCoy, Alfred Hayes, Andrew Solt, and Jerry Wald based on the novel by Claude Stanush. The music score was by Roy Webb and the cinematography by Lee Garmes.

The Lusty Men
Original film poster
Directed byNicholas Ray
Produced byJerry Wald
Norman Krasna
Written byDavid Dortort
Alfred Hayes
Horace McCoy
Andrew Solt
Jerry Wald
Based onKing of the Cowpokes
1946 Life
by Claude Stanush
StarringSusan Hayward
Robert Mitchum
Arthur Kennedy
Arthur Hunnicutt
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyLee Garmes
Edited byRalph Dawson
Wald/Krasna Productions
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • October 24, 1952 (1952-10-24) (US)[1]
Running time
113 mins
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million (US rentals)[2]

The film's world premiere was at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas.[3]


When longtime professional rodeo competitor Jeff McCloud (Robert Mitchum) is injured by a Brahma bull he was trying to ride, he decides to quit. He hitchhikes to his childhood home, a decrepit place now owned by Jeremiah (Burt Mustin). Run down as it is, it is the dream home for Wes Merritt (Arthur Kennedy) and his wife Louise (Susan Hayward). They are painstakingly saving up the money to buy it from Wes's meager wages as a cowhand. Wes recognizes Jeff as a once-prominent rodeo rider, and introduces himself, then helps Jeff gets a job at the same ranch. Wes has competed in some local rodeos, but has the ambition to do more, and wants Jeff to help him improve his skills.

Wes enters a local rodeo behind his wife's back. When he does well, he decides to join the rodeo circuit, with Jeff as his partner and trainer. Louise is wholeheartedly against the idea, but goes along. She makes her husband promise to quit once they have saved enough for the house.

As Louise becomes acquainted with rodeo life, she becomes more and more disenchanted. Jeff's friend Booker Davis (Arthur Hunnicutt), once a champion competitor himself, is now a crippled old man with little to show for his efforts. When Buster Burgess (Walter Coy) is gored and killed by a bull, leaving a bitter widow (Lorna Thayer), Louise can no longer bear to watch her husband compete. However, Wes is seduced by his great success and the money he is winning. He refuses to quit when they have enough for the house.

Matters come to a head when Babs (Eleanor Todd) invites Wes to a party she is throwing and makes a play for him. Louise fights back by putting on her only good dress and going to the party with Jeff. She pours a drink on her rival's head before leaving. In the hallway, Jeff asks her if she could love another man, but she is true to Wes. Coming on the tail end of the conversation, Wes tells Jeff that he is tired of taking all the risks and giving him half the prize money.

Jeff decides to go back to the rodeo, despite not being in shape. He gains back Wes's respect by doing well. Then, in the bronc riding event, his foot gets stuck in the stirrup after a successful ride, and he is fatally injured. Seeing this, Wes comes to his senses and quits.


Critical reception

This film currently holds 100% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with the average 8.2/10.[4] Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader calls it "A masterpiece by Nicholas Ray—perhaps the most melancholy and reflective of his films (1952)." [5] Gary Tooze of DVDbeaver also highly praises the film: "This is one of the best westerns - period. Mitchum is at his very best. It carries a documentary-style presence at times but is steeped in emotion. Absolute masterpiece."[6]

See also


  1. "The Lusty Men: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  2. 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  3. Thompson, Frank. Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910. San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Company, 2002.
  4. The Lusty Men, retrieved 2018-08-06
  5. Kehr, Dave. "The Lusty Men". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  6. "The Lusty Men - Susan Hayward". Retrieved 2018-08-06.
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