Ride the Pink Horse (1947): A heart full of soul

Ride the Pink Horse (1946)

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose… “

Universal International Pictures
Director: Robert Montgomery
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Cast:
Robert Montgomery as Lucky Gagin
Thomas Gomez (AAN) as Pancho
Wanda Hendrix as Pila
Andrea King as Marjorie Lundeen
Fred Clark as Frank Hugo
Art Smith as Bill Retz
Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, and Joan Harrison
Based on the novel Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes (New York, 1946)
Music: Frank Skinner

A bitter disillusioned WW2 vet, Lucky Gagin, arrives in a New Mexico town aiming to blackmail a high-stakes racketeer, and with the help of two locals and a federal agent, he finds more than he bargained for. From the wistfully up-beat Latino rhythm that accompanies the opening credits over a desert vista, you know this movie will take you places beyond noir. This is a film imbued with a deep humanity so rare and moving that you don’t want it to end – the final scene of departure is wrenchingly personal – ‘so long? ah is a sad word, but you make me happy if is not too long’.

The great script from Ben Hecht, elegant direction by star Robert Montgomery, and accomplished photography from DP Russell Metty, are suffused with an aching regret for the loss of a better simpler world, tempered with an idealism and optimistic faith in the integrity and wisdom of ordinary people .  The cast is very strong with impressive turns by all the major players. An 18-yo Wanda Hendrix is beguiling as a young peasant girl on her first visit to a big town, who attaches herself to Gagin, and Gomez is superb as Pancho, the poor merry-go-round operator who befriends Gagin.

They don’t make movies like this any more. As John Fawell says in his book , THE HIDDEN ART OF HOLLYWOOD: In Defense of the Studio Era Film (2008):  “Hollywood aimed at idealism, it’s true, but its idealism is subsumed under its larger aesthetic of understatement. The best Hollywood directors thought of idealism as they did of sex and violence, all potent ingredients that needed to be doled out carefully. And they had the sense that idealism, to be effective, had to give room to a certain degree of pessimism.” (p 111).

7 Comments

  1. DeeDee

    Hi! Tony,
    When a lot of great things are happening in a post I always point them out…Here goes:
    Great poster…from the 1947 film…Ride The Pink Horse.

    Great or very interesting film click…from the 1947 film…Ride The Pink Horse.

    Great review…I especially, like or agree with author John Fawell’s quote about directors and idealism.
    By the way, I recently, purchased a film entitled Slattery Hurricane (That I have never watched)and I think that it was tranferred from a 16mm film to DVD…Because the picture quality is near pristine for a film that have never been placed on DVD or is rarely, aired on television.

    Postscript: If you click on the following link you will see a film on 16mm that your readers who read this review may want to purchase.

    Robert Montgomery

    Take care!
    DeeDee ;)

  2. DeeDee

    Oops!…I meant to say…Great or very interesting film clip and not click.

    “Director Robert Montgomery also plays ex-G.I. Gagin, looking to revenge the death of his war buddy “Shorty”. Gagin’s quest takes him to a small village in rural New Mexico, reaffirming the notion that murder & mayhem do not need the polluted city landscape to create Film Noir. Wanda Hendrix, as an infatuated indian peasant, gives her best screen performance ever. Thomas Gomez won an Oscar nomination for his role as ‘Poncho’ the owner of the carousel and Gagin’s spiritual guardian.”

    Oh! The disillusion vet(eran) returning home after WWII…plot!
    DeeDee ;)

  3. Yes Tony, with the collaboration of Montgomery, Hecht, Metty and composer Frank Skinner, one can’t at all be surprised, but I am delighted to see such an enthusiastic assessment here that typically says a lot more than the conventional things, especially th epassage there by John Fawell, who rightly contends that idealism can only be realized with the perspective by pessimism. Yeah, how true.

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