AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Lusty Men
Alternate Title: Cowpoke
Director: Nicholas Ray (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1952
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 24 Oct 1952
Production Date:   began 27 Dec 1951
Duration (in mins):   112-113
Duration (in feet):   10,161
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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 King (Ginny Logan)  
    Jimmy Dodd (Red Logan)  
    Eleanor Todd (Babs)  
    Riley Hill (Hoag)  
    Bob Bray (Fritz)  
    Sheb Wooley (Slim)  
    Wayne Burson (Cowboy)  
    Dick Farnsworth (Cowboy)  
    Rocky Shahan (Cowboy)  
    John McKee (Cowboy)  
    Bob Burrows (Cowboy)  
    George Ross (Cowboy)  
    Carol Henry (Cowboy)  
    Jim Van Horn (Cowboy)  
    LeRoy Johnson (Cowboy)  
    Wally Russell (Cowboy)  
    Marshall Reed (Jim-Bob)  
    Sally Yarnell (Girl)  
    Jean Stratton (Girl)  
    Nancy Moore (Girl)  
    Louise Saraydar (Girl)  
    Mary Jane Carey (Girl)  
    Alice Kirby (Girl)  
    Benny Burt (Slicker)  
    Joey Ray (Slicker)  
    Mike Lally (Slicker)  
    Ralph Volkie (Slicker)  
    Dick Crockett (Slicker)  
    Dennis Moore (Committee man)  
    George Wallace (Committee man)  
    Chuck Roberson (Tall cowboy)  
    Mike Ragan (Karl Inman)  
    Edward McNally (Wise guy)  
    Les Sanborn (Jim Bob Tyler)  
    Sam Flint (Doctor)  
    Richard Reeves (Emmett Vaughn)  
    Roy Glenn (Cook)  
    Glenn Strange (Rig Ferris)  
    George Sherwood (Vet)  
    Denver Pyle (Niko)  
    Frank Matts (Lansing)  
    John Mallory (Jack Nemo)  
    Jack Braddock (Slim Avery)  
    Sam Reynoso (Barrel clown)  
    William Holmes (Rodeo announcer)  
    Charles Parkinson (Rodeo announcer)  
    Barbara Blaine    
    Hazel Boyne    
    Ralph Stein    
    Chili Williams    
    William Bailey    
    Paul Kreibich    

Summary: After being roughed up by a Brahma bull, veteran rodeo champion Jeff McCloud retires from the circuit and returns to his childhood home in Texas. Jeff is surprised to discover that his parents' rundown ranch is now owned by the aging Jeremiah Watrus, who indulges Jeff as he reminisces about his youth. Before Jeff leaves Jeremiah's, a young couple, Louise and Wes Merritt, who are interested in buying the place, drive up. When Wes, a ranchhand for a neighboring outfit, hears Jeff's name, he excitedly introduces himself and later helps the penniless cowboy secure a job with his boss. That evening, while dining at the Merritts', Jeff talks about his successful career in rodeo and his reckless way with women and money. Louise, a former waitress, criticizes Jeff's limited ambitions and proudly states that she and Wes have saved $1,100 toward the $5,000 purchase price on Jeremiah's ranch. Later, Wes reveals to Jeff his plan to earn easy money on the rodeo circuit and persuades Jeff to help him train. When Louise discovers that Wes has used $125 of their savings to enter the San Angelo, Texas, rodeo, she explodes in anger, denouncing the sport as too dangerous. Despite Louise's protests, Wes competes at San Angelo and, with Jeff's backing, wins an impressive $410. Flush with victory, Wes then informs Louise that he has quit his ranch job and is joining the rodeo circuit, with Jeff as his coach. Sure that Jeff, who is to get half of Wes's winnings, is behind the scheme, Louise confronts him and calls him a "saddle tramp." Jeff is nonplussed by Louise's insults, pointing out that she, too, "latched onto" Wes to better her life. Unable to dissuade Wes, Louise decides to accompany him, and the three set out the next morning. Upon arriving that night at the rodeo camp in Tucson, Jeff stops a fight instigated by the drunken Buster Burgess, a rodeo performer whose recent goring by a bull has scarred him physically and mentally. Jeff then reunites with his old friends, Booker Davis and his teenage daughter Rusty. The next day, Buster's long-suffering wife Grace befriends Louise, as does trick rider Rosemary Maddox, Jeff's old flame. After Rosemary warns Louise about Jeff's womanizing ways, Jeff flirts with Louise in the shower stall of Rosemary's trailer, but is rebuffed. At the rodeo, Wes enters five events, including bull riding, a stunt he has never before attempted. Louise is terrified when she hears Wes's name announced for the bull riding, but Wes stuns the crowd by winning the event. Later, Wes, Louise and Jeff celebrate at a rodeo-sponsored party, where Wes's success attracts the attention of the seductive, young Babs. Spotting Babs flirting with Wes, Louise kicks her would-be rival in the rear end. Grace then arrives at the party and, distraught because Buster again was gored by a bull, starts ranting about the cruel nature of rodeo. The next morning, an apologetic Grace declares that she and Buster are quitting the circuit and sells her trailer to Wes. Over the next several months, Wes competes successfully in a series of rodeos, quickly building up his savings. Upon reaching the Annual Pendleton Roundup in Oregon, Louise reveals to Jeff that Jeremiah has agreed to sell his ranch for $4,100, the amount she and Wes have saved. When Louise tells Wes the news, he refuses to give up rodeo for the boring life of a rancher and storms off to a party hosted by Babs. Although angry, Louise dons her most alluring dress and, with an admiring Jeff in tow, heads for Babs's. There, she brawls with her rival in front of a drunken Wes and is thrown out. In the hallway outside Babs's apartment, Jeff comforts Louise and admits that he has loved her from the beginning. After Louise gently rejects Jeff, she begs him to do what he can to save Wes. Wes then sees them together and, jealous, calls Jeff a coward for not competing. Jeff slugs Wes, and the next day, enters all the events in the rodeo. Although Jeff amazes the crowd with his enduring skills, he slips off his saddle during the bucking bronco ride and punctures his lung. As Rusty watches tearfully, Jeff dies in Louise's arms. Later, stunned by his mentor's death, Wes announces that he is returning to Texas with Louise. Wes then offers Booker and Rusty jobs on his new ranch, and they happily accept. 

Production Company: Wald-Krasna Productions, Inc.  
  RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Nicholas Ray (Dir)
  Edward Killy (Asst dir)
  William Holmes (Dial dir)
Producer: Jerry Wald (Prod)
  Thomas S. Gries (Assoc prod)
Writer: Horace McCoy (Wrt for the screen by)
  David Dortort (Wrt for the screen by)
  Claude Stanush (Suggested by a story by)
Photography: Lee Garmes (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Alfred Herman (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph Dawson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  Jack Mills (Set dec)
Costumes: Michael Woulfe (Ward)
Music: Roy Webb (Mus)
  C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
Sound: Phil Brigandi (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Make Up: Mel Berns (Makeup artist)
  Larry Germain (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: William Holmes (Tech adv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Suggested by the article "King of the Cowpokes" by Claude Stanush in Life (13 May 1946).
Authors: Claude Stanush

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Wald-Krasna Productions, Inc. 1/10/1952 dd/mm/yyyy LP2098

PCA NO: 15712
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Ambition
  Romantic rivalry
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  False accusations
  Fathers and daughters
  Pendleton (OR)
  Tucson (AZ)
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The working titles of this film were Cowpoke and This Man Is Mine . The film's opening credits are superimposed over footage of a rodeo parade. Claude Stanush's screen story was inspired by his "King of the Cowboys," an article about a cowboy named Bob Crosby, which was published in the 13 May 1946 issue of Life magazine. To research his script, screenwriter Horace McCoy spent five months on the rodeo circuit, according to a LADN item. Modern sources note that co-screenwriter and novelist David Dortort was a former cowboy.
       In late 1950, HR announced that Robert Parrish was to be the picture's director, and George Montgomery one of the male stars. According to modern sources, Parrish worked with Stanush on the story for about six weeks, and helped Dortort complete a first-draft treatment. Dissatisfied with the treatment, Parrish went on to another project, and writer Richard Wormser was hired to redo the treatment. Modern sources claim that after Parrish's departure, producer Jerry Wald considered John Huston, Raoul Walsh and Anthony Mann as directors.
       Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: By late Aug 1951, director Nicholas Ray and star Robert Mitchum were hired for the project. RKO assigned cinematographer George E. Diskant to the crew in Sep 1950; it is not known if Diskant worked on a second unit, or was replaced by Lee Garmes prior to principal photography. Rodeo footage was shot at the Sheriff's Annual Rodeo in the Los Angeles Coliseum, in Tucson and Phoenix, AZ, San Angelo, TX, the Denver Rodeo in Colorado, and at the Annual Pendleton Roundup in Oregon. Exterior scenes were filmed in Agoura, CA. According to HR , Wald and co-producer Norman Krasna acquired exclusive screen rights to the Sep 1951 Pendleton Roundup and promised to make the film's stars "available for participation in the rodeo."
       An Apr 1952 LAT item reported that Mitchum did his own riding and bulldogging in the film and was planning to become a "full-fledged rodeo star" in late spring 1952, if arrangements with RKO, his contract studio, were worked out. Actor John Mallory was Mitchum's brother. Mallory changed his professional name from his real surname, John Mitchum, to Mallory in 1951, but changed it back to Mitchum in 1953. Although HR announced that ranch scenes had been planned for Dahlert, TX, and Roswell, NM, it is not known if any location shooting took place there. RKO borrowed Susan Hayward from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Although both Paul E. Burns and Emmett Lynn were listed by CBCS in the role of "Travis Waite," that character was not identified in the viewed print. According to a 5 Sep 1952 HR news item, the film was to have its premiere on 1 Oct 1952 in San Antonio, followed by openings in Houston, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The Lusty Men marked the last collaboration between Wald-Krasna Productions and RKO.
       According to modern sources, because of Hayward's schedule, principal photography had to begin before a shooting script was completed. Consequently, Ray and Mitchum wrote much of the story as filming went along. Some scenes were written by Wald, Alfred Hayes and Andrew Solt. Wald ordered that the ending be changed to have "Jeff" reunited with a former sweetheart instead of dying. Modern sources report that, after the revised scene was shot, Mitchum claimed to have sent his secretary to steal the reel and throw it in an incinerator. The original ending, in which Jeff succumbs to his injuries, then was shot. Modern sources also note that, during principal photography, Ray became ill and Robert Parrish took over direction for a few days. According to modern sources, rodeo performers Gerald Roberts and Jerry Ambler appeared in the picture. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   27 Sep 1952.   
Daily Variety   26 Sep 52   p. 3.
Film Daily   1 Oct 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Sep 50   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Sep 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Dec 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Dec 50   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Aug 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Aug 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Sep 51   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 51   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Nov 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 51   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jan 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 52   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Apr 52   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Sep 52   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Sep 52   p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News   2 Sep 1952.   
Los Angeles Times   8 Apr 1952.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   27 Sep 52   p. 1542.
New York Times   24 Oct 52   p. 27.
New York Times   25 Oct 52   p. 12.
Variety   1 Oct 52   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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