Ride the Pink Horse Screen 12 articles

Ride the Pink Horse

1947

Ride the Pink Horse Poster
  • The Nation: James Agee
    November 08, 1947 | Agee on Film (p. 278)

    [It's] practically revolutionary for a West Coast picture; it obviously intends to show that Mexicans and Indians are capable of great courage and loyalty, even to a white American, and can help him out of a hole if they like him... As for the central quarrel of the story, it is so carefully vague you can hardly follow it. Montgomery, for so many motives so dimly stated and so contradictory you can believe in none of them, is trying to blackmail a war profiteer whose exact crime we never learn.

  • This pretentious but sometimes arresting film noir (1947) is one of the few movies directed by actor Robert Montgomery, and he seizes the chance, letting his camera run wild in a carnival-crazed border town.

  • The uniformly-strong cast have a great time with the flavorful dialogue (courtesy of Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer), but the real attractions here are the local color and Montgomery's palpable affection for border culture.

  • [Gagin and Pila's] final scene together is oddly unsatisfying, as is the didactic showdown between Gagin and Hugo. In spite of those demerits, however, Ride The Pink Horse still manages to make an impression, thanks largely to Montgomery’s considerable skill behind the camera... The movie is full of bravura shots that continually re-frame the action without calling attention to their agility, as in that opening bus-station sequence that silently establishes Gagin’s disreputable intentions.

  • Montgomery’s film is simply a witness to a world of whiskey bars, carnivals, and territories rarely traversed — more about what we don’t see than what we do. He’s a foreigner in his own backyard, despite having just come home. And if Ride the Pink Horse isn’t perfect, it’s a testament for directing our eyes to things just beyond the frame, capturing something ephemeral and mummifying what was in the process.

  • Boasting marvelous performances by everyone, with Montgomery leading the proceedings with an alienated, brooding, bitter character, Ride the Pink Horse conveys palpable postwar aimlessness. And it gives us the satisfaction of knowing what the title means: Lucky thinks all the horses on the merry-go-round look the same, something that leads him to tell a girl that she "might as well ride the pink one." Stylish, fascinating and complex, Ride the Pink Horse is an underseen gem.

  • [Montgomery's adaptation] alters many of the plot details, but captures the doomed fatalism of Hughes’ work. Typecast as a light romantic comedy lead, Montgomery took on greater risks as a director... As in the novel, Gagin keeps his right hand implanted in his breast pocket, tightly gripping his gun. This inner coil also shows up in Montgomery’s jaw, jutted out as if he’s continually grinding his teeth. Everything in an attempt to get smaller, more invisible.

  • The film is rich in deceptively leisurely scenes, which offer beautiful imagery that revels less in plot than in the immediate sensory experience of life. The terminal isn't taken for granted as a background set, and neither is the remainder of this stylized vision of San Pablo, which is used as an evocative symbol for Gagin's alienation from society.

  • Two set pieces involving the carousel are particularly powerful, with the camera riding the revolving machine—a ready-made symbol for fate, of course, but also, more simply, an unnerving vantage for watching the world whirl by while a helpless man gets thrashed and kicked along the dusty perimeter. Here and throughout, the movie shines with directorial tact, nasty action often played off the faces of willing or unwilling witnesses.

  • Ride the Pink Horse plays it by classical Hollywood rules, and demonstrates Montgomery’s full mastery of the medium: it’s one of the lightest, most enjoyable films about postwar alienation, poverty, and gleefully sadistic capitalism you’ll ever see—and its cast of veteran players and scene-stealing newcomers is one of the movie’s primary delights.

  • [Ride the Pink Horse] is a feast of complex traveling shots... Noirs can be measured by how little weakness they exhibit when dealing out their bad-luck hands, and Montgomery's movie (written by acid-tongue twins Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer) is a cynical, strong-spined sonofabitch, with one of the genre's lowest sentiment dosages.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
    June 05, 2015 | July 2015 Issue (p. 101)

    Montgomery's directorial hand is confident and expressive, crafting a clammy, crepuscular atmosphere from just a handful of striking sets and evocative exteriors... And the script, by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, is equally vivid, full of quirky character detail and biting repartee. It's a dramatically satisfying film, just strange enough to confirm a singular passion and commitment on the part of its creator.

More Links