Jane Fonda received her first Oscar nomination for playing Gloria Beatty in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, as great a film as it is, suffers from an overall dull feeling. Which in a way, is saying something praise worthy because you feel like the people in the dance marathon: anxious of what's to come, but bored out of their minds. Everyone who is going to enter the dance marathon are there for one singular reason, it's the Depression and they need money. Some for a quick easy, some for dreams. I hope not to have my previous comment misinterpreted - I do think They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is a great film, just not a continuously entertaining film.
Gloria Beatty arrives at the dance marathon, expecting absolutely nothing. Life has cheated her and she feels the bitter taste of jade at every turn. Through flashbacks we learn she had ambitions of being an actress and just got out of the hospital over a suicide attempt. Gloria goes into it, maybe hoping she can finally get her life in order if she wins, and like everyone else, she'll do anything to win. It sounds somewhat wrong to say Jane Fonda is irresistible in the role of Gloria. Let me put it another way, it's hard to take your eyes off of Jane in the part. Gloria isn't exactly likable, but I wanted to know everything about her as soon as Fonda steps into the movie.
It's obvious Jane Fonda is trying to act up a storm in the role, and she succeeds in the best possible ways. If you're forced to watch a character for 2 hours, you end up caring for them, even if the character is despicable - but if you have a cynical, depressing character, you have to really work overdrive to make the audience care for him/her, and as I said, I wanted to know everything about Gloria and why she has had such a miserable life. There's something beautiful she keeps laying beneath her performance and that's the great mystery of her performance - she has been aged beyond her years by her ungrateful life. To say simply, Jane Fonda is excellent in the part is a bit of an understatement.
Risky and excellent, an easy combination for a pro, and she was just getting started! Jane Fonda is every superlative I can throw her way in the role of Gloria. A haunting, beautifully depressing performance.