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The Lusty Men

Shot primarily in Pendleton, Oregon, The Lusty Men was produced during the Howard Hughes RKO era, a period of relative financial failure. Naturally, Ray does his best with meager resources, directing Robert Mitchum as Jeff McCloud, an injured cowboy who decides to hang it up and return to his hometown after many years away. He signs on with a local ranch and quickly befriends Wes (Arthur Kennedy), a fellow hand with big dreams, who convinces Jeff to train him in the rodeo. Wes’s wife Louise (Susan Hayward) sees the reality of ranch-hand life, however, and fears that Wes is going down the wrong path. Despite immediate success and minor fame, Wes must grapple with this harsh reality when Jeff, by now fully washed-up, decides to re-enter the rodeo. “This film is not a Western. This film is really a film about people who want a home of their own.”—Nicholas Ray.

Genres: Western, Drama

Other Films by Nicholas Ray

Johnny Guitar

Widely cited as an allegory for the anti-Communist hearings overseen by the House Un-American Activities Committee that led to the Hollywood blacklist of 1955, Johnny Guitar is one of the fiercest Westerns ever made. Vienna (an unforgettable Joan Crawford), a saloon owner in a small Arizona town, walks a fine line between the conservative townsfolk,

We Can’t Go Home Again

In 1971, Ray, at the invitation of experimental filmmakers Larry Gottheim and Ken Jacobs, took a teaching post at SUNY Binghamton in the fledgling film production department. The major project to come out of the period is this film, an experimental meta-narrative centering on a teacher (Ray) and his students (played by his real-life students),

Lightning Over Water

Ray, dying of cancer, fought hard to make this last film, a document of his final days in New York City. Wenders, by then a close friend of Ray’s, comes to New York after being on location shooting a noir in Los Angeles. What follows is Ray, with Wenders’ tender assistance, reminiscing about his life

King of Kings

King of Kings, Ray’s second film for MGM, is truly his “epic” (featuring narration by Orson Welles!), a lavish historical ensemble drama chronicling the life of Jesus Christ (Jeffrey Hunter), but still very much a Ray film in its intimate focus on individual crises. The film’s main temporal focus is the lead-up to Jesus’ crucifixion,

Party Girl

A latter-day mob tale made for glamorous MGM—ironic, at that most softboiled of studios—Ray follows the gritty gangster classics of the 1930s by crafting the center of Party Girl’s story on mafia lawyer Thomas Farrell (Robert Taylor), who has a sterling record defending crooks and murderers. Farrell, in the course of his work for archetypal