Showing posts with label Noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Noir. Show all posts

Thursday, November 9, 2023

CHOP IT UP: They Shoot Horses, Don't They by

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1935) follows the story of an aspiring movie director named Robert. It also follows an aspiring actress (film extra) named Gloria. The story begins with Robert on trial for Gloria's murder, the circumstances of which revert back to when the two met each other outside of Paramount Studios. At the studio gates, both appeared hoping to run into someone who would give them access to their dreams and desires (though Gloria is trying to catch a bus up out of there). 

Nevertheless, where Robert is still ambitious and hopeful, Gloria is the exact opposite. She is overtly pessimistic, depressed, and downright bitter. Regardless, as an increased effort to be seen by the big wigs of Hollywood, the two enter a dancehall marathon. Surely "Hollywood" would be in the audience looking for new talent, right? Well, more or less. Within this dancehall marathon the story spirals, resulting in Gloria's murder by Robert. And it's her murder that doubles as the answer to the book title's question: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

I actually enjoyed the book. But not for the reason many might think. Yes, the book hosts subtle (and some cases, not so...) racial overtones, bigotry, sexism, and a host of other issues that cropped up from this book written in the 1930s. Most of that is to be expected for an American noir piece of its time. However, I think what might make many readers wince is the insistence of the character of Gloria's desire to be dead. 

And, yet, with her every utterance and aggressive behavior on display, I found her both fascinatingly relatable and—quite frankly—funny. She had a lot of gall because she spoke truth to other characters. She was just so abrasive. So pessimistic. So, what I've gathered that hit home to me: TIRED OF EVERYTHING. Or, as exemplified by the metaphor of the dancehall marathon, she was tired of spending her life in circles trying to find a way out. 

Meanwhile, Gloria saw through how many of the other characters laid into their facades, such as the two older ladies who interrupted the marathon to preach about the morality of the contestants. According to Gloria, in regards to these ladies' daughters (she assumed they had daughters):
…”That’s generally what happens to daughters of reformers,” Gloria said. “Sooner or later they all get laid and most of ‘em don’t know enough to keep from getting knocked up. You drive ‘em away from home with your goddam lectures on purity and decency, and you’re too busy meddling around to teach ‘em the facts of life—“
That was one of many examples of Gloria.

Anyway, love her or hate her. She was a character.

In the end, Gloria ruined Robert's life. But did she, really? The two had a choice. Gloria could have chosen to keep living. And Robert did not have to kill Gloria to set her free of her suffering. And, one could say, of his suffering from her insufferable presences and thirst for her own death as a release. In the end, Gloria won. As she corrupted and ruined his life and got the death that she wanted.

The funny thing about such final thoughts is that--like the dancehall marathon--the reader could go in circles about it. Still, I understood Gloria. I got it. She was hurt. Broken. Bitter. Tired. And just wanted out. It's depressing.

As someone who absolutely loved the character of Gloria, what can I say? Other than I feel like her sometimes myself. The shit just made sense, Gloria. It made sense. (And I'm leaving this on a fun note.)

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