Horace McCoy’s 1935 grimy novel of a depression era dance marathon, which sold a forgettable 3,000 copies as a book, is a film with Jane Fonda as a hard-as-nails babe. It becomes, in a recreated old ballroom, a sordid spectacle of hard times, a kind of existentialist allegory of life.
Gig Young is the promoter-emcee, the barker for a cheap sideshow attraction with an endless patter of cliches on pluck, luck, courage, true grit, and the American Way. Puffy-eyed, unshaven, reeking of stale liquor, sweat and cigarets, Young has never looked older or acted better.
Fonda, as the unremittingly cynical loser, the tough and bruised babe of the Dust Bowl, gives a dramatic performance that gives the film a personal focus and an emotionally gripping power.
Pollack turns the marathon into a vulgar, sleazy, black microcosm of life in 1932.
1969: Best Supp. Actor (Gig Young).
Nominations: Best Actress (Jane Fonda), Supp. Actress (Susannah York), Screenplay Adaptation, Costume Design, Art Direction, Editing, Adapted Music Score