Ride the Pink Horse

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Ride the Pink Horse
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Montgomery
Produced by Joan Harrison
Screenplay by Ben Hecht
Charles Lederer
Based on The novel Ride the Pink Horse 
by Dorothy B. Hughes
Starring Robert Montgomery
Wanda Hendrix
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • October 8, 1947 (1947-10-08) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Ride the Pink Horse is a 1947 American crime film noir produced by Universal Studios. It was directed by the actor Robert Montgomery from a screenplay by Ben Hecht, which was based on a novel of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes. The drama features Robert Montgomery, Wanda Hendrix, Andrea King, Thomas Gomez, among others. Gomez was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.[1]

An ex-GI known only as Gagin travels to San Pablo, a rural New Mexican town, to revenge the death of his old war time buddy. As a man devoid of identity, some of the villagers refer to Gagin as "the man with no place."


Gagin (Robert Montgomery) arrives on a bus in San Pablo, a small rural town in New Mexico during its annual fiesta. He plans to confront and blackmail money from a mobster named Frank Hugo (Fred Clark) as retribution for the death of his best friend Shorty.

While Gagin waits for Hugo's arrival in his hotel room, FBI agent Bill Retz (Art Smith) approaches and asks him to turn over any incriminating information he may have on Hugo so the federal government can prosecute him. Gagin denies having any information and says he's in town only as a tourist.

Gagin has other plans than the prosecution of the mobster and when he's not able to shake the FBI agent, he takes refuge at an old carousel owned by Pancho (Thomas Gomez). At the carousel he meets Pila (Wanda Hendrix) a teenage Indian peasant who refuses to leave his side despite his efforts to discourage her.

After Pila witnesses an attempt to kill Gagin, she and Pancho nurse his wounds, but when she leaves him alone for a moment he wanders in a delirious state back to Hugo's hotel. Pila catches up with Gagin as he reaches Hugo's room. Both are interrogated by Hugo and his henchmen until Retz intervenes. After giving Retz the evidence he was using to blackmail Hugo, Gagin leaves town.

The story is somewhat changed from the novel, in which "Sailor," (not Gagin) had wangled a deferment from serving in the war, the details of the blackmail and many others have been made less sordid, and the names of the other main non-Mexican characters (and their stations in life) are different as well.



According to Alain Silver, the antique "Tio Vivo Carousel" built in 1882 in Taos, New Mexico, was the model for the carousel in the novel Ride The Pink Horse. The same carousel was purchased by the producers and shipped from Taos to the set of Universal where it was reconstructed for use in the film.[2] The burning of the Zozobra ("Old Man Gloom") effigy during the Fiestas de Santa Fe, figures prominently (and incidentally sets the exact date of the events).


The film was later remade as a 1964 TV movie called The Hanged Man, starring Robert Culp and directed by Don Siegel.[3]

There is also a 1947 Lux Radio Theater adaptation with Montgomery and Hendrix in the leads, which can be heard at the Internet Archive.


Critical response[edit]

Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times at the time, liked the film and especially Robert Montgomery's direction, and wrote, "...Mr. Montgomery, as director and star of this story, has contrived to make it look shockingly literal and keep it moving at an unrelenting pace. And he has also managed to lace it with grisly action and rugged sentiment without deceit. Indeed, he has artfully fashioned a fascinating film within the genre. He has done something else exceptional; he has given the other actors a real chance." Crowther also praised the work of Fred Clark and Wanda Hendrix.[4]

Noir analysis[edit]

A common theme in noir films is war and post-war disillusionment; the disillusionment felt by many soldiers in returning to a peacetime economy was directly mirrored in the sordidness of the urban crime film. In these films a serviceman returns from the war to find his sweetheart unfaithful or a good friend dead. The war continues, but now the antagonism turns with a new viciousness toward the American society itself. This is the theme of Ride the Pink Horse, yet in a different environment. Ex-GI Gagin's quest to revenge his friend's death leads him to a small village in rural New Mexico, extending the noir motif that murder and mayhem needs the polluted city landscape to create film noir.[5]




  1. ^ Ride the Pink Horse at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, film noir analysis by Alain Silver, page 242, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
  3. ^ The Hanged Man (television film) at the Internet Movie Database.
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, October 9, 1947. Last accessed: January 29, 2008.
  5. ^ Cobb, Sean. Film Noir: The Trouble with Genre, University of Arizona, 2005. Last accessed: December 7, 2007.

External links[edit]