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 army veteran 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.

Gagin bursts in uninvited to Hugo's hotel room, where Marjorie Lundeen (Andrea King), a sophisticated female acquaintance of Hugo's, uses her wiles trying to learn more about him. FBI agent Bill Retz (Art Smith) then approaches Gagin and asks him to turn over any incriminating information he may have on Hugo so the federal government can prosecute. Gagin denies having any information and lies that he's in town for the fiesta.

Unable to find a hotel room, Gagin takes refuge at an old carousel owned by Pancho (Thomas Gomez) after they bond in a tavern over drinks. He is unable to shake Pila (Wanda Hendrix), a teenage Indian peasant who refuses to leave his side despite his efforts to discourage her, or Retz, who continues to follow him, hoping to change Gagin's mind about helping him to put Hugo behind bars.

After first trying to form a partnership with him, Lundeen lures Gagin into a trap, where he is stabbed in the back. Pila removes the knife and helps him to the carousel, where she and Pancho nurse his wounds. He gives Pila the incriminating evidence against Hugo for safekeeping. Pancho is beaten by two of Hugo's men, but refuses to betray Gagin.

At the bus depot, after Pila leaves him alone for a moment, Gagin wanders in a delirious state back to Hugo's hotel. Pila catches up just as reaches Hugo's room. Both are interrogated and beaten by Hugo's henchmen until Retz intervenes. After giving Retz the evidence he was using to blackmail Hugo, Gagin must say goodbye to Pila, which turns out not to be as easy as he expects it to be.


In the novel, a character named "Sailor" rather than Frank Hugo has managed to obtain a deferment from military service. The film makes many details, including those of the blackmail scheme, less sordid, and adopts different names and occupations for the principal non-Mexican characters.

Although Gagin's first name is never mentioned in the film, the opening credits read: Robert Montgomery is Lucky Gagin.



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. It was purchased by the producers and shipped 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 sets the time of the events in the film in late September. Part of the movie was filmed at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.[3]

Later versions[edit]

The film was remade in 1964 as a TV movie called The Hanged Man, starring Robert Culp and directed by Don Siegel.[4]

A 1947 Lux Radio Theater adaptation with Montgomery and Hendrix can be heard at the Internet Archive.


Bosley Crowther, film critic for the New York Times, liked the film, 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.[5]

A common theme in noir films is the post-war disillusionment experienced by many soldiers returning to a peacetime economy, which was mirrored in the sordidness of the urban crime film. In these films a serviceman returns to find his sweetheart unfaithful or a good friend dead. The war continues, but now the antagonism turns with a new viciousness toward American society itself. In Ride the Pink Horse, Gagin's quest to avenge his friend's death leads him to a small village in rural New Mexico, an unusual setting for the noir motif more typically associated with corrupt urban environments.[6]




  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, 3rd edition (Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1992), ISBN 0-87951-479-5, 242
  3. ^ Hecht, Esther (January 2005). "The Jewish Traveler: Santa Fe". Hadassah Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ The Hanged Man (television film) at the Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 9, 1947). "'Ride the Pink Horse,' Mystery Starring Robert Montgomery and Wanda Hendrix, Arrives at Winter Garden". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  6. ^ Cobb, Sean. Film Noir: The Trouble with Genre, University of Arizona, 2005. Last accessed: December 7, 2007.

External links[edit]