They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
is a 1969 American drama film directed by Sydney Pollack
. The screenplay
by James Poe
and Robert E. Thompson is based on the 1935 novel of the same name
by Horace McCoy
. It focuses on a disparate group of characters desperate to win a Depression
-era dance marathon
and the opportunistic MC who urges them on to victory.
When Sydney Pollack signed to direct the film, he approached Jane Fonda with the role of Gloria. The actress declined because she felt the script wasn't very good, but her then-husband Roger Vadim, who saw similarities between the book and works of the French existentialists, urged her to reconsider.
Meeting with Pollack to discuss the script, she was surprised when he asked for her input. She read the novel with a critical eye, made notes on the character, and later observed in her autobiography
, "It was a germinal moment [for me] . . . This was the first time in my life as an actor that I was working on a film about larger societal issues, and instead of my professional work feeling peripheral to life, it felt relevant." Experiencing problems in her marriage at the time, she drew on her personal anguish to help her with her characterization.