Ride the Pink Horse
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Montgomery
Screenplay byBen Hecht
Charles Lederer
Based onRide the Pink Horse
by Dorothy B. Hughes
Produced byJoan Harrison
StarringRobert Montgomery
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byRalph Dawson
Music byFrank Skinner
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 8, 1947 (1947-10-08) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States

Ride the Pink Horse is a 1947 film noir crime film produced by Universal Studios. It was directed by Robert Montgomery, who also stars in it, from a screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, which was based on the 1946 novel of the same title by Dorothy B. Hughes. Thomas Gomez was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.

An army veteran known only as Gagin travels to San Pablo in New Mexico to avenge the death of his wartime buddy. Some of the villagers refer to Gagin as "the man with no place."


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Lucky Gagin arrives in San Pablo, a rural town in New Mexico, during fiesta. He plans to blackmail a mobster named Frank Hugo as retribution for the death of his best friend Shorty. He places a check incriminating Hugo in a locker and hides the key behind a framed map in the bus depot waiting room. Because of the fiesta Gagin cannot find a room at the nearby hotel. Going to the non-tourist side of the town he meets Pila, who takes him to the La Fonda Hotel and gives him a charm that she says will protect him.

Going to Hugo's hotel room, Gagin knocks out Jonathan, Hugo's private secretary. Marjorie Lundeen, Hugo's sophisticated female acquaintance, tries to find out more about Gagin, who learns Hugo will not be there that day. In the hotel lobby, Gagin is accosted by FBI agent Bill Retz. Retz takes Gagin to lunch and tells Gagin to lay off with his plot for revenge on Frank Hugo.

Still looking for a room, Gagin visits the Cantina de las Tres Violetas, where Pila is sitting outside. Going into the bar, Gagin finds himself to be the only non-Hispanic. He buys a drink and pays for it with a twenty dollar bill. The barkeep can only make change but the situation is resolved by Pancho, who proposes that Gagin buy ten dollars worth of drinks for everyone in the bar.

Gagin accompanies Pancho back to his tiovivo where Pancho puts him up for the night. Pila arrives at the merry-go-round and ends up sleeping in one of the seats on the carousel. Retz also and tells him if he could readily find Gagin, so will the toughs.

The next morning, Gagin returns to the La Fonda where he meets Frank Hugo, who wears a hearing aid. Gagin tells Hugo of the incriminating check. They agree to meet that evening at the Tip Top Cafe, where Hugo will pay Gagin the thirty thousand dollars for the check.

Retz "officially" asks Gagin for the evidence, which Gagin refuses to hand over. Gagin takes Pila to lunch but they are interrupted by the arrival of Marjorie Lundeen. She proposes a scheme to shake down Frank Hugo for even more money, but Gagin does not go along with Marjorie's plan.

After the lunch, Gagin returns to the bus depot where he retrieves the check and follows the fiesta crowd to the Tip Top Cafe. He meets with Hugo, who tells Gagin the bank messenger with the money will be late. Marjorie invites Gagin to dance with her. To avoid being seen by Hugo, they go outside to a dark alley. where she tells Gagin there is no messenger. Two toughs jump Gagin, one of them stabbing Gagin in the shoulder with a knife. Retz finds the two toughs in the alley, one dead and one with a broken arm, and confronts Hugo at the dining table. Pila finds Gagin in the bushes, pulls the knife out of his back, and together they make their way back to Pancho and the merry-go-round.

Two more toughs come to the tiovivo. With Gagin hidden in one of the seats and children riding the carousel, the toughs severely beat Pancho, who does not betray Gagin. Gagin, suffering from his wound, agrees to go with Pila back by bus to her village of San Melo. He gives the check to Pila. They are found by Locke and Marjorie Lundeen. When Locke approaches the now passed out Gagin, Pila hits him with a bottle and they make their escape, leaving Marjorie to find Locke lying on the floor of the cantina.

Gagin returns to the La Fonda Hotel, where Pila finds him outside Hugo'sroom. One of Hugo's toughs brings them into the room, where Frank Hugo, Marjorie Lundeen, and Jonathan. Hugo begins to question the now incoherent Gagin, who does not remember where the check is. He is beaten by one of the toughs, who also beat Pila. Retz arrives, disarms the toughs, breaks Hugo's hearing aid, and ultimately gets the check from Gagin.

At breakfast the next day with Retz, Gagin refuses to eat. Retz tells Gagin he should say goodbye to Pila and Pancho, and together they return to the merry go round. Gagin bids adieu to Pancho, and then, uncomfortably, to Pila, to whom he returns the charm. As Retz and Gagin leave, Pila is surrounded by them. She recounts the story of her adventure and delights in being the center of attention among her group.


Ride the Pink Horse and the noir genre

A common theme in noir films is the post-war disillusionment experienced by many soldiers returning to the 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 rural New Mexico, an unusual setting for the noir motif more typically associated with corrupt urban environments.[1]

Production notes

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 early September. Part of the movie was filmed at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe.[3]

Other adaptations


According to Variety, the film earned less than $2 million at the box office.[4]

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]




  1. ^ Cobb, Sean Archived September 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Film Noir: The Trouble with Genre, University of Arizona, 2005. Last accessed: December 7, 2007.
  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. ^ Variety 7 January 1948
  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.