A masterpiece by Nicholas Ray—perhaps the most melancholy and reflective of his films (1952). This modern-dress western centers on Ray’s perennial themes of disaffection and self-destruction: Arthur Kennedy is a young rodeo rider, eager for quick fame and easy money; Robert Mitchum is his older friend, a veteran who’s been there and knows better. Working with the great cinematographer Lee Garmes, Ray creates an unstable atmosphere of dust and despair—trailer camps and broken-down ranches—that expresses the contradictory impulses of his characters: a lust for freedom balanced by a quest for security. With Susan Hayward, superb as Kennedy’s wife.