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  • Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan star in "Kentucky," a 1938 film about a longstanding dispute between two families, horses and the Kentucky Derby. Well directed by David Butler, the film was made in beautiful color.

    The film begins during the Civil War, when young Peter watches as the Yankees take the thoroughbred horses from the Goodwin farm and kill his father when he tries to stop them. He never forgets that the Yankee Dillon family is responsible and 75 years later (as Walter Brennan) still hasn't forgiven them. Now in his 80s, he lives with his son, his wife and daughter on the farm where they train and breed thoroughbreds. The farm is in trouble, and when his son can't get a loan from the bank (presided over by his Dillon contemporary), he dies, leaving Sally (Young) his heir. Everything is sold off except for one horse, which is ruined for racing one night when Sally has to ride in the rain to get a doctor for her mother - the road is blocked by a tree so she can't drive. However, due to a bet Dillon and Goodwin made, Dillon has written a note offering any two-year old on his farm to Goodwin. Sally claims the horse for her father, a horse chosen by Uncle Peter. The younger Dillon (Greene), angry with his family, gives Sally a false name and offers to train the horse for her. The two fall in love.

    Were it not for World War II, Richard Greene today might be on the list of stars of the classic era. He was getting the star buildup by 20th Century Fox and would have been a rival for Tyrone Power, but when war broke out in England, he returned to serve his country, losing all his career momentum. With his wavy black hair, widow's peak and dazzling smile, the handsome Greene resembles Robert Taylor in this film and is a good pairing with the beautiful Loretta Young. The great performance comes from Walter Brennan. Someone posted that he was 38 playing a man in his 60s. No, he wasn't. The film clearly states that it's 75 years since the Civil War, making Uncle Peter, who was about 10 when the soldiers arrived, nearer to 85. Brennan pulls it off. He won an Oscar for his performance. The film boasts some exciting racing scenes as well as a good story.

    Brennan gives a great performance, and the romantic stars are attractive, but the true stars of "Kentucky" are the most magnificent horses you've ever seen. Although the trivia section of IMDb doesn't state it, those horses must have come from some thoroughbred farm. It's not only horses, but beautiful foals and colts. If you like horses, this movie is a no-miss. The animals are jaw-dropping, even better looking than Richard Greene and Loretta Young.
  • Terrific film dealing with the horse racing scene in Kentucky.

    We are taken from the beginning of the civil war, when generations of feuding between families begin when a Goodwin is killed by a Dillon during the taking of horses for the union army.

    The film then jumps to 1938 and the generations that followed these families. Naturally, Loretta Young and Richard Greene will become lovers and are from the different families with Greene hiding his Dillon name.

    Walter Brennan is absolutely magnificent here as the older Peter Dillon, who cried hysterically at the time of his father's murder in 1861. He plays a crusty, cantankerous individual with a rare knowledge of horse breeding and with it all, a wonderful human heart. His Academy Award as best supporting actor was extremely well deserved here.

    The blue grass of Kentucky was never more enjoyable in this sprawling film of great memories of a bygone era.
  • Walter Brennan set a standard for supporting actors with this perfect equine movie. You actually believe that the 38-year-old Brennan is a wizened 68-year-old track veteran. Young Loretta is equally winning in her starring debut. This is the classic movie that all the cliches copied.
  • The Yankee ransacking prelude more or less spells out the eventuality that years later Young is going to fall for Greene and that their respective families are going to trample the path of true love. Quite literally, as the updated story is now played out against a bluegrass background.

    Get yourself into Hollywood mode and dispense with the logistics of script and story, and instead enjoy everything else. The performances, even though they embody strictly cliché and (predictably racial) caricature, are still marvellous for those who love a Fox-style wallow - Brennan won that year's Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The film is generally well and pacily edited, and the racing sequences are particularly exciting.

    The real star of this show though, for me, was the sublime photography which I can honestly say offered the most richest and well-preserved example of pre-40s 3-strip Technicolor I have so far seen. Even after more than 50 years, its luminescence (at least in this Channel 4 print) was breathtakingly striking and full of lustre, with yellow in particular registering far more strongly than I have previously seen in a 30s Technicolor movie, and natural outdoor verdance looking as if it had been sprayed with kiwi fruit dye. No doubt deployed deliberately to enhance the otherwise routine nature of the story, it would still take a considerable kick of horsepower to elevate the film to the grandeur of, say, 'Gone With The Wind', to which it bears more than a passing dramatic resemblance.
  • Tarnation, that Loretta Young is a mighty purty filly, and she darn near always wears a fetchin' ribbon, or sprig o' ivy, in her hair t' show off this here newfangled Technicolor process, y'all. But warn't thar a War Between the States? No'm. Tha's why ya still got yer two kinds o' nigra. First, thar's yer field nigra -- when he's not happy 'n' singin' like a chil', he's lazy 'n' stealin'. Then thar's yer house nigras -- a right reg'lar passel o' Uncle Toms 'n' Aunt Jemimas.

    Surely this is not intended to represent the reality of Kentucky in 1938? Which century is this supposed to be? Blacks in the '30's had good reason to be concerned about how they were portrayed in Hollywood films. Then there's the whole silliness of the film's basic premise -- feudin', mansion-dwelling, horse-breeding aristocrats. And I certainly don't want to hear "My Old Kentucky Home" again any time soon.

    In spite of everything, this corn pone still managed to make for an entertaining horseracing yarn however. Yes'm, it did.

    Moroni Olsen plays his usual stalwart patriarch, and Walter Brennan is convincingly cussed 'n' ornery.

    There is an unusual documentary sequence in mid-film showing and extolling the great racehorses of Kentucky, Man-O'-War included. And all in glorious early Technicolor.
  • Kentucky (1938)

    *** (out of 4)

    Fun film involves two horse racing families from Kentucky who have been doing battle since the start of the Civil War and it continues to the current times. Eventually opposite family members Loretta Young and Richard Greene fall in love just as the Kentucky Derby comes around where Greene tries to prove himself as a horse trainer. I was surprised to see how enjoyable thing film was and one of the big benefits is the Technicolor used in the film. These early Technicolor films are often hit and miss on how well they look but this film here is quite beautiful to look at. It's certainly one of the best looking early Technicolor films that I've seen from this period. Another nice thing are the performances, which are all a lot of fun. Neither Young nor Greene speak with a southern accent, although the screenplay gives a reason for Greene not doing so. Even with the accents being wrong, both work incredibly well together and this here helps the love story (and the fighting moments). Walter Brennan won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and he gives a fun, if over the top, performance. His redneck antics are pretty over the top but it's still fun and keeps the film moving with some nice laughs. Being from Kentucky it was great seeing how Churchill Downs looked back then as well. The stereotypes of the black servants in the film might offend some as they all come off rather dumb but so do the Southern characters.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILER ALERT*** The bad blood between Kentucky thoroughbred horse-breeders the Goodwins and Dillons date back to the early days of the Civil War. That's when the Dillons decided to join the Union against the Confederate South that the Goodwins fought and died for. In fact it was Thad Goodwin Sr., Russell Hicks, who was gunned down by Capt. John Dillon Sr, Douglas Dumbrille, a then officer in the Union Army as he, under order from President Lincoln, had Goodwin's prized thoroughbred horses forcibly taken away from him.

    Now some seventy five years later, in 1938, the feud was reignited when banker and horse breeder John Dillon Jr, Moroni Olsen, turned down a loan to Thad Goodwin Jr, Charles Wladron, who desperately needed the cash to saved his beloved Elmtree Farm. It's at Elmtree where Goodwin bred his champion, over the years, thoroughbreds. The loan was turned down after Goodwin won a gentleman's bet, rolling dice, over Dillon to have a choice to pick any three year old colt at the Dillion Whistle Ranch Farm. To make thing even more complicated Goodwin playing the commodities market heavily invested in cotton futures, hedging his bets, that crashed! This caused him to literally drop dead on the sidewalk from a massive heart-attack.

    It's when Dillon's son John, Richard Greene came back from England after studying to be a banker, like his dad, that things started to heat up in the Blue Grass of Kentucky. John wanting to be a horse trainer instead of a banker also got romantically involved with the late Thad Goodwin's daughter Sally, Loretta Young, whom he kept his identity, of being a Dillon, from to win her over.

    Using the name Mr. Bossman Jack talks Sally and her Uncle Peter Goodwin, Walter Brennan, into letting him stay at their horse farm and train their only racehorse Bessy's Boy to run in the upcoming Kentucky Derby. It turned out that Bessy's Boy broke down when Sally rode him, after her car broke down, to get help for her dying mom Grace, Leona Roberts, leaving the Goodwin's with no horses for Jack to train.

    Finding the note that Old Man Goodwin got from John Dillon, on their bet, about getting one of his prize Three Year Olds Sally together with her Uncle Peter picked up this jet black colt at the Dillon Farm whom they named Bluegrass; And the rest is movie horse-racing history. Great horse racing action sequences coupled with beautiful Technicolor photography makes "Kentucky" a stand out of a movie despite it's schmaltzy and predictable storyline.

    Jack's cover, as Mr. Bossman, is blown when Sally finds out he's actually a hated Dillon from the racing secretary as she tried to talk to him before the big race that Bluegress was entered in. It's when Bluegress won, on a foul, that Sally began to realize that Jack, despite being a Dillon, was on the up and up not like, in her mind, his greedy father who, which was a real stretch on Sally's part, drove her dad to his death.

    **MAJOR SPOILER** With the big race-the Kentucky Derby-next Jack who had by then confessed to Sally who he really is, a Dillon, tells her not to have Blurgrass hit by his jockey during the race. It will only have him quit and end up the track by the time the race is over. Going against her Uncle Peter's orders, who wanted Bluegrass whipped in the stretch run, both Bluegrass his jockey and Sally ended up in the Churchill Downs Winners Circle. But ironically the old frail, and having a bad ticker on top of all that, Uncle Peter who all his life dreamed in owning a Derby winner wasn't there with them! Uncle Peter left the scene, or this plane of existence, just as the big race ended with his heart, the excitement was just too much, giving out on him.

    Superior horse racing movie not only because of the great racing in it but because the acting of Academy Award winning Walter Brennan as Uncle Peter Goodwin as well as the rest of it's top flight cast. There' also the added attraction of having guest appearances in the film of such greats of the American Turf as Man O' War and his 1937 Triple Crown son the speedy War Admiral. There's also making a guest appearance in "Kentucky" the 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha the only offspring of a Triple Crown winner in horse-racing history who's sire was 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox who's incidentally also in the movie!

    P.S At the start of "Kentucky" we see Uncle Peter asleep on his easy chair with the newspaper, that's covering his face, headline Seabiscuit, who also makes a guest appearance in the film, to face War Admiral at New York's Belmont Park in $100,000.00 Match Race. The Match Race between he two champion horses actually took place at Pimlico, known as Old Hilltop, outside of Baltimore Maryland not in New York's Belmont Park.
  • bkoganbing16 January 2013
    The Look Of Eagles is what every great race horse has according to Walter Brennan in Kentucky. It's that gleam in the eye that you see in any athlete, human or equine, that tells you he's got heart. In the case of horses, heart enough to go the distance of a mile and a quarter, the set distance of the Kentucky Derby.

    The third Oscar for Best Supporting Actor went to Walter Brennan for Kentucky as the 34 year old Brennan made up with white hair plays unreconstructed rebel Peter Goodwin, grand uncle to Loretta Young. This film set a standard for Brennan who played very little, but old codgers after that.

    The leads in Kentucky are Loretta Young and Richard Greene who was no doubt brought to 20th Century Fox as a backup for Tyrone Power. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the film was developed as something for Power originally who co-starred with Young on a few occasions.

    The two are three generations removed from the Civil War which split the families apart. In a prologue to the modern story, the head of the Dillon family sides with the Union and the head of the Goodwin clan goes with the Confederacy. Later on Douglass Dumbrill head of the Dillon family now an officer in the Union Army raids the Goodwin farm and the head of the Goodwin family is shot and killed and the thoroughbred horses they were raising are taken as war contraband. Young Bobs Watson sees all this and he grows up to be Walter Brennan.

    When Greene speeds by in a car and catches sight of Loretta Young on a horse, it's love at first sight, but a forbidden love because of the family feud. Greene and Young have a rocky road ahead, not helped by the fact that he gives up the banking business and goes to work for the Goodwins under an alias because she won't give him the right time of a day if she knows he's one of the hated enemy.

    The 1938 Kentucky Derby is worked into the plot where Calumnet Farms Lawrin ridden by Eddie Arcaro wins and Arcaro also gets a line in the film. Lawrin stands in for the three year old colt owned by one of the feuding families. But the win is also clouded by tragedy.

    A lot of black players get into Kentucky, but sad to say in some truly stereotypical roles. It's probably why Kentucky is rarely seen these days. I hadn't seen it myself in about 35 years.

    Still for Brennan's dominating performance and Loretta Young at her prettiest you can't go wrong with Kentucky.
  • Frankly, I paid less attention to the plot than to the horses in the early part of the film. My God, where did they get those magnificent animals? Golden Chimes, Grenadier, Torch Bearer were worth the whole film to a horse lover! And the films of the great horses of the period, especially Man o' War, are a special treat. However, having to sit through Bobs Watson, probably the worst child actor in history, is really an effort. Little Bobs didn't cry, he BLUBBERED, with his cheeks swollen like balloons, and that whiney, squally voice--! Oh, well, I guess you can't have everything. Enjoy the horses and forget the rest!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Copyright 30 December 1938 by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Roxy, 23 December 1938. U.S. release 30 December 1938. U.K. release: March 1939. Australian release: 13 April 1939. 8,630 feet. 96 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: A longstanding feud between two Kentucky families is resolved when the son of one falls in love with the daughter of the other and he helps her horse defeat his own father's entry in the Kentucky Derby.

    NOTES: Academy Award, Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan (defeating John Garfield in Four Daughters, Gene Lockhart in Algiers, Robert Morley in Marie Antoinette and Basil Rathbone in If I Were King). With a domestic rentals gross of $1.5 million, an equal second at U.S./Canadian ticket-windows for 1938.

    VIEWERS' GUIDE: Okay for all.

    COMMENT: All eyes at our recent screening were originally focused on Walter Brennan, but we soon tired of his performance. Not only is it the same old portrait we're already familiar with, but his acting is exaggerated and his make-up unconvincing. No way would we have voted him an Oscar ahead of any of the other contenders.

    No, the person who soon took our attention was Loretta Young. Never has she looked more beautiful or acted with such charm, conviction and finesse. Not only does she look really attractive in Technicolor but her costumes have a style and appeal that still seems fashionable and captivating in 2017.

    The other players pale beside Miss Young. Best of the cameo artists is Willard Robertson. Rochester's bit as a singing groom also drew our attention. But Moroni Olsen is stiff and unlike-able (fortunately these qualities suit his role); whilst Richard Greene has plenty of the eager-beaver about him, but lacks the sort of macho charisma we expect in a male lead. Just think what someone like Clark Gable could have done with the part!!

    Some of our favorite character players flit by in small roles, including Douglass Dumbrille and Charles Lane. Alas, our pet aversions, the Watson brothers, are both in this movie, but confined fortunately to the 1861 Prologue scenes.

    Although the story is rather unusually constructed — the Prologue is followed by a short documentary section as off-camera narrator John Nesbitt sings the praises of Kentucky, and only then does the plot proper begin — it's too slight and predictable to retain the interest for long. This of course is where Technicolor comes in. When the scenery is so attractive and it's dressed with such professional élan, it doesn't really matter that the characters were clichés and the situations old-hat when Shakespeare was a lad.

    OTHER VIEWS: Despite having to carry a wet hero (and his dad), plus indulge a scene-chewing character player, director Butler manages to get a lot of entertainment value out of a rather simple and thoroughly predictable little yarn in which not a single family horse-racing cliché is missed. Part of the reason for this success is undoubtedly producer Zanuck's free hand with the studio's money, including his decision to strengthen the picture with Technicolor. Winsome Loretta Young looks mighty fetching! — J.H.R. writing as Tom Howard.

    There are some pictures that need color, others for which color is simply an added attraction. Kentucky belongs firmly in the former category. Yet oddly it was frequently aired in black-and-white on TV in the 60s, 70s and even in the 80s. Anyone watching this movie in black-and-white will be bored witless. But in color, the movie is great entertainment. Made with all the customary Fox expertise, including superb photography and marvelous sound, this up-to-date color print of Kentucky certainly hits the spot! Mind you, I can't see why Walter Brennan created such contemporary excitement. I've seen him give some deserving charismatic performances — The Westerner for example — but Kentucky is strictly cornball. — J.H.R. writing as George Addison.
  • This film had been shown on local Cable TV in the late 1990s, but I had missed out on its handful of broadcasts; in any case, the main reason that would have drawn me to it was the fact that amiable character actor Walter Brennan won the second of three Supporting Oscars (a record, also because all occurred within a five-year span!) for his performance here. In retrospect, while his contribution is easily the best thing about the movie, I would argue that Brennan's fellow nominees were perhaps more deserving of the accolade – since, for one thing, none would ever win eventually and they each involved more demanding roles! For the record, I have yet to catch Basil Rathbone in IF I WERE KING (as the French King Louis XI), but did get to see John Garfield in FOUR DAUGHTERS (his renowned debut), Gene Lockhart in ALGIERS (though Malta's own Joseph Calleia, in his personal favorite part, was no less impressive!) and Robert Morley in MARIE ANTOINETTE (as Louis XVI).

    The film is nevertheless also notable for its gleaming Technicolor: that said, the thin narrative of a Southern Romeo and Juliet-type feud was hardly worthy of such exclusive attention, especially since its horse- racing backdrop had already been (more) successfully dealt with in monochrome in such classics as Frank Capra's Broadway BILL (1934) and the Marx Bros. vehicle A DAY AT THE RACES (1937)! Anyway, following a nicely atmospheric prologue set during the Civil War (the participation of Karen Morley and Douglass Dumbrille is restricted to this sequence), we fast-forward to contemporary times as their offsprings, Richard Greene and Loretta Young respectively, end up romancing each other without the latter knowing the former's true identity; he even trains their sole remaining horse (actually owed to them by Greene's banker father) after the patriarch blows away all their money on cotton whose price "nose-dived" soon after!

    Brennan is the man's brother, a connoisseur of thoroughbreds but who is deemed an eccentric on account of his irascible behaviour – indeed, while Young had her eyes set on the champion stud in the Greene family stable, her uncle persuades the heroine to settle for the second-best – because he saw in its eyes what he calls "The Look Of Eagles", the title of the story which inspired the film! Incidentally, the scene where the stallion is chosen constitutes an undeniable highlight – the crooked groom hides the two horses from their enemies, but Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's singing the champion's praises are enthusiastically joined in by Brennan, egging him on into revealing its whereabouts! Despite the subject matter, only two contests are incorporated into the plot (and with the first being only heard on the radio in the ticket booth); both are won by the horse Brennan had faith in…but its triumph at the all- important derby is too-briefly enjoyed by him, since he suffers a heart attack and expires at the racetrack. Unsurprisingly, 'uneducated' black servants abound throughout – notably a chicken thief expelled from one household and taken in by another. Finally, I guess I ought to point out that this was thrice remade – as DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940), HOME IN INDIANA (1944; also featuring Brennan) and APRIL LOVE (1957) – but, it goes without saying, I have no immediate interest in checking them out...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'll have to begin with the biggest negative to this film. Do we really need yet another film where young Bobs Watson demonstrates his ability to cry hysterically????? In "Boys Town" it was touching, but it got sickening after a while.

    Beyond that, this is a really good film. Particularly because one of its supporting actors, and in my view the real star of the film -- Walter Brennan -- who at 40 years of age was able to skillfully play the grandfather (who had been played in childhood by Bobs Watson).

    The titled star of the film -- Loretta Young -- doesn't arrive until 18 minutes into the film, but I think that tells you something about the intent here -- to make a good film, not just highlight the stars. She's beautiful, and one can see why she was a star. This was one of her few color films. The other star is Richard Greene, a British actor who was building to a great career until the war intervened, and never quite got it back together after the conflict. He's very good here.

    What isn't so good any longer is the color, which has faded somewhat and is a bit uneven, particularly on Loretta Young's face. Almost makes this look like a colorized film, but it's real Technicolor. And, the age and lack of restoration has made the print shown on TCM not crisp. However, the original production standards here were high, and it's noticeable.

    This film is far better than its listing description, which makes it sound like a hillbilly film with two feuding families. Yes, the families are feuding, but they're not hillbillies...they're the horse-racing elite of Kentucky -- families divided years before by the Civil War (that part of the story is highlighted in the first 15 minutes of the film, then it forwards to the "present" time...where Loretta Young and Richard Greene come in).

    Films all have happy endings. Right? Wrong. The ending here is bittersweet, at best. And throughout the picture, 3 key characters die. But again, that proves that the producers here wanted a solid story, and they deliver.

    A fine film. Watch it!
  • Real footage of Lawrin's win. 2 horses, Bluegrass & Postman. I just wanted to point out that the silk colors for Blugrass/Lawrin were green w/white polka dots.Eddie Arcaro won his 1st Derby aboard "Bluegrass" aka Lawrin.

    Im surprised no-one picked up on this !!! Same w/"Glory" (1956). The film footage of "Glory" winning was actual footage of Swaps/Nashua in 1955. The silk colors in the movie match Swaps & Nashua.

    I recommend this movie because of the locations & Loretta Young. Scenes of the farms in KY like Calumet, Greentree and others add to the beauty of it all.
  • this movie played twice on THIStv, a great channel.

    Kentucky is one of my favorites. I am teaching a Southern History course, and I use the "Southern" any movie about the South to talk about how Hollywood viewed blacks, the different classes of southern society. A great movie similar to this that also starred Walter Brennan is Maryland Fox 1940 Hattie McDaniel is in this one It takes place on a large estate in Maryland, and has to do with steeplechase and fox-hunting. Both of these movies are fun a bit dated with the racial views, but in the context of a good story,a dn history well worth watching. Where can I get a copy or view online Maryland? also please write thistv and let them know you like movies such as Kentucky,Maryland They must have purchased a cache of 20thCenturyFox films, they showed the 1953 Titanic on Sunday. Also anyone who has done research on the Southern as a genre please let me know I am planning to do an aritcle.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this advertised for the THIS network and seemed like it would be a horse-racing-genre movie. This is one of my favorite genres and I've come to expect gritty, fleshed out characters (even Runyonesque in the best ones), both on the owner/trainer side and (even more so) on the jockey/groom/gambler side. Here you will find none of that.

    First, they movie seems to be confused about which side of the Civil War Kentucky was on (They remained in the Union and fielded some of the finest units).

    Next, the cast in this movie is wonderful. It includes Walter Brennen, one of my all time favorites — I never saw a bad Brennen performance until now. And Loretta Young could be a fine actress — always ladylike but sexy and very subtle in her acting.

    But Butler's blocking for the scenes is sophomoric and wooden. The performances he gets from this fine cast comes across like a so-so high school drama club.

    If you love "Seabiscuit," "Black Stallion," "Let It Ride," "Broadway Bill," "Stablemates," don't get your hopes up for this one!