16 July 2015 | blanche-2
true story of Elmer Gantry, the blind steeplechaser
Animal movies - I don't care if they're B movies done on the cheap, I'm as into them as I was Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, Vertigo - all the greats. I can't watch dog stories, though, even if I know the dog lives. I get too nervous.
Pride of the Blue Grass is the true story of the horse Elmer Gantry, known as Gantry the Great, who became a great steeplechaser. In the film, he's originally trained as a racehorse but contracts a disease and becomes blind.
A dedicated young man, Danny Lowman (James McCallion), originally owns the horse with his dad, who was ousted from racing due to a scandal. The foal, Gantry, is rescued from a fire after birth, during which Danny's father and Gantry's mother are killed.
When Lowman Sr.'s effects are to be sold to pay his debts, Danny runs away with Gantry. He gives the horse to his good friend, Midge (Edith Fellows) whose father (Granville Bates) also races horses.
Two years pass, and it's time for Gantry to start training. He's impossible, and the trainers and Col. Bob, Midge's dad, give up on him.
Around this time, Midge learns that Danny is in trouble and up before a judge. She has him released to her custody. He begins working with Gantry and turns him into a racing champ. Then blindness strikes.
I loved it -- it's a programmer that comes in less than 1:15, but directed by a pro, Vincent Sherman. The actors give it their heartfelt best, as does Gantry, who plays himself.
Some exciting race scenes as well as a steeplechase.
Believe it or not, the actor playing Col. Bob, Granville Bates was only 57 when this film was made. He was a respected and prolific character actor who died the next year of a heart attack.
As for Gantry, he was actually a show horse, an exhibition jumper, and racehorse. His disease process of Periodic Ophthalmia actually began when he was 11. Today anti-inflammatories could treat him, but there were none in the 1930s.
After he went totally blind, his owner, seeing how miserable he was, started to ride him again and re-taught him to jump and gallop with verbal cues. The horse perked up right away. His owner said, "It is not miserable to be blind...it is miserable not to be able to endure blindness."
Like any other actor, Gantry made personal appearances for Warner Brothers. Lovely film - if you see it on TCM, watch it.