17 July 2002 | luannjim
Pleasant little boy-and-his-horse programmer
This is an RKO B-picture from 1939 that will probably never make it to video, but it just might crop up on Turner Classic Movies or something one of these days. If it does, it's a nice, well-made, unpretentious family-oriented picture that, at just over an hour, certainly doesn't wear out it's welcome.
Jimmy Lydon (a juvenile actor who later starred in the popular "Henry Aldrich" comedies for Paramount) plays David, a teenage orphan who lives on a hardscrabble farm with his nasty, abusive aunt and uncle. When a valuable brood mare is stolen from a neighboring ranch, the mare's foal runs after the thieves but can't keep up. Eventually the young colt wanders tired and hungry into David's barn. David convinces his stingy uncle to let him keep the horse until they can find the owner and see if there's a reward. By the time he finds out where the horse belongs, however, David has grown attached to the animal and can't bring himself to let go. Meanwhile, Uncle Thaddeus is determined to sell the horse or work it to death...
Jimmy Lydon, in his first real role, carries the movie easily, and the rest of the cast is good, too. Marjorie Main as his aunt -- ugly, harsh, and mean -- is certainly a long way from Ma Kettle! Arthur Hohl, as the uncle, is one of those actors you've seen without noticing in countless movies; here he actually gives some human subtlety to a part that is 100% villain. It's a nice job, with probably some credit due to director Jack Hively.
Joan Leslie (billed under her birth name of Joan Brodel) is charming as the daughter of the horse's rightful owner -- and good grief, she looks so YOUNG! (She was only 14 at the time; incredible to think that in only 3 years she'd be playing James Cagney's wife in "Yankee Doodle Dandy"!)