4 June 2010 | bkoganbing
Salt Of The Earth
Paramount celebrated Alan Ladd's return from military service by giving him this racetrack story which got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Ladd plays the title character of Salty O'Rourke who is a racetrack character of sorts and a guy who is no better than he ought to be.
In fact he's got himself in a real jackpot with bookie Bruce Cabot. Ladd's former partner ran up a really big debt and skipped out and Ladd is holding the bag. He negotiates a deal with Cabot for a month's extension.
What he comes up with is a complicated scheme to obtain a spirited, but unrideable race horse and then to get a talented jockey who's been banned for gambling. Ladd and trainer William Demarest buy the horse and then go to Mexico to get jockey Stanley Clements who is leading a dissolute life south of the border.
Ladd and Demarest use the name of Stan's younger brother who is still a juvenile. But because of that the law requires he attend the school run at the racetrack. Clements balks at first, in fact he balks at just about everything. But one look at schoolteacher Gail Russell and he changes his mind. In fact Ladd takes an interest as well and therein lies the problem.
In a role where someone like Tyrone Power who specialized in playing hero/heels like Salty O'Rourke could have been the best casting, Alan Ladd does pretty well by the part. Standing out in the film though is Stanley Clements who was playing a character not too different from what he was in real life. Clements was the wild child and later wilder adult if tales are true. Spring Byington is also in the cast playing Russell's vapid and clueless mother.
Director Raoul Walsh got some racetrack atmospherics in the film and no doubt use of nearby Santa Anita or Hollywood Park was made to the limit. Salty O'Rourke proved that Alan Ladd still had box office appeal and was a good film to return from military service with.