4 December 2010 | HarlowMGM
Nice Horse Story For Family Audiences
THE RED STALLION is a nice little family picture from 1947 from Eagle-Lion Studios, attractively shot in Cinecolor. Ted Donaldson stars as Joel, a pre-teen who is raised by his grandmother (the always wonderful Jane Darwell) on her rural ranch. Joel comes across a bear one day fighting a horse and fires his gun to scare the bear away. He discovers the horse has been killed by the bear while protecting her newborn colt. Joel takes the pony home and names him "Red". He also learns the mother horse was a thoroughbred but her former owners do not want the colt so he is allowed to keep it.
Grandma Jane has bad news, however, she owes $11,000 to her creditors and when a company closes that she had arrangements to sell her stable of horses, her home and property are scheduled to go up on the auction block. Jane persuades her creditors to give her 30 more days in hopes of coming up with some way to save her property. Joel meanwhile gets the idea that if he can train Red properly, he might be able sell him as a potential race horse to a well-to-do neighbor.
This is a nice gentle old-fashioned family picture reminiscent of those long-ago children's novels of decades past about young people and their animals. It's a modest little picture and it hits it's modest target very well. Jane Darwell is wonderful as the loving grandma and Ted Donaldson is a very good young actor. Good support comes from Robert Paige, Noreen Nash, and particularly Robert Bice as the Indian ranch-hand, alas for reasons known only to the screenwriter, Willie Best is along in a stereotypical simple and spooked black character in a small part. Perhaps best of all is the wonderful dog actor Daisy from the BLONDIE movies playing Donaldson's devoted pup Curly - this dog is one of the best "actors" of the four-legged movie stars, very funny and amazingly trained, able to lead a horse, hook ropes, etc.
One amazing sequence in the last half hour has a fight between a bear and Red that has to be seen to be believed, at times seemingly very stunningly realistic with both bear and horse battling and then at points turns ludicrous when it's obvious a stuntman in a bear suit has stepped in for some of the scenes (including a hilariously bad bit where at one point the bear jumps the horse and is basically riding him like a human!) nevertheless some of the work done by the stuntman is pretty amazing considering a horse is stomping when the "faux" bear is on the ground.
THE RED STALLION is no classic but it's a nice little animal film for those who enjoy the genre. According to the final credit the film was made under the guidance of the American Humane Association.