Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sporting Blood (1931)

As horse racing movies go, Sporting Blood is an interesting and even unique one.

Through several opening title cards, the movie sets about with the intention of just telling the story of a horse, Tommy Boy, as he's transferred from owner to owner. The first half hour of the film is the best: Ernest Torrence plays the horse's first and most sentimental owner in an atmospheric, powerfully directed extended sequence. The sequence is also noteworthy (for 1931) for a portrayal of African Americans which isn't condescending or farcical. The Uncle Ben character (John Larkin) proves more instrumental to Tommy Boy's fate than any other.

Tommy Boy is shown sold to a succession of owners, each with diminishing respect or care for the horse. Then Clark Gable and Madge Evans enter the picture and it deflates. What had previously been a single-minded film about the fate of a horse becomes a late-in-the-game, conventional MGM love story about the redemption of sordid characters and the story of a horse.

One can imagine the producers' concerns that the story of just a horse wouldn't have the sex appeal needed for box office draw, but the Gable/Evans plot seems forced into a movie that was doing fine by itself.

Still, Sporting Blood is worth watching for some other good qualities: the direction, the Kentucky racing cinematography and the appearances of longtime silent film stars like Lew Cody and Marie Prevost.

Sporting Blood has been released on a Warner Archives DVD-R and is also shown on Turner Classic Movies.

1 comment:

Java Bean Rush said...

Haven't seen this one yet.
Nice blog. I love MGM! I will put you on my blog roll.