The Red Pony (1949 film)
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|The Red Pony|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lewis Milestone|
|Produced by||Lewis Milestone|
|Screenplay by||John Steinbeck|
|Story by||John Steinbeck|
|Music by||Aaron Copland|
|Edited by||Harry Keller|
Lewis Milestone Productions
Chas. K. Feldman Group Productions
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
A young boy, Tom Tiflin (Peter Miles), is given a small pony by his father (Shepperd Strudwick). Tom asks the stable helper, Billy Buck (Robert Mitchum), to help him raise and train it so that it can be ridden. During a rain storm the pony gets out of the stable and having been soaked becomes fevered. Despite Buck's best efforts to nurse the pony it develops strangles and requires a tracheotomy. Shortly after the procedure, the pony escapes from the farm. Tom follows the pony's hoof prints to a gully where it has died and is being eaten by vultures. He blames Buck for not saving its life. Buck, feeling remorse, prepares to kill his own pregnant mare in order to give Tom a colt, believing the unborn may not have turned. Tom grows angry at Buck's willingness to sacrifice a horse and steals his knife. When they return to the stable the foal has been born naturally, with both mother and colt surviving.
In adapting his novella into a screenplay, Steinbeck focused mainly on the chapters "The Gift" and "The Promise". Characters' names were changed from those in the book: Jody Tiflin became "Tom", and his parents Carl and Ruth became "Fred" and "Alice". The film also features a much happier ending than the novella: in the book, Billy Buck cannot deliver the foal naturally and so has to kill the mare in order to perform a cesarean section so as to save her unborn foal. Other violent scenes, such as Jody beating a vulture to death, were also toned down or omitted entirely for the film adaptation.
- Myrna Loy as Alice Tiflin
- Robert Mitchum as Billy Buck
- Louis Calhern as Grandfather
- Shepperd Strudwick as Fred Tiflin
- Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin
- Margaret Hamilton as Teacher
- Patty King as Jinx Ingals
- Jackie Jackson as Jackie
- Beau Bridges as Beau
- Don Reynolds as Little Brown Jug
- Nino Tempo as Nino
- Tommy Sheridan as Dale
The film is notable today because of the original score composed by Aaron Copland, which he also arranged and published as an orchestral suite. Copland himself conducted London's New Philharmonia Orchestra in a recording of the music for Columbia Records, which was later reissued on CD by Sony Records.
Film critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review, writing, "But, unfortunately, the story does ramble, and its several interlaced strands are often permitted to dangle or get lost in the leisurely account. An extraneous family situation involving the youngster's Ma and Pa, wherein the father has trouble with his ego, likewise confuses the plot. In directing the picture, Mr. Milestone has adopted a frankly casual style which further invests the proceedings with a languid quality."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: