Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

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Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Wild hearts cant be broken poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Miner
Produced byMatt Williams
Written byMatt Williams
Oley Sassone
Based onA Girl and Five Brave Horses
by Sonora Webster Carver
Music byMason Daring
CinematographyDaryn Okada
Edited byJon Poll
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$7.3 million

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken is a 1991 American drama film directed by Steve Miner. The screenplay concerns Sonora Webster Carver, a rider of diving horses. Gabrielle Anwar stars as Carver alongside Michael Schoeffling and Cliff Robertson. It is based on events in Carver's life as told in her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses.[1][2]


Sonora Webster lives with her sister and abusive aunt during the Great Depression. She learns that because of her accidentally letting the cows loose and her suspension from school, her treasured horse Lightning has been sold and she will be placed in an orphanage. Instead, Sonora slips out of the house during the night. She ends up at a county fair and sees a performance by Marie, a diving girl who rides a horse off a platform, and aspires to do the same. Doc Carver, Marie's employer, tells her she is too young but gives Sonora a job as a stable hand due to her ability with horses, and she begins traveling with them. Doc's son Al wins a wild horse in a card game and Sonora names him Lightning. She later surprises Doc by taming and riding Lightning, so he promises to train her as a diving girl if she can mount it while it's moving, which she succeeds after multiple attempts.

Marie's regular horse becomes sick, therefore Al decides to use Lightning in the shows. Sonora warns Marie to not kick him, but she ignores the warning and Lightning causes her to fall and dislocate her shoulder. With Marie unable to perform, Al asks Sonora if she can do the stunts. Although she has never dived with Lightning, their first jump is successful. Marie becomes jealous, and as Doc tires of her diva-like behavior, she quits rather than share billing with Sonora. Al develops a romance with Sonora that strains his relationship with his father, and he leaves home after a particularly bad fight. Al promises to write to Sonora, but Doc hides all the letters that he sends to Sonora and she thinks that he has forgotten about her. When Doc and the new stable hand Clifford are away from the farm in search of jobs for the show, Lightning falls ill with colic. Al returns to the farm, and he and Sonora work together to heal Lightning. Doc hasn't found anywhere for them to perform, but then Al announces he has arranged a six-month contract to perform at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This reconciles father and son, but then Doc passes away from a heart attack on the way to Atlantic City, and Al assumes his father's role as the show presenter. Sonora searches for Doc's jacket to give Al confidence on his first show, and finds one of Al's letters inside that confesses his love for her, and she lets him know that she feels the same.

Al proposes to Sonora just before a performance in front of their biggest crowd, which she accepts. The horse is a jittery stallion instead of her usual partner Lightning, and the new horse falters and trips off the end of the diving board after shying from a cymbal crash below. Not expecting it, Sonora has her eyes open as they fall into the water. Senora and the horse are both alive, but Senora can't see properly. However, she hides this from Al, not wanting him to stop her doing the shows. Sonora wakes the next morning to discover she is permanently blind from detached retinas in both eyes. Senora has to learn to find her away around while blind, and Al is always by her side to help her. To avoid a breach of contract lawsuit, Al must find another diving girl within a week, so he calls Marie, who returns. Meanwhile, Sonora misses diving terribly, especially as she has to stay home while she knows Al and Marie are out performing. She tells Al of her desire to dive with Lightning again, and they work together to try to train her to mount him again, but it proves fruitless and Al gives up. Sonora spends some quiet time with Lightning that night.

The next day, Sonora and Clifford lock Marie in her dressing room, and Sonora performs in her place with Lightning. Al shouts at her to come back down, but she continues and the jump is successful. Her voiceover tells you that she continued diving for eleven more years with the audience never learning of her blindness, and of her happy marriage to Al.


  • Gabrielle Anwar as Sonora Webster
  • Michael Schoeffling as Al Carver
  • Cliff Robertson as Doc Carver
  • Dylan Kussman as Clifford
  • Kathleen York as Marie
  • Frank Renzulli as Mr. Slater
  • Nancy Moore Atchison as Arnette Webster
  • Lisa Norman as Aunt Helen
  • Lorianne Collins as Clarabelle
  • Elizabeth Hayes as Miss Simpson
  • Laura Lee Norton as Mrs. Ellis
  • Michael J. Matusiak as Photographer
  • Jeff Woodward as Reporter #1
  • David Massry as Reporter #2
  • Cheri Brown as Attractive Girl
  • David Dwyer as Stagehand
  • Haley Aull as Little Girl
  • Ed Grady as Preacher
  • Katy Matson as Kid #1
  • Wendy Ball as Kid #2
  • Sam Aull as Kid #3
  • Carson Aull as Kid #4
  • Boyd Peterson as Farmer #1
  • Gene Walker as Farmer #2
  • Lowell D. Smith as Wrangler
  • Rick Warner as Doctor
  • Mark Jeffrey Miller as Candy Man
  • Tim Carter as Cymbal Player


Upon the film's release, Sonora Webster Carver and her sister Arnette French watched the movie together. Sonora was dissatisfied with its embellishments and felt that it bore little resemblance to her life.[3] She told Arnette that, "the only thing true in it was that I rode diving horses, I went blind, and I continued to ride for another 11 years." Arnette said that the movie, "made a big deal about having the courage to go on riding after she lost her sight. But the truth was that riding the horse was the most fun you could have and we just loved it so."[4]

The film currently holds a 73% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 11 reviews.[5]


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen (1991-05-24). "Review/Film; The True Story Of a Girl, a Horse, A Diving Board". NY Times.
  2. ^ Rainer, Peter (May 24, 1991). "'Wild Hearts': Bland Disney Family Fare". The Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Kent, Bill (1997-05-04). "The Horse Was in Charge". New York Times.
  4. ^ Kaushik. "The Diving Horses Of Atlantic City". AmusingPlanet.com.
  5. ^ "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken". Rotten Tomatoes.

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