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 by Steve Miner
Produced by Matt Williams
Written by Matt Williams
Oley Sassone
Based on A Girl and Five Brave Horses
by Sonora Webster Carver
Music by Mason Daring
Cinematography Daryn Okada
Edited by Jon Poll
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $7.3 million

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken is a 1991 drama film about Sonora Webster Carver, a rider of diving horses, starring Gabrielle Anwar as Carver alongside Michael Schoeffling and Cliff Robertson. It is based on events in her life as told in her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses.[1][2]


Sonora Webster is living with her emotionally abusive aunt during the Great Depression. Sonora learns that because of the family's financial difficulties, her treasured horse Lightning will be sold and she will be placed in an orphanage. Instead, Sonora slips out of the house during the night.

Sonora ends up at a county fair and sees a performance by Marie, a diving girl, as she jumps onto a horse as it runs up a steep platform just before it leaps off into a pool of water. Sonora then informs Doc Carver, Marie's employer, that she is his new diving girl, and Doc tells her she is too young.

Doc sees Sonora's talent with horses and give her a job as a stable hand, and she begins traveling with them. Doc's son Al wins a wild horse in a card game, and believes his father will give her a chance to train as a diving girl if she can tame it. She surprises Doc one day by riding up on it and he promises she can train to be a diving girl if she can mount it while it's moving. After multiple attempts, she finally succeeds and Doc keeps his promise, much to the chagrin of Marie.

One day, Marie falls and dislocates her shoulder, leaving her unable to perform, and Sonora has to step in. Although she has never dived with Lightning, Sonora is successful at her first jump. Marie is so jealous that she makes unreasonable demands of Doc to ensure her stardom status, and after he refuses them, she quits the show rather than share billing with Sonora.

Al and his father have always had a difficult relationship, which isn't helped by his burgeoning romance with Sonora, and one day he leaves after having a particularly bad fight with him. He and Sonora are close and he promises to write her. He does write but Doc hides his letters. Doc and the new stable hand Clifford leave the farm in search of work, and that night Lightning falls ill. Sonora spends the night with Lighning and is awakened by Al, who has returned. It seems Lightning ate some moldy hay and has developed colic. Al and Sonora work together to heal Lightning. Doc returns with the news there is no more work to be had and announce that the show is over.

Al asks Sonora why she never wrote him, and she tells him that she never received any letters from him. Both are confused over the missing letters. Al announces he has arranged a six-month contract with the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey to perform. The good news seems to patch up old differences between Doc and Al. Doc passes away en route to Atlantic City, apparently from a heart attack. Al assumes his father's role as show presenter. On his first day, he is extremely nervous, so Sonora finds Doc's famous fringed jacket to give Al confidence. In it she also finds one of Al's old letters, confessing his love for her. She lets him know she feels the same.

Al and Sonora perform at Atlantic City in front of their largest audience. As she is climbing the ladder, he proposes to her. She accepts and gets ready to do the jump. The horse, a jittery stallion who is not her usual partner Lightning, is anxious because of all the noise from the band and the crowd, and just before the jump a cymbal crashes loudly, which causes him to falter and trip. Sonora keeps her eyes open as they fall into the water. Both of them make it, but her vision is impaired, yet she hides this from Al. The next day when she wakes up, Sonora discovers she can't see. A doctor diagnoses detached retinas in both eyes and tells her she is permanently blind. In order to avoid a breach of contract lawsuit, Al must find another diving girl within a week, and calls Marie, who returns.

Clifford has been working on his "new" motorcycle and gets it back in working condition. He demonstrates his new act for a small crowd - it is an enormous metal ball in which he rides around inside on the motorcycle, doing loop after loop. The crowd is amazed and he is pleased with his new "death-defying" act.

Meanwhile, Sonora misses diving terribly, and feels utterly helpless and like a burden. She tells him of her desires to dive again, and indicates her unique bond with Lightning. She and Al work together to try to train her to mount him again, much the same way she and Doc once worked together earlier to train her to do so in motion. She is stubborn and refuses to give up, but Al forces her to accept the fact that it is impossible. She spends some quiet time with Lightning that night.

The next day, with the help of Clifford, Marie is locked in her dressing room. Sonora climbs the platform as Clifford releases Lightning and the horse trots up to Sonora. Al is scared for her and shouts at her to come back down, but she continues and the jump is successful. Her voice-over tells us that she continued diving for eleven more years with the audience never learning of her blindness, and about her happy marriage to Al.



Upon the film's release, Sonora Webster Carver, who had lost her sight, and her sister Arnette French heard the movie together, but Sonora was dissatisfied with its romanticism of her life despite its appeal to the general public.

The film currently holds a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]


  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.
    They weren't so truthful about the facts in that movie, either, Arnette remembers. My sister was so disappointed in it. I remember her turning to me in the theater after we saw it, and her saying, 'the only thing true in it was that I rode diving horses, I went blind, and I continued to ride for another 11 years.'
  4. ^ "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken". Rotten Tomatoes. 

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