BLACK GOLD (director: Phil Karlson; screenwriters: Agnes Christine Johnston/story by Caryl Coleman; cinematographer: Harry Neumann; editor: Roy Livingston; music: Edward J. Kay; cast: Anthony Quinn (Charley Eagle), Katherine DeMille (Sarah Eagle), “Ducky” Louie (Davey), Raymond Hatton (Bucky), Kane Richmond (Lowell, oil man), Thurston Hall (Colonel Caldwell), Elsye Knox (Ruth Frazer), Moroni Olsen (Toland), H. S. Tsiang (Davey’s Father), Charles Trowbridge (Judge Wilson), Clem McCarthy (himself), Jonathan Hale (Senator Watkins); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jeffrey Bernerd; Monogram (Allied Artists); 1947)
“This was Anthony Quinn’s first starring role.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The big race scene was filmed at Churchill Downs, with the real track announcer Clem McCarthy calling the race. Veteran filmmaker Phil Karlson(“Ben”/”Framed”/”Lorna Doone”) helms this sentimental feel-good ethnic B film, a film that was ahead of its time when it came to speaking out about race relations. The minor pic was named after the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby. It’s based on a story by Caryl Coleman, and is written by Agnes Christine Johnston. This was Anthony Quinn’s first starring role, appealingly playing a kind-hearted illiterate Indian. Quinn’s wife at the time, Katherine DeMille, plays his educated Indian spouse. The low-budget pic is enlivened by Cinecolor. But the message driven story, preaching tolerance throughout, might be politically correct but is a bit much to endure when it never stops preaching. Here white men are the villains. The wise Indian lead shows racial tolerance when he says it’s not fair to judge all whites by just these bad guys.
Charley Eagle (Anthony Quinn) and his wife Sarah (Katherine DeMille, producer-director Cecil B. DeMille’s adopted daughter) own a humble working ranch on an Oklahoma reservation. They adopt a teenage Chinese orphan Davey (“Ducky” Louie) whose father is killed by white smugglers sneaking them across the Mexican border into Texas. The kid is rescued by passer-by Charley Eagle. Both men have in common that their beloved father’s were killed by white men. Charley tells the shaken embittered kid “Anger is no good.”
Charley takes the kid to his home and his supportive wife arranges to adopt him. Oil is discovered on Charley’s land by a big oil company. Thereby Charley has enough money for a stud fee and arranges for the thoroughbred colt owned by Colonel Caldwell (Thurston Hall) to impregnate Black Hope with a colt named Black Gold. Charley’s plans to make his race horse Black Hope a champion go awry when the horse is lame after giving birth to the colt. So Charley’s old pal is hired as a horse trainer (Raymond Hatton) for Black Gold and Davey is trained to be the jockey. Since Charlie is crippled when hit by a beam from an oil rig, he’s not at the big race. He dies at home listening to the race but not before uttering “She won.” Thereby Sarah accepts the gold cup for the Derby win and declares this victory is for all Native Americans.
REVIEWED ON 4/10/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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