(director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: from the “The Saturday Evening Post” story “Phantom Filly” by George Agnew Chamberlain/Winston Miller; cinematographer: Edward Cronjager; editor: Harmon Jones; cast: Lon McCallister (Sparke), Charlotte Greenwood (Penny Bolt),Walter Brennan  (J. F. ‘Thunder’ Bolt), Ward Bond (Jed Bruce), Charles Dingle (Godaw Boole), Jeanne Crain (‘Char’ Bruce), June Haver (‘Cri-Cri’ Boole ), Robert Condon (Gordon Brady), Willie Best (Moe Run), George H. Reed (Tuppy), Noble (Kid) Chissell (Fleafit Dryer), Charles Sagagu (Jitterbug); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Andre Daven; 20th Century Fox; 1944)

“Colorful homespun harness racing film, that is also a coming-of-age drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Colorful homespun harness racing film, that is also a coming-of-age drama. Veteran filmmaker Henry Hathaway (“The Desert Fox”/”The Real Glory”) does a decent job with this sweet old-fashioned tale, but the film doesn’t age well. It was remade in 1957 as April Love, a Pat Boone vehicle. It’s based on the “The Saturday Evening Post” story “Phantom Filly” by George Agnew Chamberlain and is written by Winston Miller.

Troubled teenage orphan Sparke (Lon McCallister), a city slicker from Connecticut, is sent by the sheriff to live on an Indiana farm with his next of kin, his grouchy but big-hearted  uncle J.T. Bolt (Walter Brennan) and Aunt Penny (Charlotte Greenwood). He shows his ability with horses and begins a  romance with Char Brown (Jeanne Crain), the daughter of a horse trainer (Ward Bond) in a nearby breeding horse farm owned by her dad’s boss Godaw Boole (Charles Dingle). Sparke also flirts with Cr-Cri (June Haver), Boole’s fast-living daughter.

Helped by Bolt’s black trainer Tupper (George Reed), Sparke is by the side of Bolt’s only horse, the blind Lady, when she gives birth to Maudeen. The kid’s ambition is to train Maudeen for the big race at the county fair and give the prize money to his downfallen uncle so he can restore the Roundhouse stable back to its glory days.

REVIEWED ON 9/6/2016       GRADE: B-