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SPORTING BLOOD (director/writer: Charles Brabin; screenwriter: story “Horseflesh” by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan/Willard Mack/Wanda Tuchock; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: William S. Gray; music: William Axt; cast: Clark Gable (Warren “Rid” Riddell), Ernest Torrence (Jim Rellence), Madge Evans (Missy Ruby), Lew Cody (Tip Scanlon), Marie Prevost (Angela Ludeking); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; MGM; 1931)
This is the flick that earned the up-and-coming Gable top-billing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An exciting old-fashioned race horse drama involving a race at the Kentucky Derby for the featured thoroughbred, Tommy Boy. Director Charles Brabin (“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”/”The Mask of Fu Manchu”/”A Wicked Woman”) gives it a sporty look, and Clark Gable (not yet sporting his trademark mustache) shows us some star power charisma as to why in the future he’ll be a superstar. This is the flick that earned the up-and-coming Gable top-billing, after going from playing thugs to a supporting player to the glamor gal stars. Sporting Blood is based on the book “Horseflesh” by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, and is cowritten by Brabin, Willard Mack and Wanda Tuchock.

Warren “Rid” Riddell (Clark Gable) is a shifty casino card dealer, who works for a crooked owner, Tip Scanlon (Lew Cody). The unscrupulous Tip obtains Tommy Boy, a champion racehorse, who was sold few times by his honest wealthy owners, and abuses the race horse by drugging him to fix races so the horse can win. But when the horse loses a big stake race after being drugged, Tip now fears the mob will be after him for losing a lot of money on his false tip and he lays the horse on his casino dealer Missy Ruby (Madge Evans). Ruby is someone whom Rid loves, but she doesn’t completely trust him. Tip is soon bumped-off by the mob and Ruby is now really the owner of the horse. She successfully maneuvers to get the former honest horse breeder owner of the horse, Jim Rellence (Ernest Torrence), to get the abused horse in shape for the climactic Churchill Downs race and the kindly breeder trains him on his grounds and Ruby stays there to get her own life back together in such a healthy climate. But Rid schemes with Tip’s thugs to bribe the jockey to fix the race so that Tommy Boy loses. It then becomes a question if Rid’s love for Ruby is stronger than his desire to be a crook, as the race is run and we wonder whether or not Tommy Boy will win and if Rid turned over a new leaf by going straight.

The horse-racing yarn is helped by the high energy performances of the actors and its quick pace, as its unremarkable story is not a winner but at least the overall quality of the pic allows it to finish in the money.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”