My Friend Flicka (1943)
Child Star, leading man, character actor, Cornelius the Chimp. All of these can be used to describe the talent that is known as Roddy McDowall. Roddy was a natural born child actor and had already starred in John Ford’s classic How Green Was My Valley as well as one of my own childhood favorites Lassie Come Home the same year that this technicolor film was released by 20th Century Fox. Due to his appearing in the Ape series he was one of the earliest faces on screen that I followed as a kid growing up. “Hey Mom, that’s Roddy McDowall!” I remember excitedly telling her during my first viewing of The Poseidon Adventure.
Taken from the novel by Mary O’Hara it is the story of a young boy growing up on a horse ranch who pines for a colt of his own. Preston Foster stars here as Roddy’s father who is a stern task master but eventually caves in to demands by the boy’s mother Rita Johnson to allow him to have one for his own. Hopefully the experience will help him grow up a little and give him a taste of responsibility. He’ll have plenty to deal with as he chooses a colt his father doesn’t approve of as it’s too wild and not likely to be broken. After the horse takes sick it’s the love of that boy that might be just what the ailing horse needs.
Directed by Harold Schuster with location filming in Wyoming the film comes off quite nicely during round up time. Helping out as ranch hands we also have Jeff Corey and James Bell who gives the film added depth as a caring foreman. Mix in a little drama to the classic story of a boy and his dog or in this case his horse and we have a fairly decent family film for all ages.
Roddy would return for the sequel in 1945 titled Thunderhead, Son of Flicka along with both Foster and Johnson as his parents. According to foreman Bell, Flicka is Swedish for Little Girl. There would also be a third film in 1948 with the roles recast called Green Grass of Wyoming.
As the film winds up we can only hope it teaches us all a little about love, patience and faith as Foster points out to young Roddy.