What would film history be like without the charm of Barry Fitzgerald? Can’t you just see Barry polishing his Oscar saying “I shudder to even think such thoughts.”
As Shirley Temple’s career was coming to a close she was teamed here with the supreme scene stealer in Fitzgerald. They have arrived in Kentucky where Barry has been brought over from the old country to select top racing horses for further training. Temple is playing his niece who has come to America to continue her training as a nurse. It is here that Barry sees a young Seabiscuit. A horse that he feels will overpower the racing world.
Overpowering Shirley’s heart is Lon McCallister as the jockey who will be taking the reigns of the famed racing horse as he begins his run to prominence. Shirley has trouble committing to Lon due to the death of her brother in a horse racing accident. This of course allows Barry the opportunity to play cupid allowing him plenty of opportunities to display his acting tricks.
Think about it, Barry is probably the only actor that was ever capable of holding his own with Cheetah the chimp in the Tarzan series. He’s that good.
There are plenty of horse races to enjoy here including mixing some original black and white footage of the real deal into this technicolor offering.
This is really a by the numbers horse racing entry with a bit of romance added in to keep the film a pleasant offering for audiences of the day. Horse racing has always been a wonderful backdrop for Hollywood since movies began. Even today we still get the odd one turn up including the Tobey Maguire Seabiscuit of 2003.
I am well aware of the name of Seabiscuit in the arena of horse racing but can’t swear to the true story and how the behind the scenes of his training played out. I am pretty sure this is another one of those distorted Hollywood versions that bends the truth to make for a pleasurable viewing. No complaints here as it is just that.
This film from Warner Brothers was directed by David Butler. Butler would also direct a number of Doris Day’s earlier musicals before settling into television shows like Leave it to Beaver.
This was the last year that Miss Temple would appear in films leaving a legacy that lasts to this day. In all fairness to her acting skills as an adult in this feature, she’s passable but with Barry Fitzgerald along for the ride she is handicapped from the outset. Here’s a nice shot of Shirley as we all love to remember her.