This time filler from MGM may not be the greatest release of the year from the studio with more stars then there are in the heavens but it is more than a footnote in the history of both the studio and movies in general. It’s the first film that teamed Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Even if they are co-stars to a young Ronald Sinclair who gets top billing over the far more famous duo.
Ronald is off to America by steamer with his Grandfather, C. Aubrey Smith. The purpose of the journey is to enter their prized horse into the American racing circuit for the upcoming season. The duo attend an early racing card in the season to look over the competition and find themselves a jockey.
Paging a rather cocky jockey in the form of Mickey Rooney or as I sometimes call him, “The Mick.” Mickey is the top jockey on the circuit with an abundance of talent and even greater amount of ego. That’s ego with a capital E. He’s not all that likable but young Sinclair has no idea and with his grandfather’s blessing, is off to meet The Mick to see if he can get him to ride their horse in the upcoming American Cup.
It’s here at the boarding house for jockeys, that both Sinclair and the viewing audience will meet Judy Garland. Her mother runs the boarding house which allows Judy plenty of screen time as she flirts and sings her way around the new boy in town from across the pond. She’s also quite feisty when it comes to keeping the egotistical Rooney in check.
Did I mention yet that this plot revolves around the race track? That means that were to sure to wind up with some mob muscle and crooked races before the conclusion is upon us. Mickey as a racing jockey seems to have been written into his contract every few years. It’s a backdrop that he’s easily identifiable with right from his early years in movies up into the National Velvet era and even when I was a kid he was garnering applause in 1979’s The Black Stallion.
Mickey had a knack for winning over his audience. The film starts out with him as a very unlikable character due to his over the top nature and yearning to be the focal point of all those around him. By the time the fade out is upon us he’s toned it down, made friends with our English lad, garnered respect from Judy and captured his viewing audience’s heart by owning up to his errors and disrespect to others. Sure sounds like a recipe for Andy Hardy films.
I would imagine I’m like most fellows who grew up in the age that the VHS slowly invaded our homes, Judy Garland was Dorothy and not much more then that to young lads who wanted to watch movies aimed at boys yearning for adventure. Other then a couple titles like A Child Is Waiting, I hadn’t seen many of Judy’s flicks till I was much older and even now find myself watching some for the first. Like this early title. She’s a ball of talent and the singing voice is so mature and strong. Seeing her here with Mick is to see two young actors who know what timing is all about. It’s easy to see why MGM wisely turned them into a duo.
Apparently Ronald Sinclair had a rather short acting career ending in 1942 at the age of 18. He did however move into the production side of the industry working on many of the Roger Corman titles of the sixties and even some action films I grew up with like Commando, Action Jackson and Die Hard.
This light offering of life around the race track with Mick and Judy just beginning to hit their stride turns up on TCM occasionally for those looking to get a glimpse of their first on screen teaming.
Care to make a wager on just whose horse is going to win the big one? I’ll give you three to one if you let me pick first.