"Excellent screen version of John Steinbeck's short novel, with effective and renowned Aaron Copeland score to match. It's more than just a story about a boy and his love for his pony that gets sick and dies; it's about life and fitting in, about who we are and how we choose to be accepted. Everyone does a fine job on the screen. Best perhaps is Louis Calhern as Grandpa, who once led a wagon train across the plains. Robert Mitchum is the laconic ranch hand Billy Buck. Definitely worth a watch."
Unhappy family working out its issues through horses
grrlpup | Portland, Oregon, USA | 08/22/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was told that this movie, unlike Steinbeck's original story, had a happy ending. Well... yes and no. At the very end of the film, everybody's laughing. (A little manaically, in my opinion.) But the movie is still about an unhappy family, and it's full of tense, strained scenes at the breakfast table. Nor does "happy ending" mean that we escape the bad things that happen in the book.
There were some nice wildlife and scenery shots of Steinbeck country, but I could have used more.
The children in the film, except for the main character, are horrible yelling little bullies. I took positive delight in their oppression by the very recognizable Wicked Witch of the West as their schoolteacher.
Robert Mitchum's character, who at first is presented as the hero who knows everything there is to know about horses, is gradually revealed as someone who promises more than he can deliver. The uncovering of his flaws and instability is very well done. In general, the movie avoids too much cliche (except in the hokey daydream sequences), and examines its own stereotypes (the old settler, the perfect horse trainer, the incompetent city slicker) in interesting ways.
The parents and grandfather are slightly strange characters, who give the little boy so many conflicting and unspoken commands that I felt very sorry for him trying to grow up in such a crazy environment. Yet it's all under the surface of a wholesome and respectable ranch life. Myrna Loy is cold and gives orders to everyone; she'd be right at home with a riding crop in her hand. She's in the middle between her husband and her father, who have little patience for one another. Mealtime scenes are authentically tense, if not exactly fun to watch.
Aaron Copland's music is given high billing, but if you've heard the suite, you've heard all the good stuff. A lot of the score is boilerplate with just a hint of Copland's style.
This movie is not for kids. It's quite disturbing in a subtle way that gets under your skin. I'll be thinking about it long after watching it.
The DVD has no features other than "play movie" and scene selection. The movie is in Technicolor."
grrlpup | 10/12/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Even though the box claims a digital transfer, the source elements must be poor. Sections of the film are too dark, and it is noisy and grainy throughout. This film needs a more serious restoration than provided here."
55 Years Ago I saw The Red Pony in Memphis
Judy K | 04/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember like yesterday sitting in the "picture show" with my father dressed in his Sunday Suit and me with my pretty dress on watching The Red Pony. I must have been about 8 to 10 years old and today I am 65 years of age and I am on Amazon.com about to order the DVD so that I can sit in front of our 62" plasma with my grandchildren and enjoy "once again" the Red Pony as I pass "them" the popcorn in a brown paper bag. Such Memories..."
A Modest, Worthwhile Steinbeck-Penned Tale with a Powerful C
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 09/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The most truly American of classical composers, Aaron Copland's stirring music score is what still resonates most in this almost forgotten 1949 film, even though it boasts an impressive pedigree - a screenplay by John Steinbeck based on his own collection of short stories, direction from film veteran Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front, Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men), and A-list stars in Robert Mitchum and Myrna Loy. It was the most expensive picture ever made at Republic Studios, a poverty-row operation that was kept afloat thanks to a successful string of John Wayne westerns. On the surface, the movie seems like kid-friendly fare, but it also presents some interesting psychological subtext on the family unit and a surprisingly graphic scene that triggers the story's climax.
The story focuses on a young boy named Tom Tiflin, who lives with his parents on a ranch in the Salinas Valley. His no-nonsense mother Alice was raised in the area, but his emotionally indifferent father Fred comes from San Jose and has never felt at home despite spending years on the ranch. On a long-term visit to the ranch, Alice's father is an old coot who repeats the same stories about the old West much to the consternation of Fred. Moreover, Fred's constantly conflicted state has pushed Tom closer to devoted ranch hand Billy Buck. Family tensions give way to a red pony, Fred's present to Tom. Naturally, the boy focuses his full attention on the pony, even cutting class to take care of it after it ambled outside during a heavy rainstorm. The rest of the story plays the way one would expect from a parable about personal obligations and coping with tragedy. Milestone lends a painterly quality to the proceedings, but he doesn't delve deeply into the characters' motivations. This was probably an intentional decision since the picture seems designed to be more of a Disney-type live-action film. The superficial treatment, however, leaves some aspects of the story oddly unexplained.
The resulting lapse leaves the actors to fill in the blanks. Even in a sketchily written role like Billy, Mitchum exudes his famously coiled presence in the face of a character that seems too good to be true. Stripped of her sophisticated charms, a ghostly-looking Loy lends a stoic dignity to Alice that gives just a small glimpse into the marital struggles her character is obviously facing. A year away from playing his archetypal role of Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Magnificent Yankee, Louis Calhern brings bluster and unexpected poignancy to the grandfather. As Fred, Steinbeck look-alike Shepperd Strudwick does the best he can in a relatively thankless role. Nine-year-old Peter Miles is generally affecting as Tom, though he can't seem to get past the boy's obsession into something more moving. That is indeed the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, playing a minor role as Tom's perturbed schoolteacher. As noted with Loy's appearance, the color seems sadly faded in the print housed in the 2003 DVD, and unfortunately there are no extras offered - a true shame considering the talent involved."