Pride of the Blue Grass (William Beaudine, 1954)
(note: review originally published 7Dec2011)
Ah, William Beaudine, the greatest of the hack directors, who started his career almost at the beginning of the Hollywood system (his first one-reeler was created in 1915) and worked continuously in film and, later, television, until his death in 1970, whose body of film work you might be able to get through in the course of a year if you watched one movie a day (Beaudine filmographies credit him with between 350 and 500 movies under his belt), whose films can almost always be counted on to raise good-natured groans of protest whenever you drag one out. The funny thing is, well, you throw enough spaghetti against the wall, eventually some of it’s going to stick. Beaudine did, in fact, direct a handful of winners among the budget-rate weepies and throwaway genre flicks for which he was famous. Pride of the Blue Grass is one of them. While it is not less full of silly emotional trickery than any other Beaudine film, he came up with a winning cat who all brought their A games to the table, something that may have only happened this one time in Beaudine’s career.
Plot: Linda (the great Vera Miles in an early role) is a fresh-faced, idealistic young lass who owns a racehorse named Gypsy Prince. He doesn’t look like much, but his demeanor captures the attention of Jim (Lloyd Bridges), a trainer who strikes a bargain with his crotchety-but-soft-hearted owner to allow the horse to remain in his stable. Eager stable boy Danny (Song of Arizona child star Michael Chapin in his penultimate film role) is also enchanted with the horse, and when he’s ready to ride, Jim puts Danny on as the jockey. The horse is injured in his debut, landing Danny in the hospital and sparking a falling out between Wilson (It’s a Wonderful Life‘s Ray Walker), the track vet, and Linda. With long stretches of convalescence ahead for both Danny and Gypsy Prince, Jim has to turn his mind to other things, like what horses he can train. When Wilson (The Quiet Man‘s Arthur Shields) offers him a job as house trainer, Jim would be an idiot to refuse. Even better, Wilson’s daughter Helen (The Thing from Another World‘s Margaret Sheridan in one of her few film appearances) has her eye on Jim…but will Linda allow herself to be drawn into another kind of competition entirely when she realizes her feelings for the hapless trainer?
It’s all predictable, cut-and-dried soap-opera stuff tailor-made for tugging on the heartstrings, yes, and you know how everything’s going to turn out within five minutes of the movie starting. Which does not a thing to lessen the pleasure of watching a stable of top-notch actors who seem to all be having a blast. It’s not classic cinema by any means, but it’s a great deal of fun, and well worth your time. *** ½