Andrew Garfield, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, and five others received their first-ever acting nominations for 2017. While these actors are new to the Academy Awards, you may recognize them from their earlier work.
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Valued thoroughbred mare Southern Queen slips and falls in a mud puddle, breaking her leg. Before she is destroyed, she gives birth to Tommy Boy, who becomes the favorite of his owner, horse breeder Jim Rellence. Ultimately a reluctant Rellence is forced to sell the one-year old to a prominent sportsman, and Tommy enters the world of high stakes racing. He goes through a variety of owners, all of whom have their own selfish agenda for the horse. Ultimately he ends up with Ruby, the mistress of a murdered racketeer, who wants Tommy to fulfill his true potential as a stakes horse and enters him in the Kentucky Derby. Written by
Some of the location shots are clearly out of focus, but for whatever reason, they were obviously not reshot. MGM under production chief Irving Thalberg was noted for his use of retakes, so this is an unusual situation. See more »
The medium shots and close-ups of Uncle Ben bottle-feeding the young colt Tommy Boy don't match. See more »
Sporting Blood was Clark Gable's first top billed role, playing a gangster with a softer side, willing to take the shots but not at the expense at the life of a dumb animal. Just one problem though; he doesn't show up until half way through! I've seen some movies in which it takes a long time for the top billed star to show up, but this is the most extreme example I've seen of this; so don't go in expecting Gable from scene 1. The film has an odd narrative structure with characters introduced late in the game and a second half which largely contrasts the first half, but it works. The first half takes place in a peaceful farm paradise, the latter in a world of gangsters in which Tommy Boy becomes a commodity merely being passed around.
Sporting Blood is a romantic tribute to the world of equestrianism, set in the horse racing heartland of Kentucky; and when I say romantic, I mean romantic. This is a movie which would have you believe a entire group of horses would come running to a horse being taken away in a truck as a sign of farewell. But the anamorphisation of animals doesn't end there; when Madge Evans proclaims, "What do I want to run him in the Derby for? For himself, for running for himself. Don't you think a horse has some rights, the same as you and me to run straight and honest and to give his best in order to win what he can." We're all guilty of it though, aren't we?
"Since the beginning of time the Horse has been Man's loyal friend BUT Man has not always been the friend the Horse has to Man .", this section of the opening prologue confuses me; didn't early man hunt horses for food? But I digress. I found myself getting engaged in the story with the death of Tommy Boy's mother Southern Queen (was a real horse injured here?), and I believe must of this can be credited to the very naturalistic acting present in Sporting Blood. Unlike other films of the classic Hollywood era, Sporting Blood features African American actors in prominent roles. While they are still presented in a stereotypical manner and seem dim-witted at times, they are treated with more dignity and illicit genuine emotion, especially the black children near the beginning of the film, feel just like real kids.
Sporting Blood gets a major benefit from its handsome production values, location filming and impressive race footage which gets right up close to the action. The film is full of in depth compositions and extensive camera pans; just look at the gorgeous use of lighting and shadows when Tommy Boy is introduced to his new mother. It also wouldn't be pre code without some drug use thrown in there, OK its horse narcotics, but still ("We've hopped him up so much in the last few months that it ain't working like it used to"). While Sporting Blood isn't the most intense film ever, but one with a relaxing charm to it.
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