Sporting Blood (1931) Poster

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SPORTING BLOOD is a story of a struggle for redemption of a horse and its owner.
piccadillyjim29 June 2004
SPORTING BLOOD which stars Madge Evans and Clark Gable is a film with its central thesis being the struggle for redemption of both an abused race horse named "Tommy Boy" and its owner Madge Evans. This film fairly bursts with love for horses and horse racing. In fact, the first thirty minutes are devoted to horses without any appearance on the part of the two stars. When they do enter the story, we immediately are thrust into a world of gangsters and their associates, including both Evans and Gable. Each has made compromises in order to get where they are. She sees a chance to straighten her life out when she inherits "Tommy Boy." The question is... can she? And what of her relationship with Gable? Is there enough decency left in him to chart a new course?

This film is a classic example of the old studio system at work. Both Madge Evans, and Clark Gable, were brand new at MGM. The studio bosses weren't at all sure how well either star would fare with the public. Hence, though each was working on another picture, the studio assigned them to work on weekends and holidays when they filmed SPORTING BLOOD. Only in Hollywood!

In fact, there is a sense of freshness about this film. It hasn't the ordinary Hollywood veneer to it. It makes no pretensions and avoids clichés typical of so many similar films of the 1930s. Evans and Gable are absolutely marvelous in their respective roles. Evans is especially fresh and beautiful. But... it is the way blacks are treated in this film that set it apart from most films of its time. "Tommy Boy's" trainer, Uncle Ben is black. He is as far removed from Stepin Fetchit as a teacher is from an illiterate. Indeed, Uncle Ben is central to the plot... and in as loving a manner as could be imagined. This alone sets out SPORTING BLOOD as a better film by far than many others of its day.

Finally, the camera technology was fairly crude in 1931. Film speeds were slow and the cameras sometimes weighed five hundred pounds. Remember this when you watch the racing scenes. The photography is impressive.
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Stunning for its time.
sideways82 July 2003
A very realistic film about Kentucky thoroughbred raising and racing that includes a large number of black characters including featured players. John Larkin is great as is the direction in general. Madge Evans is truly beautiful. The plot ending is ingenious. It's a keeper if you've taped it off of TCM. A piece of cinema history, I think.
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A pleasant surprise
Lydcaro27 November 2004
I recently caught this film on TCM during their celebration of Clark Gable as "Star of the Month" and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Good behind the scenes racing story, with the added attraction of a very young Clark Gable in his first top-billed role. Yes, the story is sentimental, but exceedingly well done, with excellent performances by all. But the best surprise of all is the treatment of the African American characters in the film. Considering the time period, all of the African Americans are treated as intelligent, thinking HUMAN beings, not as shuffling minstrel show caricatures. Why isn't this film better known? Catch it when you have the chance. Highly recommended!
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The Love Of A Woman And A Horse
bkoganbing4 May 2011
In the very first film in which he received top billing, Clark Gable plays a gambler, no better than he ought to be, who by a variety of circumstances gets ownership along with Madge Evans of his late boss's prize thoroughbred. Lew Cody who played the boss departed this life abruptly and Gable and Evans are left with Kentucky Derby contender Tommy Boy.

In fact the horse is the star of the film with Tommy Boy being born in a thunderstorm where his mother is trapped in mud on Ernest Torrance's farm. Next to the horse the Scotch born Torrance who conveys a real love of the breed and sport is the most memorable in the film. Gable doesn't even appear until the film is half way over.

Some black players got a lot of work from this film and the usual racial stereotyping abounds. Still these people who are grooms, stable boys, exercise riders, etc. are the backbone of the racing industry and they're there also for love of the sport and atmosphere thereof.

The inevitable which is expected actually happens, the goal of everyone who is involved in thoroughbred racing. But the trip in Sporting Blood is a nice one as Tommy Boy foils the machinations of many greedy humans. You have to see how he does it..
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A movie with a heart for horses
This is the first movie I have seen about horses that understands horses. It also understands, better than most, the ties that grow between the people that work with horses and their charges. The stable hands and breeder roles are developed. Indeed, the stable hands are all black and (for the time) are shown with a range of emotions, humanity, and (shockingly) as having families.

Furthermore the horses are represented as having community among themselves, communicating among themselves, and even caring about the fates of other horses. Add to this the remarkable and touching scenes between the stable hands (notably John Larkin and Eugene Jackson)and the horses throughout the film. The breeder is also notably tender hearted.

The starring roles and plot are well handled. Gable appears late in the film, but commands attention. The female lead is played with backbone and heart. The plot moves swiftly, but not at the expense of creating empathy with the situations at hand. I look forward to exploring further films directed by Charles Brabin.
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One heck of a movie!
ralecar21 December 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Very well done especially considering the year (1931) it was made. Clark Gable was still growing as an actor and it was quite evident that he had the makings of a star. I thought the acting was excellent and never got bored throughout. The King didn't come into the movie until about the 40 minute mark or so ... that was about the only drawback for me. I am amazed at these "new" movies that have an ending you can never understand or that make you feel extremely unfulfilled after spending two (02) hours or so watching them. With the older movies one certainly does not have this problem as they all seem to have a beginning, middle and usually a terrific ending. I'll take the older movies anytime over these over the budget, overblown new ones. I highly recommend this movie as it is entertaining as well as moving.
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The Electric Horseman
mmallon430 November 2016
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. Sporting Blood 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"). Sporting Blood isn't the most intense film ever but is one with a relaxing charm to it.
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Sporting Blood finishes in the money
st-shot9 May 2014
Gable's gangster laden character career before "It Happened..." continues in this saga about a race horse looking for respect from a succession of owners mishandling its career. Clark may have the lead in the film but a fine supporting cast including the horse Tommy Boy run neck and neck throughout.

Horse breeder Jim Rellence (Ernest Torrence) is forced to shoot his prize mare Southern Queen but not before she gives birth to Tommy Boy who develops the right stuff in no time. Reluctantly he sells the horse whose new owner succumbs to dollar signs and the whims of a dilettante. Lacking horse sense and ignoring trainers advice Tommy Boy is run into the ground before being rescued by a moll (Madge Evans)left to her by a recently whacked boyfriend gambler who over estimates Tommy's abilities. She returns to Rellence's farm to get Tommy as well as herself back in shape.

Sporting Blood moves at a decent pace as it moves from owner to owner, first with the touching and warm affection of a restrained Torrance at the farm followed by a series of inept meretricious owners to Evan's Ruby who finds her own redemption in bringing Tommy Boy to the Derby. Marie Provost and Hallam Cooley provide comic relief while black actors Gene Jackson and John Larkin lend dignity instead of wide eyed Tomming to their roles in playing key contributions to the plot. Gable is self assured and imposing but Evans handles him well throughout while Tommy Boy's big heart adds to the crowded field in a suspenseful well edited finale that has Sporting Blood finishing in the money.
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"I guess we need a new deal."
utgard1417 April 2014
Pleasant movie about a racehorse named Tommy Boy and his various owners. First half is best. It actually becomes less interesting when the focus shifts to Clark Gable and Madge Evans. It's no fault of theirs; their performances are fine and they have good chemistry. But the early parts with Ernest Torrence and the black stable hands is much more moving and powerful. After this it lags some but manages to pick up towards the end. Also worth mentioning is the portrayal of black characters in this film is exceptional for the time. They're treated like human beings with real emotions and families. The racing footage is nice, though I'm not big on horse racing so I am giving a layman's opinion there. It's a surprisingly good movie. I wasn't expecting much going in. Wonderful ending, too.
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I said we needed a new deal. I guess we'd better take it kid.
sol12182 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** Even though he gets top billing in the film Clark Gable as card dealer gambler and horse-race fixer Rid Riddle doesn't show up until almost the halfway point of the movie. And to make things even more confusing it takes a while to recognize Mr. Gable in that he's missing his famous mustache that was to immortalized him during his long and successful film career.

In spite of a number of great racing scenes, some of them from the film archives of the Kentucky Derby, the films plot is basically run of the mill quality.There's Tommy Boy the horse who's considered to be a top Derby prospect, in winning the great race, being used by a bunch of gangsters to win races while he's shot up with dope and pep pills. It's when the overworked and drug addicted Tommy Boy is out of the money in a race at Belmont Park that his sleazy owner Tip Scanlon, Lew Cody, tries to pawn him off to his girlfriend Miss. Ruby, Madge Evens. This is in order for Tip to save his neck from the mobsters who were told by him to bet on his horse in that he's a sure shot winner. This desperate act on Tip's part only had him get gunned down as he left his hotel room as he was planning to lay low in far off, from Louisville Kentucky, Philadelphia until the heat was off.

Miss. Ruby trying to get Tommy Boy off drugs and back in tip top shape has him trained by his original owner and breeder Jim Rellane, Ernest Tonnence, at his Lexington farm. In no time at all Tommy Boy is winning top stakes races and has become the odds on favorite in winning the Derby itself. That's if those gangsters who are betting heavily against Tommy Boy decide to let him win it! The race itself is a forgone conclusion with Tommy Boy winning it with a little bit of racing luck, a broken bridle strap, despite all the obstacles that were put up, by the gangsters, against him! But the biggest surprise of all is what Rid Riddell had in fact to do with the outcome of the great race.

Just when Miss. Ruby was about to walk out on Rid, in him being involved with trying to stymie her horse, she learns from Uncle Ben, John Larkin, Tommy Boys groom that Rid in fact isn't as bad as she's was made to believe he was. What exactly Rid did to get Miss. Ruby to like him is a bit puzzling! In that the way Uncle Ben explained what he did, by having him have Uncle Ben promise not to tell a living soul, sounded by the confusing way Uncle Ben explained it like the famous Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" comedy routine.

P.S. Besides having a clean cut-minus is whiskers- Clark Gable in the film he's also given credit in coining the phrase that President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt was to use to get him elected in the following-1932-years presidential elections: "The New Deal"!
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an agreeable time-passer
MartinHafer18 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Wow. 1931 was SOME year for Clark Gable. Up until then, he'd only been in a couple bit parts over about a five year period. Now, in 1931, he starred, co-starred or supported in a dozen films! It was very obvious that someone at MGM saw promise in this unknown actor and tried him in a dizzying array of films. Some of them worked okay, such as this film and NIGHT NURSE, others were pretty stupid and forgettable (such as when he played a Salvation Army worker).

Well, this film certainly isn't a great film by anyone's standards. It's a bit hokey and old-fashioned tale about a race horse with such promise and the dirty people who keep it from achieving greatness. One of these clods in Gable, but throughout the film he does evolve and show a bit more depth than you might first expect.

Give it a try if you are a Clark Gable fan or if you lost your remote and are just too lazy to get up to change the channel!
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Fast start, sloppy finish
boblipton2 July 2003
The first part of this movie, about the birth and rearing of "Tommy Boy", is pretty good, if a tad sentimental. Ernest Torrence does his usual excellent job. In the second half, Tommy Boy leaves the farm and falls in with bad companions, and the whole thing degenerates into into bad soap opera. The camerawork is erratic: the shots in the field were apparently shot MOS and look pretty good, but the second half becomes stage bound.
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Clark Gable in the Second Half of a Horse's Tale
wes-connors7 May 2011
Kentucky horse trader Ernest Torrence (as Jim Rellence) is happy when his four-legged favorite "Southern Queen" delivers a colt. After the mare suffers a fatal accident, the colt "Tommy Boy" becomes a favorite among Mr. Torrence and his faithful slave-descended servants. Torrence doesn't want to sell "Tommy Boy" but finally takes $6,000 and gives him up to a professional horseracer. On a winning streak "Tommy Boy" is seen by spoiled socialite Marie Prevost (as Angela "Angie" Ludeking), who persuades amateur horse-racing enthusiast husband Hallam Cooley (as Bill) to buy him for $40,000...

Then, poor "Tommy Boy" runs afoul of the law. In criminal hands, the horse is sidetracked by dope...

One of the unsavory types is young Clark Gable (as Warren "Rid" Riddell), appearing sans mustache (after 40 minutes of running time). His girlfriend Madge Evans (as Ruby) decides to help "Tommy Boy" get back on track, with help from original owner Torrence. "Sporting Blood" purports to be the biographical story of a horse. It's not much of a starring vehicle for Torrence or Gable, who are off-screen for long stretches of time. After a promising opening, we get little information about the central character, other that they picked a horse who doesn't appear to enjoy acting with humans very much.

**** Sporting Blood (8/8/31) Charles Brabin ~ Clark Gable, Ernest Torrence, Madge Evans, Marie Prevost
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A Must See
David_Brown11 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Is this a perfect film? No, you do not see Clark Gable for the first 40 minutes of the film, it is really about "Miss Ruby (Madge Evans), and what she must do to get "Tommy Boy" her beloved horse from various owners, the worst of which are the Ludeking's (Angie & Bill), played by Marie Provost (who had one of, if not the most Horrible Hollywood fates in History) & Hallam Cooley. The horse, is used by them as a tool to make money in bets until it is broken down. Eventually Angie (the worst one), leaves Bill after he ends up in debt to gangsters (they promised wins to the gangsters), and he knows he will get killed over that. But, Ruby is able to convince Bill to do the right thing, and give "Tommy Boy" to her. They bought the horse from Owner/Trainer (Jim Rellence) Ernest Torrence, for $40,000, so he could save his stable. Of course, the goal is to return the horse to health so he can run in (and hopefully win), the Kentucky Derby, which of course, he does. Gable is interesting to watch as Gangster Warren 'Rid' Riddell (in his first starring role), and after Ruby asks why are you doing this (helping her and 'Tommy Boy")he utters a famous line that is still with us today: "Tommy Boy deserves a New Deal." Of course, being that it is Pre-Code, 'Rid' does end up with Ruby at the end, which is quite different then what happened Gangster Blackie Gallagher (another 'Decent' Gangster) in "Manhattan Melodrama" in 1934, AFTER the Code was put into place. Very highly recommended for Gable, the horse, and a very beautiful Madge Evans.
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The movie is okay and provides some entertainment.
jfarms19563 January 2014
Sporting Blood is a movie best enjoyed by baby-boomers and possibly horse lovers with a passion for racing horses. I doubt that children would enjoy it at all. I watched this movie because of Clark Gable and for no other reason. I love Clark Gable and cannot objectively evaluate his acting ability. The movie is okay and provides some entertainment. The camera shots could be better and so could the editing and directing. The movie is slow and a bit flat. It is a good movie for either late night or a rainy afternoon. The movie puts me to sleep. However, it does have a story to tell. Bring your popcorn and coffee and enjoy the entertainment. It isn't that long a movie.
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