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Maryland (1940)

 |  Drama  |  19 July 1940 (USA)
6.6
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 57 users  
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A woman tormented by the hunting death of her husband forbids her son to have anything to do with horses. But when he falls for the daughter of his father's trainer, he defies his mother by entering the Maryland Hunt.

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Title: Maryland (1940)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Fay Bainter ...
Brenda Joyce ...
...
...
...
Marjorie Weaver ...
...
Ben Carter ...
Ernest Whitman ...
Paul Harvey ...
Spencer Charters ...
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Storyline

A woman tormented by the hunting death of her husband forbids her son to have anything to do with horses. But when he falls for the daughter of his father's trainer, he defies his mother by entering the Maryland Hunt.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

RACING HEARTS, POUNDING HOOFS, EYE-POPPING, EXCITING DRAMA...IN TECHNICOLOR! (original print ad - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

19 July 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De la misma sangre  »

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Film debut of Robert J. Anderson. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uneven horse-racing film with large black cast
20 June 2010 | by (Bronx, NY) – See all my reviews

MARYLAND (1940) is a 20th Century Fox horse-racing drama shot in three-strip Technicolor and set in the title state. Its first scenes take place after WWI, but about a third of the way in, it shifts to 1940, the time it was made, when one of the protagonists is first seen as an adult. It's a follow-up of sorts to KENTUCKY (1938), another Technicolor racing story made by Fox, which had far more action and drama and a spectacular Kentucky Derby finale. Walter Brennan plays crusty old horse experts in both films. None of the white characters in MARYLAND have recognizable southern accents, while the black characters all speak in an exaggerated black dialect as if this was the Antebellum South of 1840 and not 1940, the era of Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP. It's been a long time since I've seen a film with such an abundance of "I is," "I does" and "I'se gwine" in the dialogue.

There are a number of prominent black actors in the film, including Hattie McDaniel, Ben Carter, Ernest Whitman, Clarence Muse, Darby Jones, and Madame Sul-Te-Wan (who'd appeared in D.W. Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION—talk about Antebellum films!), but they all play stereotyped roles of one sort or another. McDaniel, fresh off her Oscar win for GONE WITH THE WIND, spends most of her time in the kitchen. Her husband in the film, Shadrach (Carter), has a weakness for shooting craps thanks to the temptations offered by local no-account layabout Dogface (Whitman) who pops up and rattles dice in Shadrach's ear at inopportune moments. At one point, owing money to Dogface, who threatens him with a knife, Shadrach goes to church with his wife and winds up giving himself to Jesus after a fire-and-brimstone sermon by the preacher (Muse). So moved by the spirit is he that Shadrach is even about to confess his fling with Maybelle, a local hottie in the church congregation, but stops short. Shadrach says, "Sista' Maybelle, Ah don't know what ta say," to which Maybelle responds, "Then don't say it. Ah forgives you," adding, with a knowing smile that tells us all we need to know, "Ain't that enough?" (Maybelle is played by Arie Lee Branche, an actress previously unfamiliar to me who makes quite an impression.) The fling eventually comes up in the climactic courtroom battle in which Shadrach's testimony will determine whether a prize horse will be allowed to enter the big race or not.

This whole aspect of the plot—a glimpse into a black world that exists side-by-side but quite apart from white society and offers up its own layers of melodramatics—makes the film much more interesting than it would have been without it, stereotypes or not. And the implied adultery would probably have been diluted by the censors if it had involved white characters.

Second-billed Fay Bainter plays "Miss Charlotte," the widow who gives up horses after her husband is killed in a fall from one. Fourth-billed John Payne plays her son, who wants to take up where his father left off, much against his mother's will. Third-billed Brenda Joyce (the future Jane in RKO's Tarzan films) plays Brennan's granddaughter and Payne's sweetheart. None of these characters are at all well-etched and Bainter's overacting and her character's condescension serve to distance the audience from her. Walter Brennan is top-billed as a veteran horse trainer who'd once worked for Charlotte. He'd won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in KENTUCKY, in which he gave a shrill performance as a cantankerous octogenarian. His performance in MARYLAND is less showy, more modulated, and far more interesting. The other significant characters in MARYLAND are played by the aforementioned black actors.

The slim plot of MARYLAND revolves around the lineage of a horse and whether or not Payne will ride him in the big race or not. After the early fox hunt in which Charlotte's husband has the fatal fall, there's no horse action until the race finale. Hard to believe one of Fox's top directors, Henry King, would have been assigned such a weak script, especially after JESSE JAMES, his big hit of 1939. KENTUCKY, directed by David Butler, was a much more engaging film that opened with a compelling 13-minute prologue set during the Civil War before jumping to the present (1938) and focusing on two young people from long-feuding horse-racing families who train a horse together and fall in love. It has its black stereotypes as well, but the actors have a little more fun with their roles, especially Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, who does a brief bit of soft-shoe with Walter Brennan in one stable scene.


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