A young orphan farmboy has dreams of building a ranch with his horse Bess. But it's WWII, and he joins the navy and has to leave Bess behind. But while on patrol in the jungle, he finds a wounded horse to nurse back to health and to love. And in return, this new Bess not only becomes the unit mascot, but also saves the life of her master. Written by
This film was first telecast in Los Angeles on KTTV (Channel 11) Friday 17 May 1957, in New York City on WCBS (Channel 2) 10 November 1958, and in San Francisco on KGO-TV (Channel 7) 14 October 1958 . At this time, color broadcasting was in its infancy, limited to only a small number of high rated programs, primarily on NBC and NBC affiliated stations, so these film showings were all still in B&W. Viewers were not offered the opportunity to see this one in its original Cinecolor glory until several years later. See more »
Here is the true story behind how Bess was saved and how the movie came to be...
The movie script was written around the true story of a man named Arthur Parker, born and raised by Joseph Parker on a horse ranch in the late 1800s/early 1900s in Montana. At age 16, Art lied about his age to join the U.S. Navy, and began his long military career, personally knowing Pancho Villas in the Spanish-American War, and serving in World War I. He later earned his wings as one of the Navy's earliest enlisted aviators, and eventually became friends with Charles Lindbergh and helped in the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis. Rivets that he punched by hand while helping in the construction of the aircraft can still be seen in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
Art was on active duty and was actually in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day in 1941 that signaled American involvement in W.W.II and received a Purple Heart due to injuries sustained during the attack. Towards the end of his career as an active duty serviceman, and after having achieved the highest enlisted rank of Chief Boatswain, Art was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
A sugar cane farmer that had befriended Art due to their mutual interest and previous experience in rearing horses contacted Art after a Japanese air raid. A filly and foal had become injured by flying shrapnel from the falling Japanese bombs. Though the foal was terminally infected at this point, the filly was rescued and returned to full health, with only minimal scarring on one rear quarter. Having raised and trained horses on his father's ranch as a child, Art raised and quickly trained "Bess", and she became a pet and unit mascot, sleeping among the sailors in Art's camp, and being treated to morning coffee and other treats, just like the other sailors. She was also quickly trained to flee to a sandbagged cave that the sailors constructed for her for protection when the air raid sirens blared, hence the nick name "Foxhole Flicca" (not her real name).
When Art was ordered to return to the U.S. at the end of his tour, he was denied repeated attempts for permission to transport Bess to the U.S. on government ships until the First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt, learned of the story, and quickly, a stall and hay were fashioned and stored aboard ships for the horse and master for their trip back stateside.
Upon reaching the States, and the story about her rescue and transport to the U. S. became circulated, Bess and Art were, in circles, celebrities. Art and Bess toured with the U.S.O., with Bess performing stage tricks, such as counting, etc.
Shortly after the U.S.O. tours, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contacted Art in regards to a movie based on his experiences saving Gallant Bess (her true full name). Though the movie bears minimal resemblance to the actual rescue and story, further pictures were planned based on "The Adventures of Gallant Bess", but due to contractual disputes between Art and MGM (the movie "Gallant Bess" did not follow the true story, as had been initially promis ed Art by MGM, though Art did act as an advisor to the movie. Bess did star as herself, and Art did have a cameo role in the movie, calming Bess in a scene where the actor Marshall Thomas, playing the role of Art, couldn't calm Bess during a violent storm, but the character Art played, could.), Art refused to work with MGM.
Bess, with Art as her trainer and master, went on to star in other movies with actors such as Charles Lindbergh (a close family friend by now), Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, and others, and eventually retired in Grass Valley, California, in the late 1950s.
Bess gave birth to Gallant Pat in the early 1960s and was put to sleep at the University of California, Davis, around 1967 due to a brain tumor. Arthur Parker subsequently died of natural causes in 1983, at age 86.
Shortly before graduating high school while on a "date" with my father, my mother entered the barn holding my father's and grandfather's horses. On the floor at the door of the entrance to the barn was a cemented plaque that stated "The Home Of Gallant Bess". Mom asked Dad why they had named one of their horses after the movie, and Dad told Mom the movie was named after Grandpa Art's horse, Gallant Bess.
That's the true story of how Grandpa Art rescued Bess (though I never knew her, Dad, Mom, and Uncle Richard all rode her as kids).
Though the entire story behind Grandpa's adventures sound like the script to an all-too-cliche' movie, the story is all true. Amazing as it is, it's a wonder that MGM forsaw the need to change any part of it to make "Gallant Bess" seem any more spectacular.
If you are lucky enough to ever come across a copy of the movie, my family would greatly appreciate information as to how you got it. We have albums of autographed pictures of Liz Taylor riding Bess, Judy Garland on Grandpa's lap, as a kid, and memorabilia from Charles Lindburgh, and from filming the movie "Gallant Bess", including the original contract signed by MGM agents and Grandpa' Art, though no one has been able to attain a copy of the movie itself.
I have attempted several attempts to find out who now owns the rights to the movie, and from what I understand, TCM (Turner Classic Movies, Ted Turner) owns the rights. I have inquired TCM on several attempts, with full explanation as to my connection to the movie, as to where I might get a copy of the movie for familial archives, but have never even received a courtesy reply.
Again, any comments, further true accounts or corrections to this post may be directed to my email address, MrPex@Prodigy.net. Any help in finding a copy of the movie, or input from anyone involved with the movie or any of the other events would be greatly appreciated and welcomed by me and my family.
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