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This was Allied Artists "first film":....it was really a Monogram Picture and this was the first release in 1947,under their new name for their 'better' product ALLIED ARTISTS. It was a fairly expensive film for them then ($450K) and filmed in colour. As a film it is a very effective multicultural experience and it is a credit to them to take such a risk on what one would think was then un marketable themes: illegal immigrant Chinese boy is adopted by land owning red Indian family, who send him to school. Kid gets taunted because of his new family and Chinese face. Pop, Anthony Quinn discovers oil on the farm and gets rich. They buy a racehorse and it becomes a champ and they become richer! Racial prejudice gets and airing too when they enter' society'. All quite startling and effectively handled. For these themes to be their first high profile calling card, AA/Monogram get a good report and deserve recognition for their worthy ideals. It is worth noting the interesting films Monogram decided to make as Allied Artists in their first few years, as THE GANGSTER and IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE attest. BLACK GOLD seems corny by today's cynicism, but the was a deserving hit for them. Like Republic's COME NEXT SPRING, a real Americana treat if you can find it and just enjoy.
Tony Quinn often wound up playing an Indian. In this film, a story based
a race horse saga, his wife at that time, Katherine DeMille played his
The setting is Oklahoma and Quinn plays an Indian who owns a remarkable
race horse and takes in a young Chinese orphan who rides the horse to the
winner's circle. I saw this film when I was a 10 year old kid. My old
Irish mother was a fanatic on racehorses and knew much of the reported
on the story of Black Gold, named for his color and a play on words on the
discovery of oil on the land of Charley Eagle. The film is not too
memorable with the exception of Quinn's character telling the oil men who
come to drill on his land, "Look if you don't find anything, be sure and
fill in any holes you dig so my horses won't break their legs." Now,
was a guy who had his priorities straight.
No DVD or video and not very likely one will appear real soon. Look for it on the late, late show sometime. It's good family viewing with a definite anti-racist message along with a bittersweet ending.
Although far from the real story of the Kentucky Derby winner Black
Gold, this very first film released under the banner of Allied Artists
the newly reconstituted Monogram Pictures was an important one for its
star Anthony Quinn. It was the very first time that Quinn got top
billing in any film. It was also a family project as it starred Quinn's
first wife as well Katharine DeMille. They play an Indian couple on a
reservation, he an illiterate happy go lucky cuss who has an itch to
wander and she a reservation educated person. The two complement each
other beautifully on screen.
And he happens to own a thoroughbred mare who through a combination of circumstances gets mated to a champion stallion. The mare dies, but the result is a colt named Black Gold. The Quinn's adopted Chinese immigrant son Ducky Louie becomes his jockey.
Black Gold's story, the real one, was given us by another reviewer and maybe that film should be made by a bigger studio and maybe it will some day. As for this one for a Monogram Picture it had for them probably a big budget. They even splurged for color. But the Quinns and Ducky Louie really put this film over as fine family entertainment. And I'm a sucker for a good racetrack story every time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you pretend that this movie has nothing to do with the real 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold or his Cherokee connections, you probably won't hate it. Black Gold was a real horse, owned by Rosa Hoots (Rosa being a Cherokee from the Oklahoma reservations). Her husband Al's dream was to breed his mare to one of the finest stallions in Kentucky, but he died before achieving it. His wife, who became wealthy as part of her share in the Cherokee's oil wealth, honored his wishes and the resultant foal was named Black Gold after the oil. Black Gold was most famous for winning the fiftieth anniversary of the Kentucky Derby. His jockey was not a Chinese immigrant but an American-born Irish rider named J.D. Mooney. His trainer was a man named Webb. After Black Gold proved a failure at stud he was brought back to racing at age six, where he broke down and had to be euthanized. Webb swore he ran the horse in good faith, thinking he was not so injured he would hurt himself. The truth of this is open to debate. The film's portrayal was considered so negative by the real connections they initially refused to speak to author Marguerite Henry when she was researching her 1957 book. The book wound up the inverse of the movie, highly favorable to all characters. It would be nice to have this on DVD to be able to compare. The horse's true story is likely in between.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Is it a crime for classic movies, or any movie, to use sentiment and
sweetness to tell its story? I frankly wish there were more in this
slowly decaying world of ours. Cynicism is a slow killer, so when I see
a story like this, it gives me a sigh of relief that I haven't quite
fallen over to the dark side. I wish more films had the courage to show
those nationalities in a kinder light, and unfortunately, the natives
who were here before the European arrivals turned nature upside down
and forgot about the beauty of the world outside its modernization.
Anthony Quinn is a very spiritual man, away from home when he meets orphaned Chinese teen Dickie Louie. Embittered over the white man's murder of his father, Louie can't even bear to eat until Quinn tells him his own dealings with the white man. Quinn has learned that peace only comes from forgiveness, and he also knows that for every evil white man are ten good ones.
Happily married to the gorgeous Katherine DeMille (Quinn's real life wife at the time), Quinn brings Louie home, and makes him their ward. Sadly, Louie finds nothing but prejudice, ridiculed for being Chinese as he attempts to start school, and instead skips. Teacher Elyse Knox shows up and promises that things will be different. Unfortunately, the script overlooks Louie returning to school, basically giving the assumption that Knox worked on educating Louie's harasser, played by Darryl Hickman.
The remainder of the film shows how Quinn and DeMille adopt Louie and how Quinn influences him in his love of horses. Quinn strikes it rich with oil found on his property but a chance in his financial situation isn't a cause for celebration. The white men who earlier treated him as second class come around, and it is obvious that it isn't his character which impresses them but his sudden bankroll. Tragedy strikes the family, and it is up to Louie to show that dignity and grace come from rising above the odds and that the so-called "little man" can be just as worthy as the so-called big men.
Outstanding performances by Quinn, De Mille and especially Louie make this a wonderful sleeper, a rare "A" picture from the studio formerly known as Monogram. The Cinecolor process really stands out here, having been tested in such films as " The Enchanted Forest" and a version of "Black Beauty". Treat your family to a real reminder of what life really can be like with God's world as your backyard, and life's many other problems fall into perspective.
Even allowing for modern tastes and attitudes changing, this is an
awful movie. Anthony Quinn cannot save it and no one else in the movie
is even halfway decent. Katherine DeMille as his wife seems to be
shooting for "stoic" and landing on "comatose". As was said of an
equally terrible film on MST3K, "Someone with attention deficit
disorder edited this movie." Things just kind of happen for no apparent
reason and scenes fade out like the director got bored (and if he did,
fair enough.) Plots are sort of vaguely started, then peter out.
And of course, the only thing this has to do with the actual 1924 Kentucky Derby winner, Black Gold, is the horse has the same name and was owned by an Indian (in reality, a Cherokee named Al Hoots. He was dead before Black Gold won the Derby and that's about all he has in common with "Charley Eagle.") The movie can't even be bothered to get the Derby roses the right color (unless the film stock is SO degraded those were red at some point.) Even the softened-up version of the horse's story told in Marguerite Henry's "Black Gold" is more accurate than this disaster area. This is an excellent example of a case where just because you have some spare money and actors on contract does not mean you have to make a movie.
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