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First I read the book by Laura Hillenbrand, then I saw the 2003 film in a
theater, and finally I saw this wonderful warm film on DVD titled The
of Seabiscuit. Being from Ireland, I certainly didn't mind the Barry
Fitzzgerald and Shirley Temple intrusion, which does take away from the
historical value of the film, but also adds a love story which actually
holds the film together.
In the latest version, The legendary Seabiscuit does not appear until all the leading characters are introduced. In this film, all the background information comes in the form of dialogue, which flows smoothly from the brogue of Fitzgeralds charming Irish horse trainer, Sean O'Hara. Barry has a way of drawing you into a film, and sets up Shirley Temple's character, his niece, and also holds together the love story, between her and a jockey, played by Lon McCallister.
Although some of the real names were changed, Seabiscuit's racing history remained true, and they used the actual black and white footage of the match race with War Admiral, which the 2003 film did not.
Considering that this film was made 54 years ago, It holds up very well, with the vibrant color only adding to the film's beauty. Trying to compare these two films, is like comparing apples and oranges. This one is a Hollywood film and the 2003 version is closer to a documentary. Both are well worth seeing, but not comparing.
Horse racing was part of my life since birth, albeit not so much any
more. So these are the kinds of movies I always like. Most important
for this movie is, that Barry Fitzgerald always makes me smile, and
Shirley Temple is terrific memory for almost everyone.
These are the reasons that everyone should be happy to enjoy this movie at least once. However I don't know if I would go out of my way to see this again. It is unfortunate that this movie, like so many of previous decades, was not considerate of the actual history of the event, but chose to create a plot loosely based on a true event. The 2003 version "Seabiscuit" is truly wonderful and is a part of my home collection. This is the primary reason I gave it a vote of 5.
The imagery is fun and I like the way the movie edits play together, but it is not likely to be in the top ten for many people. Even so I recommend this for all who enjoy Fitzgerald or Temple, and of course lovers of all horse stories.
A grown-up Shirley Temple is the only reason for interest in this weak horse story that is certainly not in the league with films like 'National Velvet' or 'My Friend Flicka'. Only interesting aspect is provided by Shirley Temple in one of her last films as a an adult actress, a nurse with bitter feelings about racing due to the death of a brother in the sport. She's pleasant enough, nicely photographed in technicolor and sporting an Irish brogue. Barry Fitzgerald provides a few amusing moments and Lon McCallister is on hand as a jockey who falls for Shirley--but tedium sets in early on and it never quite manages to pick up any steam for what is supposed to be a rousing finish. I caught this one on Turner Classic Movies when they had a tribute to Shirley's birthday and was impressed by her charm and assurance in a basically sub-standard role. Too bad the script didn't provide her and the others with more challenging material. It's a passable film and according to Shirley, did well enough at the box-office at time of release--probably due to her personal popularity.
Had to see the movie after reading the wonderful bestseller about Seabiscuit. Supposedly uses the real footage of the match race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. Acting aside, the historic race alone is worth viewing the movie.
For its time, it was a nice movie. Shirley Temple was in adulthood even more lovely than as a child. Rosemary DeCamp can't lose, what a great actress.! One can't forget Barry FitGerald. Yes, the race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit used real footage. AND now, all these years later, 2003, we have the thrill of a new movie coming out in July. This time, author Laura Hillenbrand's great book will be produced with her supervision of the film. If the film is as good as the book which is truly a work of great art and literature, far more than a horse book, namely a character study of the horse and the four men who made Seabiscuit a great horse, we will complete the circle and the legend of Seabiscuit. Can't wait.!
Irish-accented Shirley Temple (as Margret O'Hara) arrives in the small,
bluegrass town of Paris, Kentucky with her horse training uncle Barry
Fitzgerald (as Shawn O'Hara). He will nurture the famous racehorse
"Seabiscuit" while Ms. Temple studies nursing. Soon, they relocate to a
ranch near Southern California's famed Santa Anita racetrack. Because
Temple's brother "Danny" died tragically in a horse race, Temple is
reluctant to become involved with jockey Lon McCallister (as Ted
Knowles), although they are mutually attracted...
This film somehow manages to be unappealing despite having several advantages. It's photographed in Technicolor and effectively incorporates some footage of the real "Seabiscuit". When the available footage is in black-and-white, so goes the movie; it's nicely done. And Shirley is lovely...
Although she has been appearing as a "grown-up" for years, Temple is still a distracting actress. Moreover, in this one, she plays her character with an Irish brogue. The script could have easily been re-written to begin with Mr. Fitzgerald arriving to join Temple in the US, following the death of a parent (instead of her brother), so perhaps Temple wanted to essay the accent. The story is more about her romance than the horse, and Mr. McCallister is an asset as Temple's leading man. The African and Asian stereotypes are grotesque.
***** The Story of Seabiscuit (11/11/49) David Butler ~ Shirley Temple, Barry Fitzgerald, Lon McCallister, Rosemary DeCamp
Although the fine version from 2003 about Seabiscuit that Jeff Bridges
and Tobey Maguire brought to the screen is far more factual, this B
film that stars Barry Fitzgerald and Shirley Temple should please fans
of the sport of kings. Considering what the costs are to maintain horse
racing as a sport only royalty or those considered royal in their
societies can afford to participate other than at the $2.00 parimutuel
window at the track.
For reasons not quite clear Barry Fitzgerald together with niece Shirley Temple are brought over from Ireland because stable owner William Forrest has heard of Fitzgerald's legendary ability to judge thoroughbred horseflesh. Of course that brings him into contact with Donald MacBride who is already Forrest's trainer and they disagree over a yearling that Fitzgerald sees promise in and MacBride doesn't. Barry leaves and goes to work for Pierre Watkin and Rosemary DeCamp and later on they acquire the horse now named Seabiscuit.
A young jockey played by Lon McCallister, the part Tobey Maguire played in 2003 is interested in Shirley Temple and the fictional romance doesn't interfere with Seabiscuit's legendary exploits on the track. Newsreel footage of the famous match race with Triple Crown winner War Admiral is shown in its entirety with Clem McCarthy's famous call of the race. Including McCarthy who was one of the great sports announcers of all time really captures the flavor of the period. McCarthy's voice is also the one covering the famous second and very short Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fight. Horse racing was his first love however and McCarthy covered and called every major race in a 20 year period.
It's not as good as the newer film, but The Story Of Seabiscuit while its characters are superficial does capture the racing scene of the time.
"The Story of Seabiscuit", which was shown recently on TCM, is a film
that is pleasant to sit through, but inferior to the much better
"Seabiscuit" that came out on 2003, based on the magnificent book by
Laura Hillenbrand and directed by Gary Ross. This 1949 movie was
perhaps a vehicle for an adult Shirley Temple. As directed by David
Butler, the film has some good moments.
The best thing in the movie is the irresistible Barry Fitzgerald. As Shawn O'Hara, he comes to America to work with horses at the Milford Farms. He arrives with his niece, Margaret. Shawn knows a lot about horses and he spots Seabiscuit right away. His love for the horse puts him at odds with George, the head trainer. Since Seabiscuit doesn't show anything at the beginning and Shawn's health seems to deteriorate, Shawn and Margaret decide to go on to California to work with the Howards, a couple that appreciate Shawn's advice.
Among the recommendations Shawn tells the Howards, is to buy Seabiscuit from Mr. Milford for the sum of six thousand dollars. After Shawn resumes training the horse, and with the help of Ted Knowles, the jockey, Seabiscuit begins to respond and win. Seabiscuit was a legend in the sport.
The story is conventional, but totally watchable by the presence of Barry Fitzgerald. He steals every scene in which he appears. Shirley Temple is not believable with her Irish accent, but she is a sweet figure in the story. Lon McCallister, playing Ted, is fine. Rosemarie DeCamp is an elegant figure who doesn't get much to do.
The film doesn't attempt to be anything but a semi documentary about Seabiscuit and its trainer and the relationship between them. Horse race fans will have a good time with the film thanks to Mr. Fitzgerald's contribution.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I liked the casting, and the costumes of this movie and I love the story of Seabiscuit. Tomorrow I am picking up the book that the 2003 film was based on, which is one of my all time favourite films. A drag in this 1949 version is the embarrassing minority stereotyping and treatment. The pace is also tedious - at one point you are watching an entire race that Seabiscuit is not even running in. The authentic archival footage was great. I liked seeing Shirley Temple in her later years as an actress - still has those adorable dimples and she's holding her own even taking on a thick Irish accent. But the story gets tedious over this injected love story between what I assume are the fictional characters of Margaret O'Hara and Ted Knowles. It spends waaay too much time on that phoney back and forth. For the most part, the movie seemed to follow the facts in all but one odd way - these fictional characters and the forced conflict between Shirley's character and this jockey Ted Knowles, who it finally dawned on me was in place of the real major player in the story of Seabiscuit, John "Red" Pollard. I'm not sure why they took this liberty with the facts and eliminated Red Pollard from being mentioned in the film, but used his story. As a viewer I didn't care about Margaret and Ted too much, and certainly didn't buy into the romantic tension of would they or wouldn't they get together. And I didn't care about the tragedy in Margaret's life that made her 'skittish' on marrying a jockey. Every time they were doing a scene, I was wondering what Seabiscuit was doing.
I loved watching this period piece about the great Seabiscuit. The
opening scene at the railroad station was shockingly racist. This clumsy attempt at humor was offensive to me as an American, but I must remember this was 1949. After this the movie shows some beautiful scenes of Kentucky horse country. The actor Lon MCallister seems awfully big for a jockey, but is a perfect love interest for young Shirley Temple who does a nice job in the role. The scene stealer is of course the inimitable Barry Fitzgerald who gives a predictably colorful performance as the oh so wise horse trainer. All in all a sanitized version of the real Seabiscuit story.
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