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Boots Malone is jockey's agent and a bit of a wheeler-dealer who went from living at the Ritz to living in a room at the stables when his star jockey was killed in an accident. After nearly three years, he has yet to find a replacement for him. Along with his cronies at the track, he manages to buy a horse that's a bit of a sleeper. Their hopes of cashing in big take a positive turn when Boots decides to train an eager young man, who turns out to be a runaway from a rich family, as a jockey. When gangsters tell Boots to throw the race in favor of another horse, he faces a major dilemma. Written by
I couldn't give this film a 10 primarily because I didn't know how accurately this film captured its subject. For example, I never knew that jockey's had Agents, although I suspected the more successful ones had someone to represent and manage their contracts. I enjoyed watching this film recently on TCM for the first time. It was a very enjoyable film, and I thought one of William Holden's best acting performances, which means credit should also go to the Director.
Unlike nearly ever sports film I have ever seen, I wasn't certain who was going to win the race. In most other films about sport, there never seems to be a doubt as to who will finish first or win, whether its Rocky or Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was based on a real and famous horse. Obviously it was going to win most of his races. I purchased Seabiscuit on a DVD and was disappointed, because I doubt I will ever watch it again.
Boots Malone was one of the few films about sports that I could not guess the outcome. Wining the race, was not central to the film's theme,which was about the friendship that developed between a young, naive, rich kid, who had every material thing, but lacked something that money can't buy.
Holden's character is a cynical, far from lovable cad who tries to steal the kid's money the first time they meet. I thought his character was a little like Robert Louis Stevenson's Long John Silver, a cad by any measure, but someone that the kid couldn't hate. Like Long John, Malone continually acts in his own interests. In the last moments of the film, he tries to talk the kid into throwing the race, and one has to wonder whether the kid will, because of his devotion to Holden. The viewer really doesn't know who to root for because a win means serious trouble for Holden from the gamblers. Gamblers are a pox to any sport because they make their living with fixes and threats to anyone who can give them an edge in betting and profits. I do know something about that problem.
This film was one of Holden's best. David Lean didn't get as good a performance from Holden in Bridge on the River Kwai
This film reminds me of Holden's early performance in Rachel and the Stranger in which Holden demonstrates his ability as an actor capable of moving his role from one position to another.
For the critics who didn't like this film, I would offer the comment that this film made in 1952 and bad year for the movies, and was not high budget film. Holden was not a big star, and the film had to rely on some great number of familiar character actors. The "kid" was also a tough role to play, and he didn't measure up to star quality as evidence by his quick disappearance from film. A movie without sex, or violence that couldn't be shown on TV was not likely to make a splash, considering that Holden's career didn't get jump started until Stalag 17. I thought Holden, as an actor, was better in this relatively obscure film. The Oscar's have a spotty record of picking out the best performances. Making up for past mistakes seems to be a tradition on Oscar night.
Perhaps this was the case in 1952 and 1953.
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