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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
William Holden (he's Boots) is an agent for jockeys (horse, not disc); he's in debt, and out-of-luck. Along comes young Johnny Stewart (he's Tommy) - skipping school during Easter vacation, he wants to ride the horses. Mr. Holden senses the Kid has money, and decides to take him for a ride. He allows the runaway to stay with himself and pal Stanley Clements (he's Stash). Unbeknownst to Holden, the Kid takes him for the ride of his life.
An indispensable film, for several reasons, chief among them:
#1 -- The amazing performance of Johnny Stewart, mainly; though, everyone is fine. I did wonder, though, what Holden was thinking in some of the emotional scenes with Stewart - Holden looked, perhaps, a little dumbfounded at the younger actor's flawless performance. Production cast and crew should be credited; and, obviously, director William Dieterle.
#2 -- The apparently realistic backdrop of horse-racing, jockeys, and Dellington Park. If this isn't accurate, it sure seems close enough. To top that off, the movie uses the setting to effectively tell a bigger story. It's not that difficult to figure out, but you'll get the full picture in a brief scene between Tommy the Kid and the crusty old trainer Preacher (Basil Ruysdael).
The film takes some relieving trips off the beaten track. For example, the "Big Race" at the end is tremendous because you aren't sure what Stewart is going to do; and, the whole "mother falls in love with the boy's hero " solution is dispensed with.
********* Boots Malone (1/11/52) William Dieterle ~ William Holden, Johnny Stewart, Stanley Clements, Basil Ruysdael
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