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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
Personally, I enjoy two atmospheres in life. Ballparks and racetracks. Baseball movies are usually about individual efforts, I've never seen one that captures the atmosphere of the game itself. But Boots Malone better than any other film I've seen about racing until last year's Seabiscuit, captures the whole flavor of the track itself.
You can literally smell the manure (and I don't mean that as a comment on the film) when you watch this thing. The characters in and around the track are Damon Runyon like, but not romanticized in the way he usually did.
There just the everyday folk you find there, working hard at something they love.
A lot of the movie depends on the chemistry of the four principal players. That this film has in abundance. Bill Holden as the cynical jockey's agent, Stanley Clements as the over the hill jockey who's now an exercise rider, Basil Ruysdael as the owner of a claiming horse with hidden promise and finally Johnny Stewart as the naive teenage kid who runs away from boarding school to hang around the track, all of them work very well in the scenes they have that's about half the film.
Bill Holden had three years earlier established himself as an actor to be reckoned with in Sunset Boulevard. No more nice guy parts, he's a tough cynical character. His Boots Malone is like Joe Gillis, a cynical survivor, also like Sefton in Stalag 17. Unlike those other two characters, we're shown the reason for Malone's cynicism and alienation, his wife and kid were killed several years earlier in a car crash.
The kid, Tommy Gibson played by Johnny Stewart, get to Malone. Bit by bit as Holden shows him the ropes around the racetrack community they develop a strong bond. Some of the best scenes in the film are those with Holden teaching Stewart the fundamentals of the jockey trade.
Johnny Stewart should have had a major film career. He had charisma and good acting skills in abundance. After this he made one more film and then left Hollywood to resume acting on the Broadway stage. I would love to know whatever happened to him.
I love this film very much and if you love the racetrack this film is a must.
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