In the coast range mountains on the western edge of the Salinas Valley is a ranch where Tom, a lad of about ten, longs for a pony. He lives with his mom, who was born there, her dad, a talkative pioneer who misses the old West, Tom's dad Fred Tiflin, who comes from the city and after years on the ranch doesn't feel at home there, and Billy, their trusted hand, a real cowboy. While Fred has to sort out whether he wants to stay a rancher and come to terms with his son being closer to Billy than to himself, Tom gets a pony and learns directly about responsibility and loss. What lessons can each learn, and are tragedy and hard choices all that life offers? Are laughter and joy anywhere?Written by
"The Red Pony" features rustic Aaron Copland score...
THE RED PONY is a beautifully photographed Technicolor film from Republic starring MYRNA LOY and ROBERT MITCHUM, accompanied by one of Aaron Copland's most distinctive background scores. It has wonderful credentials in that it's based on a series of John Steinbeck stories and is directed by Lewis Milestone.
For all that, the story of a farm boy's growing awareness of the cruelties of nature and the fallibility of men--even good men like Mitchum who can't always make the best of a bad situation--lacks any dramatic vigor it may have had if it wasn't directed in such a casual, slow-moving fashion and cluttered with small moments that detract from the main storyline.
Atmospherically, it's rich in farm detail, filmed on a real ranch and capturing the look of country life with effortless ease. Little PETER MILES plays the boy capably enough, but it's ROBERT MITCHUM as the ranch hand who feels he's failed the boy when the pony dies, who gives the truest, most believable performance in the film.
MYRNA LOY and SHEPPERD STRUDWICK are a bit too solemn as the rather remote parents and LOUIS CALHERN is allowed a little too many blustery moments as the grandfather living on his past exploits.
Summing up: It's the sort of film you wish could have been better, never quite living up to its rich potential.
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