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HISTORY

According to MPH , this film began as "a fairly representative production in what is still referred to as the 'A' bracket," but studio head Darryl Zanuck, after seeing rushes, decided on using Technicolor for the whole film and increased the budget considerably. According to this review, the cost of the ten-day cross-country promotional tour for the film "cost as much as most better-class westerns." After the opening Civil War sequence, the present day story is introduced by offscreen narration, a device that MPH called "an innovational departure." During this section, which describes the continuation of the tradition of the thoroughbred through improvements in the American racehorse, a number of famous Kentucky-bred champion racehorses are presented, including Gallant Fox, Omaha, Hard Tack, Chance Play and Man of War, who is called the greatest racehorse. According to a publicity program for the film, a location company headed by director David Butler, who himself was a stable owner of eight horses, went to Kentucky to film the Kentucky Derby. Butler obtained the technical advice and help of Matt Winn, the president of the racing board, who, according to the program, was "known as the father of racing in Kentucky"; Howard Oots, who loaned his farm near Lexington for filming; Hal Price Headley, of the Keeneland track; Harkness Edwards, whose Castleton and Walnut Hill Farms were used; and Warren Wright, who donated his famed $2,000,000 Calumet Farms for filming. In addition, a $100,000 set was built at Twentieth Century-Fox's Movietone City to match one of the farms, and extensive filming was done at the Hollywood Track in Inglewood, CA., where the track was transformed using vegetation ... More Less

According to MPH , this film began as "a fairly representative production in what is still referred to as the 'A' bracket," but studio head Darryl Zanuck, after seeing rushes, decided on using Technicolor for the whole film and increased the budget considerably. According to this review, the cost of the ten-day cross-country promotional tour for the film "cost as much as most better-class westerns." After the opening Civil War sequence, the present day story is introduced by offscreen narration, a device that MPH called "an innovational departure." During this section, which describes the continuation of the tradition of the thoroughbred through improvements in the American racehorse, a number of famous Kentucky-bred champion racehorses are presented, including Gallant Fox, Omaha, Hard Tack, Chance Play and Man of War, who is called the greatest racehorse. According to a publicity program for the film, a location company headed by director David Butler, who himself was a stable owner of eight horses, went to Kentucky to film the Kentucky Derby. Butler obtained the technical advice and help of Matt Winn, the president of the racing board, who, according to the program, was "known as the father of racing in Kentucky"; Howard Oots, who loaned his farm near Lexington for filming; Hal Price Headley, of the Keeneland track; Harkness Edwards, whose Castleton and Walnut Hill Farms were used; and Warren Wright, who donated his famed $2,000,000 Calumet Farms for filming. In addition, a $100,000 set was built at Twentieth Century-Fox's Movietone City to match one of the farms, and extensive filming was done at the Hollywood Track in Inglewood, CA., where the track was transformed using vegetation indigenous to Kentucky. A number of horses awaiting a Santa Anita meet were secured for the film. According to the program, the following ex-jockeys were employed for the film: Willie "Smokey" Saunders and Charlie Burrell, two Kentucky Derby winners; Carl Meyers; Beryle Tatum; Bruce Galbraith; Bob Thompson; Jack Howard; Bob Folkerson; Clyde Kennedy; Dickie Mathis; Al Rampau; A. E. Ricketts; and Jack Gilman. In addition, Frank Herbert, a silk maker for various stables, made the silks for the jockeys in the film.
       According to news items, Don Ameche was originally cast for the male lead, but was replaced by Richard Greene after undergoing a tonsillectomy. According to a May 1938 HR news item, Arleen Whelan was scheduled for the female lead. Reviewers praised the Technicolor photography, with Var stating that Loretta Young's "lensing in tints will be accepted as the best of any actress to date." They went on, however, to note that both Young's and Greene's performances were "overshadowed by [Walter] Brennan's brilliant portrayal." Brennan received the Academy Award for Supporting Actor for his performance in this film. Ralph Morgan and James West are listed as cast members in HR production charts; while Morgan was not in the final film, West's inclusion is unconfirmed. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 39
p. 52.
Box Office
24 Dec 1938.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Dec 38
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 38
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 38
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 38
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Jan 1938.
---
Motion Picture Daily
31 Aug 38
p. 7.
Motion Picture Daily
19 Dec 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
24 Dec 38
p. 37, 40
New York Times
24 Dec 38
p. 12.
Variety
21 Dec 38
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
J. H. Allen
Jimmy Eagles
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
2d unit cam crew
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Chief eng
Publicity
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor color dir
[Technicolor] assoc
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Look of Eagles by John Taintor Foote (New York, 1916)
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 December 1938
Production Date:
3 September--late October 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
30 December 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8876
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
96
Length(in feet):
8,630
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4710
SYNOPSIS

In Kentucky during the Civil War, John Dillon, a local horse breeder originally from Massachusetts, leads a company of Union soldiers to Elmtree Farm, which belongs to a competing breeder, Thad Goodwin, with orders to confiscate the horses of known rebel sympathizers. When Goodwin sees his prize horses being taken, he pulls out a gun, but Dillon shoots and kills him. Goodwin's young son Peter runs out crying and screaming at the departing soldiers. In 1938, Peter, now a crotchety old man, still resides on Elmtree Farm and raises horses with his niece Sally. Dillon's grandson Jack returns from England, where he has been learning the banking business for eight years. Although Jack wants to breed, train and race horses, his father convinces him to work in his bank and train horses as a hobby. Sally's father encounters Jack's father at the track and asks if he could get a loan from his bank to buy cotton. Dillon says that he will take the matter up with his board, and then, because Jack is anxious to cross horses with the Dillons', they roll dice to see who will give up a horse to the other. Dillon loses and writes Goodwin a note for the horse. When Dillon speaks against the loan to the board of the bank because it is for speculation in cotton, Jack argues against his father and questions whether his motives are personal. The loan does not pass, and when cotton prices fall, Goodwin has a heart attack and dies. Jack leaves his father's home after an argument about the loan. After the Goodwins are forced ... +


In Kentucky during the Civil War, John Dillon, a local horse breeder originally from Massachusetts, leads a company of Union soldiers to Elmtree Farm, which belongs to a competing breeder, Thad Goodwin, with orders to confiscate the horses of known rebel sympathizers. When Goodwin sees his prize horses being taken, he pulls out a gun, but Dillon shoots and kills him. Goodwin's young son Peter runs out crying and screaming at the departing soldiers. In 1938, Peter, now a crotchety old man, still resides on Elmtree Farm and raises horses with his niece Sally. Dillon's grandson Jack returns from England, where he has been learning the banking business for eight years. Although Jack wants to breed, train and race horses, his father convinces him to work in his bank and train horses as a hobby. Sally's father encounters Jack's father at the track and asks if he could get a loan from his bank to buy cotton. Dillon says that he will take the matter up with his board, and then, because Jack is anxious to cross horses with the Dillons', they roll dice to see who will give up a horse to the other. Dillon loses and writes Goodwin a note for the horse. When Dillon speaks against the loan to the board of the bank because it is for speculation in cotton, Jack argues against his father and questions whether his motives are personal. The loan does not pass, and when cotton prices fall, Goodwin has a heart attack and dies. Jack leaves his father's home after an argument about the loan. After the Goodwins are forced to auction nearly all their horses, Jack offers his services to Sally, who does not know he is a Dillon, as a trainer of their last prize horse, "Bessie's Boy." Although she says that they cannot pay him, he offers to train the horse for nothing until the horse wins. During a storm, Sally drives to get a doctor for her ill mother after the phone wires have come down, but a tree falls and blocks the path of her car. She then saddles Bessie's Boy, and despite the objections of Peter, who warns that running the horse on cement will ruin him, she rides off. The horse's legs are injured from the four mile run, and after her mother dies, Sally and Peter are forced to give up the farm. After Sally finds the note from Dillon offering any two-year-old at his farm, she goes to the Dillon farm with Peter, who hates the Dillons. Although Sally wants to take "Postman," who has the appearance of a winner, she defers to Peter's judgment about a "runt" horse which, he says, has "the look of eagles" in his eye, a look he has seen only a few times before. They name the horse "Blue Grass," and after a few weeks, Jack and Sally are skeptical about him, but Peter predicts that the horse just needs time. As their romance grows, Jack tries to tell Sally of his identity but can't. Soon Blue Grass's time improves, and they decide to enter him in a prep race prior to the Kentucky Derby. Before the race begins, Sally learns Jack's real identity, and even though the horse wins, she and Peter have Jack paid off. At a dance before the derby, Jack explains to Sally that he didn't think she would allow him to train her horse if she knew he was a Dillon, and she accuses him of trying to insure Postman's victory. Before he leaves her, he warns that Blue Grass's jockey should not use a whip, because the horse sulks when he is whipped. He also says that he loves her. When Peter instructs the jockey to whip the horse when he gets to the eighth pole, Sally countermands the order, which greatly upsets Peter. Jack reconciles with his father, but roots for Blue Grass. During the race, as Blue Grass and Postman run neck and neck, the jockey uses the whip, and Blue Grass falls behind, but the jockey soon stops the beating and Blue Grass wins. Sally embraces Jack, but Peter collapses before the decoration ceremony and dies. At his funeral, Dillon eulogizes him and the passing of a phase of American life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.