Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Black Stallion

The Horseathon is an event devoted to horses in the movies, hosted by My Love of Old Hollywood. For a complete list of participating blogs, visit the host site.

The Black Stallion
first seen in Queens, NY
1979

I have this memory of seeing The Black Stallion with my mother (and perhaps my sister too) when it came out, at a movie theater somewhere in Queens, possibly Flushing. The theater has been gone for many years, though, and I'm still not completely sure which one it was. I have a feeling that it was in Flushing. It could have been the RKO Keith's, which I've written about before, but it may have also been a different theater, a few blocks south along Main Street. The memory is old and extremely vague, but it's there in my mind, and it kinda frustrates me that I can't be sure about where. (I've already asked my mother; she doesn't recall a second theater on this stretch of Main.)


Today, there's a bunch of Chinese markets and businesses all along Main. Usually, the marquee of an old theater is kept when the building is renovated, but there's nothing resembling a marquee anyplace other than the former site of the Keith's. All I remember of the theater is the red carpet in the lobby. I think there was a balcony. It was a fancy old-school place, and the Keith's was certainly that. Flushing has changed so dramatically that I don't recognize much anymore, but like I said, the memory is there, and has been for a long time. It's certainly something that could have happened.




Anyway, let's move on to the reason we're here today: horses. When I wrote about War Horse, I talked about my sister's love of horses as a child. I have nothing against them. One tends to see them frequently in New York, whether they're being ridden by cops or pulling carriages full of tourists. Central Park is the best place to see them up close, especially the south end. It's also the best place to smell them; horse crap is as abundant as you'd expect, though it does get cleaned up fairly quickly. We also have two major horse racing tracks within the area, though, I've never been horse racing.


Favorite horse scenes in the movies: Joey wildly running across the battlefield in War Horse, naturally; Clint Eastwood struggling to get on his horse in Unforgiven; Kirk and Picard riding together in Star Trek Generations; Johnny Fontane waking up with the horse's head in The Godfather; and of course, Mongol punching a horse in Blazing Saddles. (I recently saw the old Henry Fonda/John Wayne film Fort Apache and that had a good scene of soldiers learning how to ride horses.)




The Black Stallion was based on a series of children's books by Walter Farley, beginning in 1941. The primary horse used in the film, and its sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, was an Arabian stallion named Cass Ole. As a show horse, he won over fifty championships plus over twenty reserve championships in seven years. He was recruited for the film at his San Antonio ranch on the condition, set by his owners, that he not be used for any running or swimming scenes. His forehead and pasterns had to be dyed black from their natural white for the role. Also, he had hair extensions woven into his mane to give it a fuller look. After both films, Cass Ole went on performances all around the world, including the White House, and would sire over 130 foals before being put to sleep in 1993.




Other horses in Stallion include: Fae Jur, Cass Ole's main double; El Mokhtar, the producers' first choice for the lead, though he doesn't appear until the sequel, by which time he was available; and Junior, who was also in Animal House.


Stallion is an excellent movie, with one of Mickey Rooney's best roles, though personally, I think if I were stuck on an island with a horse, I'd probably kill it for food before trying to tame it. I mean, who knows how long I'd be stuck on that island, you know? But then, I guess a little kid might not think of it that way. At least not at first.

10 comments:

  1. Rich,
    It's interesting (although I'm a bit jealous) that you and Yvette, who also wrote on The Black Stallion, both saw it for the first time at the theater.

    The cinematography is worth the price of admission on it's own but it really was a great script with fine performances all around. (I'll admit that I'm not a Rooney fan but as you mentioned here, his performance was very good.)

    You know Rich, I just realized that even though you live in New York, you see a lot more horses than I ever have now living in Oklahoma. Until you pointed out the cops on horses then of course the carriage rides I would have never given it any thought.

    People think Oklahoman's still live in tepee's though which is hilarious.

    A great read with some gorgeous screen shots. Thanks for contributing to the Horseathon Rich. This was a nice addition.

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    1. That is pretty funny, although it's not like I see them every day, either. Maybe I just have more opportunities to see horses than you?

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  2. Hi Rich, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to write about THE BLACK STALLION when I found out that you appeared to have first Horsathon dibs. But luckily, Page picked up on my dseperation to write about one of my all time favorite films and all turned out well. We both wrote about it and I'm glad we did. It was great to read your rather more balanced view since mine had a tendency to gush. :)

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    1. I'm glad we wrote about it from different angles, too - which was what I kinda expected.

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  3. I loved Farley's book when I was a kid and think of the film as a true work of art. I'm fascinating by the number of horse used and their story. Great article.

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    1. I meant to bring up the cinematography, but Yvette covered that quite completely.

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  4. Nice post! I like how you go into the background of where and when you saw this movie, and how the area has changed. Those kinds of personal recollections make really interesting reading. I also got a kick out of your final note, about how you might have hunted the horse for food, unlike the boy in the movie. I can definitely see where you're coming form, although I imagine you might have horrified many horse lovers participating in this blogathon. ;)

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    1. Those personal recollections are a big part of what I do here. Check out the rest of my blog if you like that kinda stuff.

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  5. personally, I think if I were stuck on an island with a horse, I'd probably kill it for food before trying to tame it.

    Okay...there might be some sustained damage to the computer due to a large amount of iced tea being forcibly ejected from my mouth. I'm waiting for a damages report.

    Tiny nitpick: it is grammatically incorrect to use "Mickey Rooney" and "best roles" in the same sentence.

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    1. Not even all those Judy Garland movies, huh? :p

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