“You can’t know life unless you know death; it’s all part of one thing.”
When a teacher-turned-rancher (Shepperd Strudwick) gives his son Tom (Peter Miles) a red pony named Gabilan, Tom turns to their ranch hand (Robert Mitchum) for support and advice. Meanwhile, Strudwick’s wife’s (Myrna Loy) garrulous father (Louis Calhern) won’t stop talking about his exploits on the Oregon Trail, leading Strudwick to leave their home for awhile as further drama unfolds with Gabilan.
- Lewis Milestone Films
- Louis Calhern Films
- Myrna Loy Films
- Robert Mitchum Films
John Steinbeck wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of his own episodic novella, produced by Republic Pictures Studio and featuring a vivid soundtrack by Aaron Copland. The Technicolor cinematography (by Tony Gaudio) is superb:
and the story nicely ambles through an unconventional tale of a boy and his beloved animal — akin to, but less sentimental than, The Yearling (1946).
Steinbeck fills his screenplay with unexpected characters and twists; we never really understand what makes Strudwick tick the way he does, but the point is that his son’s development and coming of age will continue regardless, assisted by the other influential men in his household. Ultimately, this is a story about a young boy learning to make some sort of peace with the challenges of life, which range from schoolmates teasing him to accepting the limits of human intervention in animals’ well-being.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Peter Miles as Tom
- Louis Calhern as Grandfather
- Fine Technicolor cinematography
- Aaron Copland’s score
Yes, as a fine adaptation.