Classic Film Guide

Sporting Blood (1940)

Directed by S. Sylvan Simon (who produced Born Yesterday (1950)), screenplay co-written by Albert Mannheimer (also Born Yesterday (1950)), this drama stars Robert Young, Maureen O'Sullivan, William Gargan (They Knew What They Wanted (1940)) and Lewis Stone (The Patriot (1928)). Noted character actor Tom Kennedy plays a policeman in the racetrack scenes which begin and end the film.

Myles Vanders (Young) is a horse owner, with trainer Duffy (Gargan), who has a bit of hard luck, his horse losing on account of some dirty tricks by another owner's (Russell Hicks) rider. Broke, with Duffy in tow, Myles returns home after 20 years to find the old family estate decaying and need of repair. His intent is to get his horse in shape for a big local race, but finds it difficult to get credit in town. Evidently, his father had run away with the wife of Davis Lockwood (Stone) all those years ago and Lockwood, holding a grudge against the Vanders, effectively controls the small community now. When Myles goes to confront Lockwood, he meets his two daughters: Linda (O'Sullivan), who defends her father, and Joan (Lynne Carver), who fancies the young ruffian. He also makes a deal with Lockwood: if he'll let the banker (George Lessey) loan Myles $3,000, he'll pay it back after his horse wins the local race else he'll leave town. Since Lockwood is pretty confident his own horse will win the race, he makes the bet.

Myles begins dating Joan while Linda learns from Duffy that Myles isn't such a bad guy after all: he keeps & cares for his old horses even after their racing days are over. When Linda learns that one of Myles's horses needs help giving birth to a colt, she does all she can to help. Linda then witnesses Myles making a compassionate choice vs. a financial one to save the mare in lieu of its colt. But when her father hears of Myles dating Joan, he states openly that he disapproves. Lockwood's butler Jeff (Clarence Muse) takes it upon himself to set fire to the Vanders barn, causing Myles to lose the mare and his chances of winning the race, when his racehorse injures itself in the commotion. Furious, Myles goes to confront Lockwood who knew nothing of the fire but is smug when Myles threatens that he'll marry Joan and take her away from him. Apparently, Joan has gone away to marry another man (William Tannen, uncredited) she'd been dating before Myles arrived on the scene. While leaving the Lockwood estate deflated, Myles learns that Linda is in love with him and has a horse which could compete in the race. So, that night he marries her, which upsets Duffy when he finds out it was for the horse.

All is not well, however. Though very fast, Linda's horse had been used by her father to train his #1 horse, and taught to pull up in the backstretch. Duffy and Myles try everything to break the horse of this habit and teach it to pass another horse in the stretch. With Linda's help, they eventually do. Of course, with the big race looming, the love story in the film has to play out. Unfortunately, there is a less than satisfying (primarily for credibility reasons) conclusion to both.

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