John Steinbeck is an author I have never had a desire to read. I do not know why maybe the titles of his stories turn me off. I always found it odd that in my four years in high school I was in Honors English and I never had to read Steinbeck or other authors like J.D. Salinger with odd books. I have never even wanted to sit through a film based off a Steinbeck novel. But I made an exception with The Red Pony only because Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum were in the lead roles.
The story takes place in turn of the century California when much of the state was just farm land and rough country. Tom Tiflin lives in this part of the state with his mother Alice (Loy), father Fred, a ranch hand named Billy Buck (Mitchum), and occasionally his grandfather (Louis Calhern).
Billy is an expert on raising horses, he has been doing so since he was a little boy. One of his horses has a baby and Tom desperately wants his own horse. All the kids at his school tease him saying that Billy could get more money out of selling the horse why would he want to just give his horse away. Billy does give Tom the horse. His parents think it will teach him some responsibility. Every morning before breakfast Tom helps Billy take care of the horse and after school he teaches it commands.
One day the pony gets out of the barn during a storm and gets really sick. For weeks on end Tom worries over the pony. He even skips school one day just to stay near his pony. Alice and Fred begin to worry that the pony is not really teaching Tom any responsibility.
Another storm comes around again and the pony yet again gets out. This time the pony is nowhere to be found on the ranch. Billy frantically follows the hoof prints and finds the pony dead in a ditch. He fights off buzzards in a fit of sadness and rage.
There are other lessons/stories told throughout the film: Fred feels like ever since they have moved to where they are no one is friendly with him everyone calls him Mr. Tiflin when they call Alice by her first name; Alice’s father constantly repeats stories about how he helped bring people across the west and Fred gets fed up with hearing them which makes the grandfather thinks about all the times he tells the stories, all he wants is for someone to realize how important it was what he did.
I was not too thrilled with The Red Pony. The story was boring. Now I know why I do not read or see stories by John Steinbeck. The only thing I liked was seeing Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum in color (dear God was her hair red!). Myrna Loy was ok her character was too stiff. Robert Mitchum was alright it felt like he was just there. Louis Calhern always adds to a movie he was so lovable and I felt so bad for him because sometimes the same thing he went through happens to my own grandpa he forgets what he has told us. I can only suggest seeing The Red Pony if you are a fan of Myrna Loy or Robert Mitchum or if you possibly like John Steinbeck but other than that I say skip it.
Maybe someday I will give in and read one of Steinbeck’s novels I have done things like this before and wound up liking whatever I have read or watched.