The Red Pony (1949 film)

The Red Pony

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Lewis Milestone
Screenplay by John Steinbeck
Story by John Steinbeck
Starring Myrna Loy
Robert Mitchum
Louis Calhern
Shepperd Strudwick
Peter Miles
Music by Aaron Copland
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by Harry Keller
Lewis Milestone Productions
Chas. K. Feldman Group Productions
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release dates
  • March 28, 1949 (1949-03-28) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million[1]

The Red Pony is a 1949 Technicolor Western drama film based on John Steinbeck's 1937 novella of the same name. Steinbeck also wrote the screenplay for this film.[2]


A young boy, Tom Tiflin (Peter Miles), is given a small pony by his father (Shepperd Strudwick). Tom asks the stable helper, Billy Buck (Robert Mitchum), to help him raise and train it so that it can be ridden. During a rain storm the pony gets out of the stable and having been soaked becomes fevered. Despite Buck's best efforts to nurse the pony it develops strangles and requires a tracheotomy. Shortly after the procedure, the pony escapes from the farm. Tom follows the pony's hoof prints to a gully where it has died and is being eaten by vultures. He blames Buck for not saving its life. Buck, feeling remorse, prepares to kill his own pregnant mare in order to give Tom a colt, believing the unborn may not have turned. Tom grows angry at Buck's willingness to sacrifice a horse and steals his knife. When they return to the stable the foal has been born naturally, with both mother and colt surviving.


In adapting his novella into a screenplay, Steinbeck focused mainly on the chapters "The Gift" and "The Promise". Characters' names were changed from those in the book: Jody Tiflin became "Tom", and his parents Carl and Ruth became "Fred" and "Alice". The film also features a much happier ending than the novella: in the book, Billy Buck cannot deliver the foal naturally and so has to kill the mare in order to remove her uterus. Other such violent scenes, such as Jody beating a vulture to death, were also toned down or omitted entirely for the film adaptation.



The film is notable today because of the original score composed by Aaron Copland, which he also arranged and published as an orchestral suite. Copland himself conducted London's New Philharmonia Orchestra in a recording of the music for Columbia Records, which was later reissued on CD by Sony Records.


Critical reception

Film critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review, writing, "But, unfortunately, the story does ramble, and its several interlaced strands are often permitted to dangle or get lost in the leisurely account. An extraneous family situation involving the youngster's Ma and Pa, wherein the father has trouble with his ego, likewise confuses the plot. In directing the picture, Mr. Milestone has adopted a frankly casual style which further invests the proceedings with a languid quality."[3]


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. Variety 18 February 1948 p 14
  2. The Red Pony at the Internet Movie Database
  3. Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, "Red Pony, Based on Steinbeck Novel, New Bill at Mayfair -- Mitchum, Loy in Cast", March 9, 1949. Accessed: June 22, 2013.
  4. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/18/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.