powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
In Baltimore, during the horse-drawn carriage days of 1909, nine-year-old Lewie Penrose, the youngest member of the eccentric Penrose family, tells his brother John, an inventor, that he has been having silent conversations with horses. Lewie communicates with all types of horses, but his favorite "friend" is Mr. Bledsoe's racehorse "The Bart," which he often visits on his way home from school. Dinnertime at the Penroses brings together Lewie, John, his sweetheart Martha Sterling, their strange boarder, Mr. Puddy, who is inventing an edible beer bottle, and Ma Penrose, who leads everyone in Yoga breathing exercises before eating. While most people dismiss Lewie's claim that horses talk to him as mere childhood fantasy, Mr. Mordecai, The Bart's trainer, sincerely believes in Lewie's special gift. One day, Bledsoe takes Lewie and his family to the races, where Lewie amazes everyone with his ability to predict the winner of each race by communicating with the horses. Lewie's gift is especially noted by bettors Richard Pennington Roeder, Gillespie and Piper, who overhear the boy's predictions and place large bets on his picks. When Lewie learns that Bledsoe has entered The Bart in a claiming race, which means that the horse might be purchased for $2,200 following its last race, he becomes despondent. Heartbroken at the sight of Lewie's grief, John borrows $1800 from Mordecai and, with the $400 he had saved for his marriage, claims The Bart himself. Tragedy strikes near the end of the next race, however, when The Bart is injured in a fall and must be destroyed. This leaves John owing Bledsoe a large sum of money. Lewie, who fainted at the sight of The Bart's accident, has become ill from the incident and is slowly recuperating at home. After learning of Lewie's condition, the wealthy Roeder visits the Penroses and feigns interest in the radio invention on which John has been working to win the good graces of the family so that he can use Lewie to earn greater fortunes for himself at the racetrack. Soon after Lewie recovers, John takes him to The Preakness, where he hopes to recover his losses by betting all his money on the horse his brother says will win. However, when Lewie approaches the racehorses, he realizes that he has lost his ability to communicate with them. Even the neighborhood dogs no longer follow him. Lewie's inability to produce a prediction so angers gambler Gillespie, who was anticipating a big win from Lewie's next tip, that he strikes the boy, starting a fistfight between himself and John. Although John has placed his bet without Lewie's tip, he is relieved when his horse wins and promptly repays Mordecai the money he borrowed. John's forthrightness in dealing with his debt wins the admiration of Mr. Bledsoe, who hires him to work in one of his laboratories, which bolsters his financial standing and ensures his marriage to Martha. Lewie, while still unable to talk to horses, has at least regained the respect of the neighborhood dogs, who are following him once again.