skip navigation
Playing the Ponies
Remind Me


From National Velvet (1944) to The Yearling (1946), films about children and their beloved horse/dog/fawn are a perennial movie theme. The quirky 1958 adventure Snowfire is no different. The story centers on a charismatic and elusive wild white stallion who is relentlessly pursued by the local ranchers. His pursuit sets off a violent feud between Mike McGowan (Don Megowan), aided by his Mexican sidekick Poco (Michael Vallon) and lady rancher Carol Hampton (Claire Kelly) who commands a crew of roughneck cowboys including the quarrelsome Buff (John L. Cason). When the film opens Hampton and her crew have seemingly trapped Snowfire on a cliff's edge, leaving the stallion with no possible escape. But the plucky and resourceful horse dives into a lake below, escaping capture. "That's the nerviest hunk of horse flesh I ever saw" one of the cow pokes marvels.

When Mike finally manages to rope Snowfire and takes him back to his ranch, he finds both of his young daughters responding dramatically to the horse's presence. Older daughter Melody McGowan (Melody McGowan) feels threatened by the animal, who charges her as she stands on his paddock fence. But younger daughter Molly (Molly McGowan) develops a deep affinity for the animal. When she sees that her father plans to brand Snowfire against her wishes, she rips her shirt off and threatens to take the red hot branding iron to her own flesh. Her father reconsiders.

Molly eventually absconds with Snowfire into the wilderness shielding him from both her father and the rival Hampton rancher Carol, who in the meantime has developed a combative romantic relationship with Mike. Molly is certain the animal talks to her and begins to act as an intermediary between Snowfire and her father, telling him about the horse's intentions and thoughts. At one point Mike summons a psychiatrist in a long seafoam green convertible to treat Molly's "fixation," but the man is no match for the resourceful, determined girl. At the conclusion of the film, as Molly assures her family that Snowfire will end the rivalry over his capture by agreeing to stay with the McGowan family, they are astounded to see the animal leave the wilderness and walk into the McGowan family's compound. All with the condition, says Molly, that Snowfire be allowed to leave the ranch at will to visit his wife and child in the surrounding canyon.

A memorable film for children who saw it on its original 1958 release for its story of the strange telepathic communication between a little girl and a wild horse, Snowfire's legendary status was enhanced by the fact that it was never released on VHS or DVD. Brothers Dorrell and Stuart McGowan, whose production studio was in North La Brea, created the film together and also worked as both producers and directors on the long-running television series Death Valley Days (1952-1975) and Sky King (1951-1962). Dorrell McGowan's daughters Melody and Molly made their acting debut in Snowfire as the sisters who feel very differently about Snowfire. Molly, Melody and Don Megowan also all appeared on several episodes of Death Valley Days.

Filmed on location in Bryce Canyon, Utah at Talley Ranch, Snowfire was later re-edited into a 60 minute television pilot but was never picked up as a television series as the McGowan brothers might have hoped.

Producers: Dorrell McGowan, Stuart E. McGowan (producers)
Directors: Dorrell McGowan, Stuart McGowan
Screenplay: Dorrell McGowan, Stuart E. McGowan (writers)
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Art Direction: Alfeo Bocchicchio
Music: Albert Glasser
Film Editing: Arthur H. Nadel, Jerry Young
Cast: Don Megowan (Mike McGowan), Molly McGowan (Molly McGowan), Claire Kelly (Carol Hampton), John L. Cason (Buff Stoner), Mike Vallon (Poco), Melody McGowan (Herself).

by Felicia Feaster



Also Playing on TCM

Also playing
Don't Forget Brad Dexter - 4/27
3 Movies

This burly, handsome supporting player (and occasional lead) was often cast as villainous or menacing types in a variety of films....more

TCM Shopping
  • The Black Stallion (Criterion Collection)
  • This remarkable adaptation of Walter Farley's... more info
  • $19.47
  • Regularly $29.95
  • Add to cart
  • The Black Stallion Returns
  • When a beautiful stallion is stolen in exotic... more info
  • $6.95
  • Regularly $9.98
  • Add to cart
  • White Mane (Criterion Collection)
  • An eloquently photographed film which tells... more info
  • $12.95
  • Regularly $14.95
  • Add to cart