The Lion and the Horse
Cast & Crew
While working with a group of wild horse hunters headed by Matt Jennings, Ben Kirby discovers a beautiful, fierce stallion leading a herd. Wanting the horse for himself, Ben single-handedly captures it, but before he can raise the cash to pay off his partners for it, Matt sells it to a rodeo showman for a high price. Ben doggedly searches for the horse and its owner, and by working the rodeo circuit, eventually finds the owner, Dave Tracy, and the horse, now called Wildfire. Tracy refuses to sell Ben the horse, as he is making big money at rodeos and fairs by betting that no one can ride him for more than ten seconds. Realizing that the rough treatment will soon destroy Wildfire, Ben leaves Tracy $600, the amount Tracy originally paid for Wildfire, and sets the horse free. With Ben following, Wildfire escapes to the back country, where Ben then recaptures him. Taking refuge near Kanab, Utah, at the ranch of kindly Cas Bagley, Ben works as a ranchhand in exchange for board and a place to train Wildfire. Ben's way with animals wins the admiration of Jenny, the granddaughter Bagley is rearing alone, who has tamed and befriended several of the local wild animals. Eventually Ben tames and trains Wildfire, and the horse later proves his loyalty when he pulls Ben out of some quicksand. When a circus lion escapes from a traveling show, many of the local livestock are killed. The lion stalks Jenny and causes a stampede of wild horses, but Ben, who is working on a fence nearby, saves Jenny and scares off the lion with gunfire. Meanwhile, Tracy has been searching for Wildfire and shows up at the ranch threatening to have Ben arrested for horse theft. After learning from Bagley that the local police and jurists are unlikely to be sympathetic to his cruel treatment of Wildfire, Tracy tries to steal the horse during the night. However, Wildfire balks, and when Tracy tries to beat him into submission, the horse tramples him to death. Bagley warns Ben that the law requires the destruction of any animal causing a man's death and gives him a head start to the state line before alerting the sheriff. Ben and Wildfire proceed to Wyoming through back country, camping out at night. While Ben is asleep, the lion attacks Wildfire, but after a struggle, Wildfire stomps the lion to death. The next morning, the sheriff, with Bagley and Jenny, catch up with them, so Ben sets Wildfire loose and is ready to fight rather than see his horse destroyed. However, the sheriff knows the circumstances of Tracy's death and is pleased that the lion will no longer endanger the inhabitants of the area. Claiming that he is looking for Tracy's horse, not Ben's, the sheriff declares that Wildfire is not the horse he is tracking. After Wildfire voluntarily returns to Ben, everyone heads back to the ranch.
House Peters Jr.
The Lion and the Horse
If Warner's was taking a chance on making a nice guy out of Steve Cochran, the casting of The Lion and the Horse's supporting players was otherwise according-to-Hoyle. Reliable shitheel Ray Teal brings the right measure of slit-eyed hatefulness to his venal rodeo impresario, untroubled by the prospect of crippling Wildfire if he can turn a fast buck at the ticket booth. Avuncular Harry Antrim (the crusty but benign R. H. Macy from Miracle on 34th Street ) is a loveable lump of prairie farmer, whom fate has left with the custody of a 9 year-old Sherry Jackson, a precocious orphan in bib overalls who can talk to the animals and cuss like an owlhoot. King rounded out the film's complement of minor roles with cowboy actors Bob Steele and Tom Tyler, while George O'Hanlon provides comic relief as a pint-sized hired hand who practices the ukulele along with a how-to record voiced by an unbilled Frank Nelson; a familiar face from Warners' "Joe McDoakes" comedy shorts, O'Hanlon would later supply the voice of the space age paterfamilias of Hanna-Barbera's The Jetsons.
Kanab Utah's Mount Zion National Park had been a reliable backdrop for Hollywood productions going back to the silent era but location photography for The Lion and the Horse (whose original title was The Blue Stallion) benefited from then-new roads laid out for uranium and plutonium prospecting. The locale's 7,500 foot altitude had an adverse effect on the coterie of trained animals trucked in from Los Angeles for shooting. Plagued by lethargy, a lion named Jackie, a skunk named One-Shot, a crow named Jimmy and a squirrel named Nutcake were all treated to time in an oxygen tent; the film's equine actors, most notably the seal brown stallion Supreme Wonder (who was discovered on a ranch in Napa and billed as Wildfire in both publicity releases and the film's credits), were not so hindered, having been ridden onto the location with time to acclimate to the change in altitude.
The premiere of The Lion and the Horse marked the launch of Warners' new tint process, WarnerColor. Developed over twelve years in collaboration with Eastman Kodak at a cost of $500,000, WarnerColor was a bid to outdo Technicolor at a fraction of the cost and labor intensity. Warners booked the Academy Award Theatre on March 26, 1962 for an invitational preview, with a guest list that read like a Who's Who of Tinsel Town luminaries. Touted by Jack L. Warner as "a gratifying sequel to our introduction of sound pictures twenty-six years ago," WarnerColor was employed on a number of subsequent features, including the Randolph Scott vehicle Carson City (1952), the Crane Wilbur-scripted The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952), Santiago (1956) with Alan Ladd, The Pajama Game (1957) with Doris Day and The Old Man and the Sea (1958) starring Spencer Tracy, before the process was retired in favor of a downgraded and more affordable Technicolor.
Producer: Bryan Foy
Director: Louis King
Screenplay: Crane Wilbur
Cinematography: Edwin B. DuPar
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Music: Max Steiner; Howard Jackson (uncredited)
Film Editing: William H. Ziegler
Cast: Steve Cochran (Ben Kirby), Wildfire, Ray Teal (Dave Tracy), Bob Steele (Matt Jennings), Harry Antrim (Cas Bagley), George O'Hanlon ('Shorty' Cameron), Sherry Jackson (Jenny), Ed Hinton (Al Richie), William Fawcett ('Pappy' Cole), House Peters, Jr. ('Rocky' Steuber)
by Richard Harland Smith
The Lion and the Horse
The working title of the film was The Blue Stallion. Voice-over narration, spoken by Steve Cochran as his character, "Ben Kirby," begins the film. The voice of Frank Nelson, as a ukulele instructor on a phonograph record, is heard during the bunkhouse scene. Wildfire, the horse in the film, was registered with the American Saddlebred Horse Association as "Supreme Wonder," according to Warner Bros. production notes. Most of the film was shot on location at Kanab and Zion National Park, UT, according to the Motion Picture Herald review. Warner Bros. production notes state that the rodeo sequences were shot at Bonelli Stadium in Saugus, CA.
The Lion and the Horse was the first film released by Warner Bros. in the WarnerColor process. Carson City, which some sources claim was the first WarnerColor film, began production one month earlier than The Lion and the Horse, but was released two months after, in June 1952. Another film claimed by some sources to be the first WarnerColor film, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, did not begin production until January 1952. The WarnerColor process was developed over a twelve year period, under the supervision of Col. Nathan Levinson of the Warner Bros. sound department and Fred Gage, who was head of the studio's film laboratory. A modern source adds Dick Curtis to the cast.