Cast & Crew
One spring, teenager Ken McLaughlin wanders the winter range of his Wyoming ranch in search of his beloved horse Flicka. Ken is delighted to find Flicka but annoyed to see that her new colt is pure white, which means that he takes after Flicka's sire, the wild albino. Ken and ranch hand Gus coax Flicka and the colt into the family's barn, and the next morning, Ken introduces the foal, which Gus's daughter Hildy dubs Goblin, to his father Rob and mother Nell. Also present is their neighbor, racehorse breeder Charley Sargent, who is amused to learn that Ken snuck Flicka into his pasture to mate her with his prize stallion, Appalachian. Sargent laughingly tells Ken that he does not have to pay a stud fee and can register Goblin, who Ken hopes will become a great racer. As the summer passes, Goblin proves to be a fierce, independent creature, but Ken is still sad to return him to the winter pasture with Flicka. In the spring, Goblin and Flicka come home to the Goose Bar Ranch, and there Ken begins to train Goblin. The blood of Goblin's wild grandfather proves to be dominant, and Ken is hard-pressed to tame the colt, but Rob and Nell encourage him, even though they have their own worries because some of their mares have disappeared. One afternoon, Ken is searching for Goblin, who has run off, when he sees the legendary Albino challenging Banner, the McLaughlins' stallion. Ken runs to tell Rob, who realizes that the Albino has been stealing the mares, and they go to find him. The Albino eludes them, although Ken manages to recapture Goblin. Time passes as Ken saddle-breaks Goblin and trains him as a racer. Although he is still unpredictable, Goblin impresses Sargent with his speed, and Nell renames the lovely white horse Thunderhead, after the clouds in the sky. When Thunderhead is three years old, Ken and Nell convince Rob to put up the entrance fee for Ken to race him in the Multnomah County Fair, which offers a five-thousand dollar prize. Despite the strong competition, Thunderhead pulls ahead during the race and is about to win when he suddenly jumps off the track, throwing Ken. Ken is infuriated until the veterinarian informs him that Thunderhead has a bowed tendon and can never race again. Ken mopes at home after the discouraging news, but Rob, despite his own financial difficulties, again encourages his son and tells him to face up to his troubles. Later, Thunderhead has recuperated fully when the McLaughlins learn that Banner had been injured in a fight with the Albino, who has again raided their herd. Rob is forced to shoot Banner, and that night, Thunderhead runs off from their camp and Ken follows him to the Albino's secret pasture. The Albino charges Ken and is about to stomp him when Thunderhead challenges him and kills him in a savage battle. Rob, Gus and ranch hand Tim then find Ken, who tells them that Thunderhead saved his life. Thunderhead rounds up the Albino's large herd of stolen mares and helps the men drive them back to the McLaughlin ranch. With their financial future assured, the McLaughlins bid a sad farewell to Thunderhead, who takes the place of his wild grandfather as the range's undisputed king.
Charles [g.] Clarke
R. A. Klune
Harry M. Leonard
Cyril J. Mockridge
Fred J. Rode
John Van Wormer
Arthur Von Kirbach
The working title of this film was Son of Flicka, and some contemporary sources referred to it as Thunderhead. Although the film's title contains no punctuation in the onscreen credits, it is most commonly referred to as Thunderhead, Son of Flicka by contemporary sources. The film's opening title card reads, "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Mary O'Hara's Thunderhead Son of Flicka." After the opening credits, the following written prologue appears: "The producers are grateful for the invaluable assistance and approval of the American Humane Association under whose supervision this picture was made." Mary O'Hara's novel was serialized in McCall's (Jul-September 1943).
The picture is a sequel to the 1943 production My Friend Flicka, and according to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and the Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, when the studio purchased the rights to O'Hara's novel My Friend Flicka, it reserved the right to make a sequel of its own creation, using O'Hara's characters. Originally, the studio intended to feature the characters in a new film based on the Will James's story Smoky, which had previously been produced by the company in 1933 (see the entry for Smoky in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4162). The studio changed course and purchased the rights to O'Hara's novel Thunderhead after experiencing difficulties with the screenplay and receiving a number of complaints from O'Hara, who stated that she was having problems selling the rights to her novel because other companies assumed that Twentieth Century-Fox had already purchased it. The studio did produce another version of Smoky, which was released in 1946.
According to a November 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, Peggy Ann Garner was to be included in the cast, and Ruth Clifford tested for a role. Various Hollywood Reporter news items list Archie Mayo, John Brahm, Irving Pichel and Lew Seiler as potential directors for the picture.
The film was shot on location at various sites, including the following Oregon locations: Bridal Veil Falls at Oneonta Gorge and the Multnomah County Fairgrounds near Gresham. California locations included Brent's Crags, Hidden Valley and Hollywood Park Racetrack. In Utah, the company filmed at: Zion National Park, Kanab, Bryce Canyon National Park, Red Rock Canyon, Navajo Lake, Glendale Gorge, Cedar City and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Additional scenes were shot in Duck Creek, Nevada. Thunderhead, Son of Flicka was the first picture to be shot completely with Monopack, a new type of color film stock. The one-strip stock aided production because, unlike Technicolor's three-strip stock, it could be run through an ordinary black-and-white film camera instead of the bulky three-strip Technicolor cameras, which made location shooting especially difficult.
On February 25, 1946, McDowall, Foster and Johnson appeared on a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story. The first film to feature the "McLaughlins" was My Friend Flicka, and the third picture, entitled Green Grass of Wyoming, was released by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1948. Although "Flicka's" sire is identified as "Banner" in My Friend Flicka, in both Thunderhead, Son of Flicka and Green Grass of Wyoming, her sire is the "Albino."