About The Festival
Held over four days in the heart of Hollywood, the TCM Classic Film Festival is a place where movie lovers from around the world can gather to experience classic movies as they were meant to be experienced: on the big screen, in some of the world’s most iconic venues, with the people who made them. Moreover, the TCM Classic Film Festival strives to be a place where a community of movie fans of all ages can share their love of classic movies with each other, make new friends and see films as they are seldom seen today.
THE PAGE ONSCREEN
Writing focuses visions, reflects our feelings and inspires great performances on both sides of the camera. Join us for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, celebrating the representation of the written word on the silver screen. From original screenplays to unique adaptations to portrayals of writers real and imagined, we will celebrate the foundation of great film: the written word.
Celebrating the 39th anniversary of the production start of “The Black Stallion”.
This is a fairly accurate description of the days, and weeks, and years that went into the making of the film. There are a few liberties he has taken and some things omitted to keep the story flowing, but all and all it takes me back to my younger days!
Thanks TMC and Roger Fristoe for this nice article on the making of the movie!
Behind the Camera On THE BLACK STALLION
Filming of The Black Stallion began in Toronto on July 4, 1977. The summer of 1977 in Canada was one of the wettest and hottest on record, and delays were caused by the torrents of rain that flooded the Woodbine Racetrack, creating a two-foot-deep layer of mud. At the end of August the film crew headed for the sunny Mediterranean, where they faced a new set of problems.
The first location in Sardinia was near the town of Marina di Arbus, where the horses were transported by a van containing portable stalls that were set up near the filming site, and the crew had to hand-carry the cameras and other equipment over the sand dunes. That situation was repeated at various other locations all over Sardinia, with exposure to sun, sand, sea and dysentery causing considerable discomfort for the crew. Other locations there included Capo Caccia, Capo Camino, Costa Paradiso, Cala Ganone and San Teodoro, which sported a mile-long stretch of fine white sand that was perfect for the boy’s first ride on the stallion. Temperatures in Sardinia could become quite cold, and Reno shivered through scenes where he wore little clothing and was often in the water.
A sequence that made everyone especially apprehensive in its filming was the one where the Black stomps and kills a cobra that is threatening Alec. A group of snakes was flown in from Milan with a handler, Carlo Guidi, who assured the filmmakers that his cobras had been milked of their deadly venom. Just in case, a special serum was kept on hand but, thankfully, did not have to be administered.
The last major segment to be filmed was the sinking of the ship at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, which features a huge outdoor water tank. Two portions of the ship, an actual-size deck and stern, were designed by art director Aurelio Crugnola and assembled in the tank, a process that took three months. These were the largest sets ever built in the tank. The stern was set on a platform in the tank, with cables attached to pull it into the water as it sinks. Filming of the shipwreck sequence lasted three weeks.
The movie, at a cost of $4.5 million, took two years to complete, with shooting also done at various locations in the U.S. Kelly Reno, whose only trips outside Colorado had been to North Dakota and California, was chaperoned by his parents while visiting the widespread locations. Despite their presence, he became homesick and later noted that, “In Rome, I’d have paid $10,000 for a McDonald’s hamburger. You never know how much you want that if after a week all you get is spaghetti. And I had me a little wine, but after a week, I started drinking cokes again.”
Early in the shooting, the untrained Reno spoiled some takes by looking at the camera. He recalled Ballard telling him, “‘This is the way it is…do it.’ If I didn’t get it done, we’d just have to do it all over again. Lines weren’t a problem. I had a lot of them, but they weren’t in whole, long scenes. And I could put it in other words if the meaning was the same – that was all right with Carroll.” Reno did most of his own stunts, riding bareback and with a racing saddle, falling from a galloping horse and swimming with it. A stunt double stepped in only for racing scenes, when his character was to ride a thoroughbred running at top speed: “I was too small to hold him back.”
Reno recalled that his most difficult scene was the shipwreck, which happens during a raging storm and was shot at night. “They had wind and rain and fire and smoke,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the tank, not being able to touch bottom, while they made these waves that came very far over my head.” As the boy and horse thrashed in the foreground, the realistic model ship was burnt and sunk headfirst in the tank. For such scenes, great demands were made of the horse playing the Black. The owners of Cass Ole had stipulated that he was not to be used in swimming, fighting or racing sequences, so other horses doubled for him in these and other challenging situations.
The main double was Fae Jur, the spirited horse from California that Ballard had once considered for the role of the Black. He is the horse in the memorable scene where Alec tempts the stallion with seaweed on the beach. Fae Jur’s naturally independent nature made his approaches and retreats very believable. He loved fake-fighting and also was used in the sequences where the Black stamps on a cobra and where the high-strung stallion strikes out at another horse just before the big race.
Junior and Star, two stunt horses owned by the Randall family, stepped in for Cass Ole when scenes required strenuous fighting, running, jumping and swimming. Star enacted the scene where the Black gets tangled in rope and caught between two rocks. He was so unconcerned about being tied up and forced to sit that Corky Randall had to toss pebbles at him to get him to simulate any kind of agitation.
None of the equine doubles liked being in the water, so horses were brought in from the lagoons of Camargue in France for the underwater shots of the Black swimming in the sea. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel recalled in an interview that the swimming horses “had pot bellies and incredibly ugly faces.” But when they “came into the water and started swimming, they looked unbelievably graceful. They were the ugliest animals you’ve ever seen, but underwater…they were like Nijinsky.” The crew nicknamed these horses Pete and Repete because of the numerous takes required to get the appropriate underwater footage.
There is a scene in the water where the Black is swimming towards Alec and suddenly tips over in the waves, with his head underwater and his hooves pawing in the air. This was actually an accident captured on film, as too much force was applied to the guide bars attached to control the stunt horse’s movements. There was much alarm on the set as he sank below the surface, and great relief when he managed to right himself again and raise his head above the water. The crew of The Black Stallion was especially proud of the fact that, despite all the difficult stunts throughout filming, no horse was injured in any way.
Despite all the doubling, Cass Ole remained the star of the film and appears in about 80 per cent of the horse footage. He learned to express anger by putting his ears back, rearing on his hind legs and stomping the ground – and could also turn soft and loving on cue, nodding his head and giving pretend kisses to Reno. Even his facial expressions changed. “It was amazing,” said Corky Randall. “I never met a horse before who wanted to be an actor.” Only once did the stallion lose patience – during the bareback ride on the beach when Alec holds up his hands in triumph. Cass Ole suddenly bolted, giving Reno a much wilder ride than he expected. The crew was terrified for the boy, but he was a capable rider who lowered his hands to grab the horse’s mane and hang on for dear life.
Cass Ole was naturally black, although he had white markings on his pasterns and a white star on his forehead that had to be dyed before filming. During some scenes in the water the dye fades and one can glimpse suggestions of the white markings. Some of the horse doubles – including the swimming horses, which were white – had their entire bodies dyed black. Like many American horses Cass Ole had his mane trimmed into a “bridle path” that allows a bridle or halter to lie flat against the neck and head. Although he had the long mane typical of his breed, extensions were stitched into the hair of Cass Ole’s mane to hide the bridle path and create the luxurious, flowing mane that is seen on the screen.
Ballard credited Deschanel for many of the movie’s signature touches, especially during the first half of the film, when dialogue is minimal and the images are everything. “Caleb has a tremendous eye, and he can invent things right on the spot,” Ballard said. “Really, some of the neatest shots in the movie are things I didn’t even know he was shooting.” Neither director nor cinematographer had ever done any underwater work, and Deschanel improvised his equipment for those scenes. Ballard came to depend upon his associate to see him through tough times during filming. He recalled a particularly trying day when he was convinced the project “was a catastrophe. Caleb and I were walking together, trying to get back to the car, and we came across this river that just seemed to appear out of nowhere. We had to get across the river to get where we were going and Caleb said, ‘Come on, get on my back and I’ll carry you across.’ I’ll never forget it. He was kind of like that through the whole film.”
Concert composer William Russo was initially given the assignment of scoring The Black Stallion, but when he and Ballard couldn’t agree on what the music should be like, producer Francis Ford Coppola stepped in and hired his father, Carmine Coppola, who had scored his son’s Godfather movies. Carmine created an unobtrusive yet evocative score that was supplemented with music by Shirley Walker.
Author Farley had reservations about his signature story being filmed and feared that the novel might not translate successfully to a new medium. Happily, the movie exceeded his expectations in remaining true to the original and finding its own artistic identity. “They did a beautiful job,” he conceded. (A sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, filmed in Italy in 1983, failed to live up to the author’s standards. A new musical score by Georges Delerue is considered by some to be that film’s most impressive element.)
Once completed, The Black Stallion was shelved for two years by United Artists. Ballard recalled the studio “suits” complaining, “What is this, some kind of an art film for kids?” It took the full clout of Francis Ford Coppola to see that the film finally reached theaters. Many critics were ecstatic; Roger Ebert named the film the best of the year, and Pauline Kael described it as “proof that even children who have grown up with television and may never have been exposed to a good movie can respond to the real thing when they see it.” The movie quickly became a box-office hit and won two Oscar® nominations including one for Mickey Rooney, whose career resurgence at the time also included a Broadway triumph in Sugar Babies. New York magazine described him as “a figure out of a semi-mystical past,” and Rooney himself declared that “My cup runneth over.”
Among the innovations of sound editor Alan Splet, who won a special Oscar® for his work, was attaching microphones to the underside of the horse during the racing scenes to catch his actual hoof-beats and breathing. There was outrage in some quarters when Caleb Deschanel’s ravishing cinematography failed to even be nominated for an Academy Award. Deschanel, then 34, commented, “I’m disappointed. The fact that so many people told me I was sure to get the nomination has made it harder to take. On the other hand, who am I? I’m just a young punk making his name in this business…”
Screenwriter Melissa Mathison, whose enormously successful “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” became a landmark in film history, specialized in stories revolving around children. But, as she often said, she made a point of not condescending to them.
“I go to movies with my children and see fat kids burping, parents portrayed as total morons, and kids being mean and materialistic, and I feel it’s really slim pickin’s out there,” she told The Times in 1995. “There’s a little dribble of a moral tacked on, but the story is not about that.
“We’d get back in the car after seeing a movie and I’d say, ‘Now what did you think about this?,’ and they’d have nothing to say.”
Mathison, 65, who portrayed children as sensitively heroic, died Wednesday at UCLA Medical Center. The cause was neuroendocrine cancer, her brother Dirk Mathison said.
Mathison’s film credits also include “The Black Stallion” (1979), “The Escape Artist” (1982) and “The Indian in the Cupboard” (1995).
“Kundun” (1997), a movie about the Dalai Lama’s childhood and growth into a young man, reflected her decades-long interest in Tibet.
She received an Oscar nomination for her work on Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.,” which was released in 1982.
“Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.,” the director said in a statement Wednesday.
“E.T.” was the story of a young boy in the suburbs and the alien he befriended. While Spielberg had wrestled with the idea of a film about a stranded alien for some time, he asked Mathison to develop the plot.
She described it years later as a “boy-meets-dog story.”
“It is a story of resurrection and redemption.”
When it opened, Times critic Sheila Benson said it was “so full of love and wonder, of pure invention, and the best kind of screen magic, that it’s not only the film of the summer, it may be the film of the decade and possible the double decade.”
Mathison, she said, “seems to know the newly separated young family, that sad American statistic, from its cracked heart out.”
Mathison spent eight weeks writing “E.T.” It made $793 million at the box office worldwide.
She had two children, Georgia and Malcolm, from her marriage to actor Harrison Ford. They divorced in 2004 after a 21-year marriage.
From 1983 to 1985, Mathison, Ford and their children lived on a 700-acre ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyo., where the screenwriter put her career on hold.
“I have two little children,” she told Newsweek. “I didn’t want to be missing their childhood while I was away, busy writing about children.”
Born in Los Angeles on June 3, 1950, Mathison grew up in the Hollywood Hills, one of five children born to Richard Mathison, who was The Los Angeles Times’ religion editor in the 1950s before becoming Newsweek’s Los Angeles bureau chief, and his wife, Pegeen.
“We weren’t your mainstream ’50s family,” she said in a Times interview. “Both my parents had wonderful, eccentric, artistic friends who treated us as friends as well. How your mind worked was considered important.”
Even though Hollywood was essentially Mathison’s hometown, she still felt a certain thrill at being around show business.
“I remember not really caring that much about the Hollywood premieres because they were always so crowded,” she told the Toronto Globe and Mail in 1982. “But if something like a stagecoach drove by followed by a camera crew, I got really excited.”
She went to UC Berkeley, where she interrupted her studies in political science for a job in the movies with a family friend. The friend was Francis Ford Coppola, whose children she used to baby sit. Mathison became his assistant on the set of “The Godfather, Part II.”
She was soon hooked on film. After Coppola urged her to write, she came up with her script for “The Black Stallion.”
Over the years, Mathison became fascinated by Buddhism and Tibet. In college, she later said, she thought the story of the exiled Dalai Lama would make a great movie. She turned that story into “Kundun.”
“I am sort of famous for little-boy stories, and this was a fantastic little-boy story, a story of destiny and nurturing and tragedy, the idea of finding a 2-year-old child and then investing in him everything that is good about human beings, your people and your beliefs,” she told the New York Times in 1996.
With the help of actor Richard Gere, a supporter of Tibetan causes, she and Ford met with the Dalai Lama in Santa Barbara in 1990. At that meeting and subsequent visits in Santa Cruz and in India, she pitched the notion of a film based on his early years.
The Tibetan spiritual leader wanted “everything to be as correct as possible,” she said in a 1998 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Each time we met I would bring him new scenes.”
Mathison’s last film is due for release in 2016.
“The BFG,” which stands for “big friendly giant,” reunited her with Spielberg, who directed it. Based on a 1982 children’s story by Roald Dahl, the film stars Mark Rylance as the title character, with Bill Hader and Rebecca Hall.
In addition to her children and brother Dirk, Mathison’s survivors include her sisters Melinda Johnson and Stephanie Mathison; and brother Mark Mathison.
11 Things You Never Knew About the Making of “The Black Stallion”
Nina Fedrizzi | July 23, 2015
It’s been more than 35 years since The Black Stallion film first captivated audiences around the world by bringing to life Walter Farley’s timeless story of Alec, the young boy shipwrecked on a deserted island alongside a wild Arabian stallion. This month, The Criterion Collection has released a new, Blu-ray edition of the movie, complete with interviews with director Carroll Ballard and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, bringing the tale to life once again for a new generation of horse lovers.
But no matter how many times you’ve seen this beloved flick, we’ve tracked down some fun facts that may surprise you. Here are 11 things you never knew about the making of The Black Stallion.
1. The film’s 12-year-old star, Kelly Reno, originally accepted the role of Alec in part because he wanted to learn how to swim.
(via youtube/The Criterion Collection)
Reno took lessons so he could film the movie’s underwater scenes.
2. The riding scenes, however, were a piece of cake.
Reno grew up on a ranch in southern Colorado. After injuries sustained from a serious car accident cut his acting career short, he returned to work as a cattle rancher for 20 years.
3. The Black Stallion was filmed at several locations around the world, including Toronto, Sardinia, and Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.
The movie’s shipwreck sequence took place in Cinecittà Studios’ huge outdoor water tank. Filming it took three weeks.
4. Four main horses were used to portray the Black throughout the film. The two most prominent were the Texas-bred Arabian stallion, Cass Ole, and his double, Fae Jur.
Cass Ole (via allbreedpedigree.com)
Cass Ole appears in 80 percent of the film’s shots, though he had white legs and a star that had to be painted black for filming.
5. Ironically, though, it’s Fae Jur that stars in two of the film’s most memorable scenes.
His independent streak and love of fake-fighting made him the first choice for the scenes where Alec befriends the Black on the beach, and also when the stallion protects him from a cobra.
6. Producers originally wanted the Egyptian racehorse El Mokhtar for the title role, but his owners wouldn’t negotiate.
They eventually relented, and El Mokhtar stars alongside Cass Ole in 1983’s The Black Stallion Returns.
7. For the swimming scenes, none of the actor horses were comfortable in the water, so the crew brought over horses from France’s Camargue region, which contains Western Europe’s largest river delta.
Camargue Horses (flickr.com/Philip Haslett)
Reportedly, the white horses were not much to look at and had to be painted entirely black before filming, but in the water, they were incredibly graceful.
8. The Black Stallion proved to be a cash cow for production company American Zoetrope.
Produced for about $4 million, it grossed roughly $38 million at the box office.
9. The film was produced by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, who used his Godfather clout to get The Black Stallion made.
Coppola may have needed the film to succeed more than he let on, however, after a typhoon wrecked his Apocalypse Now set the same year, leaving him severely behind schedule and over budget.
10. Francis’s father, Carmine Coppola, is responsible for the film’s beautiful score.
Carmine was nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Original Score in 1980, both for The Black Stallion and Apocalypse Now. Alas, the Vietnam War flick won the day.
11. Mickey Rooney was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Henry Dailey, a retired jockey who helps Alec train the Black for the movie’s final race.
Rooney also played the washed-up jockey, “Mi”, alongside Elizabeth Taylor in 1944’s National Velvet.
You can watch The Criterion Collection’s interview with The Black Stallion’s cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, here:
Had an little adventure recently. We went to Las Vegas and you know what can happen in Vegas! But it wasn’t THAT Las Vegas, and it wasn’t what you think.
We were in Las Vegas New Mexico, a small city that was once a thriving entrance to the west and the biggest stop on the Santa Fe Trail.
There were always plenty of real cowboys in New Mexico. Did you know the word Rodeo is Spanish and the first rodeos were in Mexico?
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Cowboy Reunion in Las Vegas! It’s quite a legacy that shows a small part of this multicultural historical city. The first Cowboy reunion and rodeo was in 1915 and horses were THE big deal.
This is the same city where Teddy Roosevelt gathered up some of his “Rough Riders” and changed the course of the nation and liberated Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. This was before he started the Panama Canal and gave Hawaii statehood, now that’s Presidential!
Here’s a few classic photos that show it’s about the ride, not whether it’s a cowboy or cowgirl. Ruth Bibb was one of the family founders and longtime rodeo rider. She’s in the race and not the only cowgirl competing. They say there were four groups in Vegas; Spanish, Anglo, Native American and real “Outlaws”. This made for a fast and dangerous race!