A clean and sharp copy of “The Black Stallion” will be screened at the Egyptian Theater (map) in Hollywood on Sunday, April 29. It’s a bit early, 9:15am, but sure it will be a great show.
Screenwriter Jeanne Rosenberg and critic Leonard Maltin will introduce and discuss the film. Try to make it if you can. Only $20 for walk in seats!
It’s a beautiful theater and going to be a really fun time!
If you didn’t get to see Mel Brooks and “The Producers” at last night’s Gala (neither did I) here’s the skinny;
ROBERT OSBORNE AWARD/THE PRODUCERS ( 1968 )
SCREEN TO STAGE
TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX
THE ROBERT OSBORNE AWARD: For the inaugural award, TCM will celebrate world-renowned filmmaker director Martin Scorsese and his longtime dedication to preserving and protecting motion picture history. This presentation will be made as part of the official Opening Night Gala and the screening of THE PRODUCERS (1968) to follow. THE PRODUCERS (1968): Mel Brooks once stated that one of his goals in life was to make Adolf Hitler a laughing stock. One of his first attempts in that direction was answering questions about his next project with “Springtime for Hitler.” Over time, however, he conceived of a failing Broadway producer (based on producers he had known or heard of) overselling shares in a guaranteed flop to outwit auditors with a musical romp about Hitler. Brooks was met with resistance as all of the major studios turned the film down as tasteless, as did Zero Mostel, who only agreed to star in the picture because his wife thought the script was funny. Distributor Joseph E. Levine agreed to back the film but didn’t want Brooks to direct, wanted to fire co-star Gene Wilder and, finally, didn’t want to release the film at all. It took urging from Peter Sellers, who had screened a print, to get it into theatres, where it flopped, even though Brooks went on to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Within a few years, however, college screenings had turned it into a cult hit, and it is now considered one of the funniest pictures ever made and went on to inspire a hit Broadway play. From Mostel’s seducing an elderly backer (Estelle Winwood) to get her money, through Wilder’s hysterical outbursts to the hilarious “Springtime for Hitler” number, the film is an almost non-stop barrage of inspired, off-beat humor. Restored in 4k by Studiocanal. (d. Mel Brooks, 88m)
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…”
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:
Sunday November, 30 2014 at 08:00 PM Saturday December, 27 2014 at 08:00 PM
by Emily L. Rice
One of the most critically acclaimed films from 1979, The Black Stallion, was based on the classic children’s tale written by Walter Farley in 1941. Despite the book’s popularity and that of its sixteen sequels, it was never adapted for the screen until Francis Ford Coppola purchased the rights. He planned to release the film as the first film in a series of classical children’s films. The second film in the series, The Secret Garden, was released in 1993. Coppola called on his former UCLA classmate, Carroll Ballard to direct the first installment, making The Black Stallion Ballard’s feature film debut. His first movie was a documentary entitled Harvest (1967) which was nominated for an Academy Award ®.
The Black Stallion is an exotic and often magical tale of a young boy and his horse. When the film opens, the boy and his father are traveling by ship when a disaster occurs. A fire breaks out and the boy finds himself adrift in the rough seas with an Arabian horse he saw on board. Both the boy and the stallion are washed ashore a deserted island where they overcome an initial mistrust to form a strong bond. Soon the two are rescued and return to the U.S. But the horse runs away and the boy eventually traces the animal to a farm owned by an ex-jockey. In time, the boy learns from the former pro how to be a first rate rider and trains the stallion for a championship race.
In his film debut, Kelly Reno plays the young, aspiring jockey; he had never acted before in any medium, and he was not even a fan of film or television. “Oh, if there’s a good movie, the family’ll take a bag of popcorn and go.” When asked what he considered a “good movie,” he responded, “I guess Star Wars (1977) — I’ve seen it twice. As for TV, I don’t watch it much, except for Soap,” he explained in the September 30, 1979 issue of The New York Times. But when Reno heard from a friend that a movie company was coming to Colorado to look for boys who could ride horses, he persuaded his parents to drive him to Denver for an audition. According to producer Tom Sternberg, “We’d considered all sorts of professional child actors. Then we began to search for boys who may not have acted, but who might be right for the role. We eventually interviewed several hundred from around the country and tested 100.” And the saddle-trained Reno was one of the lucky ones who earned a screen test in L.A..
The $4.5 million film took two years to make and involved five months of shooting in Canada, Rome, and Sardinia. For Reno, whose only trips outside Colorado were to North Dakota and L.A. for the screen test, the film became quite an adventure. His parents chaperoned him while on location, but he still admitted he got homesick. “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.”
During the first week of shooting, Reno enjoyed the work, but he kept glancing at the camera in the middle of scenes. He recalled that the director, Carroll Ballard, “would tell me, ‘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 the whole, long scenes. And I could put in other words if the meaning was the same – that was all right with Carroll.” Reno also did all his own stunt work. He had to ride bareback and on a racing saddle, take falls from a galloping horse, and swim. The only time a stunt double was used was for racetrack sequences, which required his character to race a thoroughbred at top speed. “I was too small to hold him back,” says Reno.
The most demanding scene Reno recalled was the shipwreck sequence during a turbulent storm. For this scene, Ballard used the huge water tank at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. “It was all done at night,” says Reno. “And they had wind and rain and fire and smoke. I spent a lot of time in the tank, not being able to touch the bottom, while they made these waves that came far over my head.” Ballard also used a completely realistic model ship to burn and sink headfirst while the boy and the horse struggled in the foreground.
With scenes such as the shipwreck, the horse in this film, Cass-Ole, had to perform as few other horses ever have. Cass-Ole’s trainer was one of Hollywood’s greatest animal trainers, Corky Randall. He trained “Trigger” for Roy Rogers, “Silver” for the Lone Ranger, and all the horses in the chariot-race scene in Ben-Hur (1959).
Mickey Rooney plays the horse trainer in the film, a nostalgic reminder to audiences of his role as a former jockey in National Velvet (1944). Rooney also played a jockey in both Down the Stretch (1936) and Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937). He went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film. Rooney recalls how he first heard about the film, “Francis Ford Coppola got on the horn to tell me he’d purchased the rights to a children’s classic called The Black Stallion. He had a part in it for me, a former jockey called out of retirement by a little boy with a beautiful black Arabian horse and a dream about winning a race. Did I think I could play a former jockey? ‘Gee,’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I never played a jockey before.’
The Black Stallion became a hit at the box-office and received great critical praise. In addition to Rooney’s nomination, the film also received an Academy nomination for Best Editing and the Oscar for Best Film Editing. A sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, was later released in 1983.
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Roos, Tom Sternberg
Director: Carroll Ballard
Screenplay: Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg, William D. Wittliff, Walter Farley (novel)
Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel
Film Editing: Robert Dalva
Art Direction: Aurelio Crugnola, Earl G. Preston
Music: Carmine Coppola
Cast: Kelly Reno (Alec Ramsey), Mickey Rooney (Henry Dailey), Teri Garr (Alec’s Mother), Clarence Muse (Snoe), Hoyt Axton (Alec’s Father), Michael Higgins (Neville).
C-118m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.