Trying to recapture the success of earlier Walter Brennan horse centered vehicles such as Maryland and Kentucky by teaming up with celebrated cowboy picture helmer Henry Hathaway (who’s perhaps best known for directing the original True Grit), Home in Indiana delivered on its ambitions with a likable coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water approach that finds Lon McCallister in his first major role.
As a male version of what today’s audiences would most likely recognize as the Flicka storyline, McCallister is excellent as big city troublemaker Sparke Thornton who’s taken in by relatives in Indiana.
Sneaking off to the stables next door instead of going to school, Sparke leads a double life, learning how to handle horses alongside his beautiful neighbors played by fellow breakout stars Jeanne Crain and June Haver (nicknamed “The Pocket Grable” after fellow Fox star Betty Grable) by day and pretending he’s tired from days filled with reading, writing and arithmetic by night.
Nominated for an Academy Award for its rich Technicolor cinematography, the warmly made, wholesome family film which has been given new cinematic life on DVD thanks to this Fox Cinema Archives release rivals contemporary fare in terms of quality and has hardly aged a day in this gorgeous presentation, except perhaps in terms of its admittedly broad portrayals of African-American stable hands.
Although at the same time, you must give Twentieth Century Fox credit for being ahead of its time in depicting an interracial friendship between Sparke and another horse enthusiast.
Best viewed in the spirit of lighthearted entertainment with which it was made, Home in Indiana plays exceptionally well to the nostalgia-inclined viewers or for families with tweens eager to expose their children to something that isn’t filled with product placements and/or manufactured gimmicks.
A terrific re-release of the picture which was based on the Saturday Evening Post story “The Phantom Filly” by George Agnew Chamberlain that was remade as the movie musical April Love in 1957, Home in Indiana is now available as part of Fox Cinema Archive’s newest wave of stellar DVD debuts of long out-of-print works which have hit stores online over the past few months.
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