Saturday, December 6, 2014


Above L-R: Audrey Pavia, yours truly and Petrine Day Mitchum
at the book signing for Mitchum and Pavia's latest edition of 
Hollywood Hoofbeats.  
Photo (C) 2014 Kurt Ingham
 If you've ever yearned for genre collection books to be written by experts in the field rather than generalists with their inevitable cringe-worthy missteps, your wish just came true.  The authors of Hollywood Hoofbeats: The Fascinating Story of Horses in Movies and Television, Petrine Day Mitchum and Audrey Pavia are fully credentialed horsewomen as well as pro writers. Petrine is former story editor and script analyst for The Ladd Co., Pathe`, Tri-Star and Dreamworks as well as being a longtime horse owner in Serious About Horses Central, the Santa Ynez Valley of California, while Audrey is former editor of the essential Horses Illustrated magazine, writer for Western Horseman, Thoroughbred Times, Horses USA, and Appaloosa and Quarter Horse owner herself.

The brand spankin' new edition (above) expanded from its 2005 progenitor (below, so you don't mix 'em up)features a plethora of new documentation, such as that of of the films Secretariat, Seabiscuit, War Horse, Dreamer, Django Unchained, remade versions of True Grit, King Arthur and The Lone Ranger, all the Lord of the Rings epics, even delving into animation both traditional like Spirit, and the latest in animatronics (mechanical horses) plus CGI (digital,) as in the equine-like beasts ridden in Avatar (and explains and shows how.)
This volume remains thorough in research and jam-packed with production stills, movie posters, lobby cards, etc. galore. Everyone who's ever noticed horses in movies and television will have their own favorites.  Mine were: The Cisco Kid's gorgeous black and white tovero pinto horse; The Black Stallion without his makeup (he's really a bay!), a history of the purebred strain of Crabbet Arabians at the Kellogg Farm in Pomona, California which were utilized in Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik, Son of The Sheik and the impossibly rare lost film with so many Kellogg Arabians galloping through faux desert sands, the 1929 talking/singing version of The Desert Song. (So of course here's a clip!)

 However, the most poignant and truly essential part of the volume for me is their documentation of how the American Humane Society (NOT the Humane Society of the U.S.) came to protect all animals used in film and television productions, particularly western horses condemned to ignominiously fatal so-called "stunts." While nowadays I'm always relieved to see CGI animals in the perilous scenes, at least I know the AHA oversees all trainers, riders, handlers and stunt persons dealing with horses to maintain safety for all of them, human or animal.   

One of the many ways you can ascertain the expertise of these authors is their inclusion of Smokey, the horse in Cat Ballou (a 1965 Jane Fonda western!) who emulates the perpetual drunken stupor of the gunfighter played by Lee Marvin who won the Oscar for same. Their rightfully casual description of drugging the horse to look soused should be met with the knowledge that all horse owners have to sedate their horses lightly for many essential medical procedures on an annual basis, from equine dentistry to cleaning the smegma, dirt and crud from a male horse's penis sheath. They term Smokey a "method actor" for his depiction of feeling no pain both literally and figuratively.

Overall, this is a terrific volume just in time for holiday giving or personal enjoyment for anyone with an interest in horses and movie/tv production.  The photograph at the top shows the authors et moi at their well-attended book signing 12.6.14 at OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center in the old town section of Newhall, California.  

 This work and its copious research from silent films to the present deserve to stand on its own merits, although I was tempted to place this review in my Tales Told Out of School section of Fastfilm blog (LINK.)  Petrine and I were friends at the Westlake School for Girls whose lives but not interests drifted apart. Catching up we swapped our mutual horse owner, dog owner and mutual friend musician stories, while my better half Mr. Twister regaled them with his insider stories of Petrine's brother at the prep school they both attended. In the intervening forty years, Petrine still has the friendliness, dry humor and sophistication that I recalled from school, plus retains all the good looks and distinctively great eyes of, to use an equine expression, her illustrious sire.

1 comment:

Evanesco said...

Oh, a must have!

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