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The Red Pony (1949)

Passed | | Drama, Family, Western | 28 March 1949 (USA)
A ranch boy is gifted with a colt, grows to love him but the colt escapes, with tragic results.


Lewis Milestone


John Steinbeck (by), John Steinbeck (screen play)




Complete credited cast:
Myrna Loy ... Alice Tiflin
Robert Mitchum ... Billy Buck
Louis Calhern ... Grandfather
Shepperd Strudwick ... Mr. Fred Tiflin
Peter Miles ... Tom
Margaret Hamilton ... Teacher
Melinda Byron ... Jinx Ingals (as Patty King)
Jackie Jackson Jackie Jackson ... Jackie
Beau Bridges ... Beau
Don Reynolds Don Reynolds ... Little Brown Jug (as Little Brown Jug)
Nino Tempo Nino Tempo ... Nino
Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan ... Dale


In the coast range mountains on the western edge of the Salinas Valley is a ranch where Tom, a lad of about ten, longs for a pony. He lives with his mom, who was born there, her dad, a talkative pioneer who misses the old West, Tom's dad Fred Tiflin, who comes from the city and after years on the ranch doesn't feel at home there, and Billy, their trusted hand, a real cowboy. While Fred has to sort out whether he wants to stay a rancher and come to terms with his son being closer to Billy than to himself, Tom gets a pony and learns directly about responsibility and loss. What lessons can each learn, and are tragedy and hard choices all that life offers? Are laughter and joy anywhere? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


John Steinbeck's great American story !


Drama | Family | Western


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

28 March 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Steinbeck's The Red Pony See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The 81-day shooting schedule was at the time the longest and costliest for Republic Pictures. See more »


Alice opens the lunch box to find a small snake inside. The snake is clearly hanging out of the box, but in the next angle it is fully inside. See more »

Crazy Credits

and introducing Peter Miles as Tom See more »

Alternate Versions

Although all previous UK cinema and video releases were uncut the 2010 Cornerstone DVD suffered 11 secs of cuts to edit shots of Tom holding and shaking a buzzard by its neck. See more »


Referenced in The Mentalist: The Red Ponies (2010) See more »


Shall We Gather at the River?
(1864) (uncredited)
Written by Robert Lowry
Played on piano by Myrna Loy
See more »

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User Reviews

Worth watching for Mitchum and Calhern performances
2 April 2008 | by matchettjaSee all my reviews

"The Red Pony" tells the story of a ranching family living near Salinas, California and the obsessive love of a boy for his pony. Within that story, certain dramas are being played out; a man unsure of himself and his ability, feeling a stranger in the place he lives, even within his own family; his wife, struggling to keep the family homestead going, unsure of her man's determination and grit; an old man whose time has passed him by, struggling to cope in a world he no longer fully comprehends; a boy coming of age, having to deal with nature's cruel injustice as well as the knowledge that adults are not infallible but also make mistakes.

Robert Mitchum is outstanding in the role of the ranch hand, Billy Buck, who seems to know everything there is to know about horses, thus earning the adoration of Tom, the ranch owner's son. Equally impressive is grandfather Louis Calhern, a former wagon train boss no longer needed for such kind of work. He is reduced to recycling stories that no one wishes to hear any longer. Myrna Loy, on the other hand, seems a bit too casual and matter of fact to be the challenged wife of an unsteady partner in the ranching business. She is much better suited to romantic comedy, playing such roles as Nora, the madcap wife in "The Thin Man" series. Peter Miles, who plays Tom, is satisfactory, but not as charismatic as some other child actors of the period.

The gifted American composer, Aaron Copland, does the music score, teaming successfully with the great American story teller, John Steinbeck, who wrote the screenplay based on his novel. "The Red Pony" may not be the best adaptation of Steinbeck to appear on the silver screen, on the order of "The Grapes of Wrath" or "East of Eden", but it is certainly worth watching, especially for the performances of Mitchum and Calhern, as well as for the music of Copland.

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