Cast & Crew
On a warm and dusty afternoon in the American Southwestern town of San Carlos, Father Francis Phelan arrives at St. Joseph's parish to take over from his old friend, the much-loved, but ailing Father Walsh. Just after arriving, Father Phelan intends to pursue Father Walsh's pet project of building a new church for the poverty-stricken, mostly Indian parish. Father Phelan meets Michael Little Bear, a twelve-year-old orphan who lives at the rectory and cooks and cares for Father Walsh. Mike hopes one day to become a doctor and has a menagerie of animals whom he has saved, mended and cured. Father Phelan brings Father Walsh back to St. Joseph's rectory from the hospital to recover, and the elderly priest proves to be an uncooperative patient when the Protestant Dr. Henry G. Mills tells him he must stay in bed and rest. Although Father Walsh, who knows how ill he is, complains that Doc Mills is working against the interests of the church, he actually respects and trusts the physician. Mike tells Father Phelan how much he hopes that Father Walsh will have his new church, and Father Phelan tries to let him know that the priest may die before the money can be raised and the church constructed. After praying to God for the money, Mike sees a poster announcing a quarterhorse race at a county fair with a $2,000 prize. Mike then announces to Doc his intention to enter his horse Pueblo in the race, and Doc agrees to examine the horse the next morning. Although the horse once had a broken leg, Mike had set it carefully, and when the two friends test Pueblo, the horse's speed surprises even Doc. Mike and Doc meet early every morning to train Pueblo, and Mike's friend, Tony Eagle, brings his horse to pace Pueblo. Impressed by Pueblo's chances, Doc gives Mike the entry fee. After Father Phelan asks Doc about the horse and Mike's plan to race it, he gives Doc the church building fund plus some of his own money and asks him to "invest" it. Father Walsh then reveals to Father Phelan that he, too, knows about the race and would like his money "invested," in the hope of supporting Mike's education. At the fair, Doc encounters Rex Allen, the cowboy celebrity and horse breeder and his trainer, Ty Corbin. Doc places a ten-to-one bet with Rex for Pueblo to win, and as the horses and their riders line up for the race, Rex recognizes Pueblo as the offspring of his best stallion and a mare that ran away one night a few years before. Mike rides Pueblo to a glorious victory, and Rex pays Doc $5,500 in winnings. When Rex asks Mike where he got the horse and then tries to buy it, Mike refuses and lies about the horse's origins. Later, Father Phelan tells Doc that Father Walsh wants to keep the money, including the winner's purse, for Mike's education, and Rex phones to say that Mike's story that the government gave Pueblo to the Indians was false. Father Phelan confronts Mike and Mike tells him that he found the dying mare and colt in the hills, and knowing that the coyotes would get them, stayed with them for two days, then brought the colt back to the church on a stretcher. When Rex and Ty show up at the rectory, Father Phelan reads them a letter from Mike in which the boy apologizes, saying that he had to leave because his lying brought shame upon his people. After Rex offers to bring over horses for a search party, Tony leads the group into an area called "Sangre de Cristo," where he suspects Mike has sought refuge. Tony's pregnant wife goes to stay with Father Walsh, and when she shows him Mike's letter, the priest becomes upset and prays for Mike's safe return. Meanwhile, Mike is growing weary, and unknown to him, is being stalked by a cougar. Father Phelan and Tony discuss Mike's lie, and Tony teasingly assures the priest that even though Mike lied, he also stole a horse from a white man, making him almost an Indian hero. When the search party locates Mike's deserted camp, Tony and Father Phelan decide to proceed on foot, while Rex and Doc check another trail. Mike, meanwhile, hungry and exhausted, falls down a hill, injuring himself. After he orders Pueblo to go home, the horse hears the cougar growling at him and whinnies, chasing off the cougar and alerting Tony and Father Phelan, who find a delirious Mike and carry him to safety. Back at the rectory, Rex gives Father Phelan a blank check for the cost of the new church, and Mike apologizes to Rex. When Rex tells Mike to keep the horse, Mike refuses, prompting Father Walsh to strike a compromise: the two will be partners, with half of the horse's winnings going for Mike's education. As they did at Father Walsh's homecoming, the group sings "Happy Birthday," the only happy song they all know.
D. D. Beauchamp
James L. Fields
Ted R. Gamble
Antonio Guerrero Tello
Mildred J. Hill
Patty Smith Hill
F. H. Ricketson Jr.
Fredrick Y. Smith
For the Love of Mike
It's not the first screen appearance for young Danny Bravo, who plays Michael, but it's his first big screen role and the film gives him the kind of credit studios use to build up a rising star: "Introducing Danny Bravo." The child actor ultimately had a brief screen career, including a small role in the classic western The Magnificent Seven (1960) as a young villager who attaches himself to Charles Bronson's character, and as the voice of Hadji (another orphan) in the original Jonny Quest animated series.
Richard Basehart had played the Fool in Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954), Ishmael in John Huston's film of Moby Dick (1956), and one of The Brothers Karamazov (1958) in Richard Brooks' adaptation of the Dostoevsky novel before taking the more easy-going role of Father Phelan. Though never a major Hollywood star, Basehart was a respected actor who could be counted on to invest every role with depth, and he ultimately found popular success on the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Irish actor Arthur Shields was part of John Ford's stock company, co-starring in such classics as How Green Was My Valley (1941) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and--fitting for his casting here--memorable as a spirited priest in both Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and The Quiet Man (1952).
And there's a special guest star too: Rex Allen, the last of the singing cowboys. The star of dozens of B-movie westerns of the 1950s and the narrator of numerous Disney wildlife documentaries in the 1960s, Allen plays himself as a retired performer who now raises horses and pits his own champion against Mike's horse in the big race. True to form, he even sings a song in the picture: "Charro Bravo," which he wrote himself.
It's produced and directed by George Sherman, an old hand at westerns. In the 1930s he was cranking out B-movie westerns for Republic pictures, including eight films that put John Wayne in the saddle as the lead cowboy hero of The Three Mesquiteers. He helped Wayne nurture his skills as a young leading man before John Ford made him a star with Stagecoach (1939) and Wayne repaid the favor years later. Sherman produced the John Wayne western The Comancheros (1961) and directed Wayne in Big Jake (1971).
The Talented Richard Basehart (website). Stephanie Kellerman and the Basehart Family, 2000.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
By Sean Axmaker
For the Love of Mike
The working title of this film was The Golden Touch. The picture opens with voice-over narration describing the "ancient land of the Indian." Although onscreen credits list the Union of Motion Picture Workers of the Republic of Mexico, the exent of their contribution to the final film is not known. Director of photography Alex Phillips' surname is misspelled as "Philips" in the onscreen credits. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Danny Zaldívar as a cast member, but it is likely that Zaldívar was the real name of child actor Danny Bravo. For the Love of Mike marked Bravo's screen debut. The picture was shot on location in Morelos, Mexico and at the Estudios Churubusco Azteca in Mexico City. According to a March 2, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Fredrick Y. Smith replaced editor Frank Gross following Gross's death on February 28, 1960, while on location in Mexico with For the Love of Mike.