Cast & Crew
On New Year's Eve, at the Belle Mead plantation in Virginia, a jet black colt with a white patch between his eyes is born to The Duchess, the favorite mare of Henry Cameron, scion of an aristocratic family. Cameron calls the horse Black Beauty, from a suggestion by his neighbor, Leila Lambert, a wealthy young widow who loves him. Because he is in financial straits, Cameron will not propose to Leila. Cameron's rival for the affections of Leila, Captain Jordan, who has the reputation as a "horse killer," borrows The Duchess for a hunt without informing Cameron. After she falls during a jump and breaks her leg, Jordan callously offers Cameron a "better" horse. Black Beauty nuzzles his mother before she is shot because of the injury. Seeing that Black Beauty has all the markings of a great thoroughbred, Cameron is encouraged to train the horse for steeplechase racing to regain his fortune. Black Beauty takes solace in his newfound friendship with Ginger, the horse Jordan sends over as a replacement for The Duchess. When Black Beauty is a yearling, Cameron enters him in a meet, and during an argument, Jordan wagers Cameron $5,000 that his horse, Rob Roy, Black Beauty's sire, will beat Black Beauty. His pride stung, Cameron accepts the bet. Unsure of Black Beauty, Leila tries to buy Rob Roy, but Cameron says that he will withdraw Black Beauty if she does. After she borrows Rob Roy to ride, the horse bolts, and Cameron, riding Black Beauty, catches up to her and rescues her. Even though Leila encourages him, Cameron postpones telling her that he loves her until after he has won the race. Because Black Beauty showed that he could catch Rob Roy, Jordan comes to the stables on the night before the race to dope Black Beauty, but the horse, who hates Jordan, knocks a lantern from his hands, and the stables are set on fire. While rescuing Black Beauty, Cameron is knocked out by falling beams. Harlan Bledsoe, Cameron's friend, instructs a stable boy to ride Black Beauty vigorously through the rain storm to get a doctor, but although Cameron is saved, a stone lodged in the horse's hoof causes him to receive a strained tendon, which ends his racing career. Soon, Cameron's creditors foreclose, and he is evicted and forced to auction his horses. He leaves the plantation, but instructs Bledsoe to turn Black Beauty over to Leila, who had left earlier to go North to negotiate water rights for a hydroelectric power plant for Cameron's and her plantations. Bledsoe is unable to keep the horse from being sold to Jordan. After Black Beauty continually returns to the Cameron plantation, Jordan whips the horse and then tries to get him to scale a high wall. However, the horse throws Jordan against the wall, and Jordan dies from a broken neck. Because Black Beauty's knees were harmed from Jordan's maneuvers, the horse is sold to a riding academy and then auctioned to a livery stable. Finally, for a low price, he is sold to a junk peddler. Meanwhile, Bledsoe has been unable to locate Cameron through ads in various newspapers. When Cameron, now destitute, sees the junk peddler beat Black Beauty, he whips the man, and then, as he comforts the horse, realizes that it is Black Beauty. He has no money to buy the horse from the peddler, and when he threatens to inform the humane society, the man socks him. As Cameron recovers in a hospital, Leila, who has returned after securing the water rights for both plantations, reads with Bledsoe a newspaper story about the reunion of Cameron and Black Beauty, and they travel to the hospital. When Cameron learns about his good fortune because of Leila's deal, he borrows money from Bledsoe to purchase an engagement ring for Leila and to buy Black Beauty back, but they find that the junk man sold the horse the day before to Renaldo, who ships horses to Spain for the bull ring. Aghast because he knows that horses in the bull rings are subject to horrible slashings during the bullfights, which he calls "torture," Cameron, with Leila, rushes to the pier where Black Beauty has just been loaded onto a ship. Renaldo sees Black Beauty respond to Cameron's whistle by stomping his foot and agrees to sell the horse back to Cameron for what he paid. Later, back at Belle Mead, Cameron tells Black Beauty that they both will now have to answer to Leila's whistle, and he introduces her to the horse as his wife.
Production charts in Hollywood Filmograph credit Archie Stout as cameraman and L. Ellmacker with sound, while screen credits, the reviews and information in the copyright records credit Charles Stumar and John Stransky, Jr. Screen credits list George McGuire as film editor, while the reviews credit Carl Pierson. No information has been located to determine whether Stout, Ellmacker or Pierson actually worked on the film. The novel, which had sold three million copies by the time of the film's release, was widely popularized by George T. Angell, the founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because of its descriptions of the cruelties suffered by the protagonist. Although Monogram attempted to remain faithful to the novel, the film differs in two major respects, in that the setting in the novel is England and the novel is told as the horse's autobiography. According to the pressbook, having the horse talk would not have been convincing in a film: "Even if a human voice could be found that would suit the four-legged actor's personality, his jaw couldn't be made to move in unison with it."
Other films and television programs based on the same source include the 1917 Edison three-reeler Your Obedient Servant, with Peggy Adams and Pat O'Malley, directed by Edward H. Griffith; the 1921 Vitagraph film directed by David Smith, with Jean Paige, James Morrison and George Webb, who was the husband of Esther Ralston, the star of the Monogram production (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0432); the 1946 Edward L. Alperson independent production released by Twentieth Century-Fox starring Mona Freeman and Richard Denning, directed by Max Nosseck; the 1971 German-Spanish-British co-production with Mark Lester, directed by James Hill; the 1972 British television series of one-half hour programs entitled The Adventures of Black Beauty; and an 1978 NBC-TV mini-series.