Cast & Crew
When the white stallion Thunderhead steals another mare belonging to drunken rancher Beaver Greenway and his granddaughter Carey, Beaver goes to confront Rob McLaughlin, the owner of the Goose Bar Ranch. Rob, whose teenage son Ken was Thunderhead's owner before the stallion ran wild, tries to assure Beaver that Thunderhead has not been seen in several years, but Beaver storms off unconvinced. After the Greenways depart, Rob and his wife Nell welcome Ken, when he returns from a horse-selling trip. Rob is dismayed to learn that Ken met his old pal, Whitey Eaton, a disreputable character who persuaded Ken to spend his profits on a trotting horse named Crown Jewel. Rob chastises Ken for acting hastily, but Ken asserts that Rob must trust his judgment if he intends to make him a partner in the Goose Bar someday. Nell and Rob are pleased with Crown Jewel's beauty, and ranch hand Gus realizes that her flightiness is due to altitude sickness caused by the high Wyoming country. Rob agrees to let Ken keep Crown Jewel with the stipulation that he will not be made a partner until she earns back her cost. A few days pass as Ken begins Crown Jewel's training, and one afternoon, Carey teases Ken into asking her out on a date. When Ken arrives at the Greenway ranch, however, Beaver, drunk and surly, tells him that Carey does not want to see him. Fed up with Beaver, who used to be a champion trotting horse driver, Carey castigates him for his behavior and chases after Ken. The young couple have a good time at a local dance, but later that night, Thunderhead comes down from the range and lures away Crown Jewel. When Thunderhead's hiding place is spotted by a forest ranger, Ken, Rob, Beaver and a few ranch hands go in search of him. Thunderhead and Crown Jewel elude their pursuers, who nonetheless manage to round up the other missing mares. Ken spots the fugitives and eventually catches up to them in the morning, just as Thunderhead is fighting off a pack of wolves. Although Thunderhead recognizes Ken, he will not accompany him as he leads the ill Crown Jewel home. At the ranch, veterinarian Hickson asserts that Crown Jewel's lungs are so congested that she should be put out of her misery, but Ken refuses to give up on her. Ken tries everything he can think of to cure the lovely mare, but it is Beaver, who has stopped drinking and resumed training his own trotter, Sundown, who recommends a successful course of treatment. When Crown Jewel has recuperated fully, famed trainer Jake Willis agrees to train her, but her instability worries Ken. Gus points out that her love for Thunderhead is distracting her, and when the stallion again comes to the ranch, Ken succeeds in using Crown Jewel as bait to capture him. With Thunderhead by her side, Crown Jewel settles down to work, and she and Ken become a winning team. Ken and Crown Jewel enter the prestigious Governor's Cup race in Lancaster, Ohio, which is also attended by Beaver and Sundown. Carey's loyalties are torn, for she has fallen in love with Ken but knows that Beaver might start drinking again if he loses. Crown Jewel breaks her stride during the first heat and Beaver wins, but she holds true in the second heat and wins. Ken and Beaver's taut nerves are eased by Carey's encouragement, and in the final heat, Crown Jewel again breaks her stride and Beaver and Sundown triumph. After Carey accompanies Beaver on his victory lap, the Greenways visit with Ken and his parents. As Ken wonders what is ailing Crown Jewel, Beaver examines her and happily tells Ken that she faltered because she is to be a mother. Later, Carey and Ken admire Thunderlead and Crown Jewel's colt, Storm Cloud, whose white coat and blue eyes are proud reminders of his wild albino great-grandfather.
Charles G. Clarke
Nick De Maggio
Charles Le Maire
Harry M. Leonard
Maurice De Packh
Green Grass of Wyoming
The three Flicka films are based on three eponymous novels by Mary O'Hara about a boy and his horse. The main human character is Ken McLaughlin, played by Roddy McDowall in the first two pictures and Robert Arthur in the third. In the 1943 film, Ken is a failing fifth-grader whose mom talks his dad into letting him raise an unpromising colt so he'll learn responsibility. In the 1945 film he's attempting to groom Flicka's elegant son Thunderhead for a racing career.
Green Grass of Wyoming combines selected ingredients from both predecessors: Ken is slacking on his chores and hanging out too much with pretty neighbor Carey Greenway, so mom talks dad into letting him train an unpromising horse as a responsibility lesson; meanwhile Thunderhead is running wild in the mountains and luring mares from the corrals of ranchers in the area. In a new story element, Ken's mare, Crown Jewel, has a mishap that leaves her gravely ill with congested lungs. After he saves her life - outdoing the local horse doctor with help from Gus, the folksy hired hand - he starts preparing her for the harness-racing circuit, where he'll be competing with Carey's grandfather, Beaver Greenway, an old-timer hoping to regain his former glory. Trained horses, wild horses, harness racing, veterinary medicine - the story has something for everyone!
Adapted from O'Hara's novel by Martin Berkeley, whose screenplay received a Writers Guild nomination for best-written American western, Green Grass of Wyoming isn't very original. It makes up for this, however, with a top-notch supporting cast. Nice guy Dad is portrayed by tough-guy specialist Lloyd Nolan, who plays against type like the seasoned professional he is. Gus, the guitar-strumming hired hand, is played by Burl Ives in one of his first screen appearances. In a fascinating twist, fresh-faced Carey is played by Peggy Cummins, who took this wholesome role just two short years before her hugely seductive performance in Joseph H. Lewis's classic Gun Crazy (1950), where her sharpshooting, man-slaughtering character is a poster girl for anarchy.
In the film's most creative casting coup, Carey's mumbling, whisky-sneaking Grandpa Beaver is played by Charles Coburn, one of the most mannerly actors ever. And a very busy one, sandwiching this picture (plus almost a dozen others) between Alfred Hitchcock's courtroom drama The Paradine Case (1947) and Douglas Sirk's musical comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952), two of the most underrated movies of their day. Coburn had a gift for projecting dignity; look over his credits and you'll see honorifics like Sir, Lord, Doctor, General, Judge, Captain, and Professor in front of one character name after another. Yet here he is in a cowboy outfit, on a horse, wearing his trademark monocle, and yearning for a nip from the bottle with the other fellas! Sure enough, Coburn pulls it off, proving that he's a versatile actor as well as a gracious, imposing, and lovable one.
Coburn was a harness-racing buff in real life, so he may have been attracted to Green Grass of Wyoming by its connection to that sport and to the Governor's Cup sweepstakes in Ohio, where Coburn himself attended races. Beaver is a drunk, but he's a drunk with a dream, and after reforming he trains himself and his horse, Sundown, for a return to the trotting track. This complicates the film's family dynamics quite a bit, especially for Carey, since her grandpa and her boyfriend are entered in the same competition. Who's she supposed to root for? The movie's suspenseful climax shows three successive races, and while someone has to lose, the outcome proves satisfactory for all. I won't reveal any more except to say that a certain Crown Jewel turns out to be pregnant by a certain Thunderhead, who's back in civilization after sowing his oats in the mountains. The folks at the Flicka-film factory, aka Twentieth Century-Fox, were evidently planning a fourth installment in the franchise. Unfortunately, they were on the losing end of that particular sweepstakes.
Green Grass of Wyoming was shot in Wyoming, Utah, and Ohio, on locations captured in spectacular Technicolor by Charles G. Clarke, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Color Cinematography. The horses look magnificent too, especially when Crown Jewel, who's black and glistening, shares the screen with Thunderhead, who's white and radiant. This said, the movie's emphasis on animals and landscapes has a downside; not everyone will be comfortable with a scene where Crown Jewel gets mired and immobilized in a treacherous mud pit. Horses don't know what acting is, and this one is obviously in distress. Today's moviemaking rules probably wouldn't allow this, but it's a fairly brief sequence, and the horses look quite happy the rest of the time.
Reviewing the movie when it first opened, film-industry reporter and occasional critic Thomas M. Pryor called it a picture that "doesn't go anywhere in particular, but...leaves one in a genial mood." He didn't mention the mud-pit scene, but he did raise his eyebrows at "the way the romancing horses are permitted to carry on," speculating that when "inquisitive small fry" see the film, curiosity about Crown Jewel's pregnancy "will put a lot of parents on the spot." Maybe in 1948, surely not today. By current standards, Green Grass of Wyoming is as mild-mannered as its title, and it still leaves one in a genial mood.
by David Sterritt
Green Grass of Wyoming
The film's title card reads, "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Mary O'Hara's Green Grass of Wyoming." According to a January 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio purchased O'Hara's novel with the intention of casting Roddy McDowall, Preston Foster and Rita Johnson, who had appeared in the two previous Twentieth Century-Fox films based on O'Hara's works. (See below for the entries on My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead, Son of Flicka.) An April 1947 studio press release announced that Colleen Townsend would be featured in the film in a "key romantic" role, but she did not appear in the released picture. Contemporary sources note that the picture was filmed on location in Duck Creek and Kanab, UT and Lancaster, OH. Director of photography Charles G. Clarke received an Academy Award nomination for Best Color Cinematography for his work on the film. On January 26, 1940, McCallister recreated his role for a radio presentation of the story on The Hallmark Playhouse.