SALTY O'ROURKE, directed by Raoul Walsh, is set against the backdrop of horse racing, with a touch of film noir on the side.
Salty (Alan Ladd) owes a large sum of money to a gangster, Doc Baxter (Bruce Cabot). With just a month to pay up -- or else! -- Salty and his sidekick Smitty (William Demarest) hatch a plan which involves hiring a banned jockey, Johnny (Stanley Clement), to pose as his younger brother; Johnny is the only one who can ride a very wild but very fast horse Salty owns. If the horse wins a big race, the purse will be enough to pay off Doc Baxter.
The "underage" jockey is required to attend the one-room jockeys' school at the racetrack, taught by lovely Barbara Brooks (Gail Russell). Matters grow complicated when Johnny falls in love with Barbara, but she loves Salty...and a hurt Johnny threatens to throw the race in the wrong direction.
SALTY O'ROURKE is a pleasant movie with a good cast. It's always nice to spend time with Ladd and Russell, two very enjoyable actors who were later reteamed in CALCUTTA (1947). It's also fun to see Russell and Cabot sharing screen time, two years before they appeared in one of my favorite films, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947). Cabot makes a slick bad guy, and his scenes with Ladd have a nice tension.
When the action focuses on Ladd, Russell, Bendix, Cabot, or sweet Spring Byington as Russell's mother, it's quite enjoyable. The film's main drawback is that Stanley Clements' Johnny is so completely obnoxious, the viewer starts to groan with frustration any time he comes back on screen! It's hard for me to believe, incidentally, that Clements was married to Gloria Grahame around the time this film was made.
The supporting cast includes Darryl Hickman, Rex Williams, and Marjorie Woodworth.
Milton Holmes was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, based on his own story. The black and white cinematography was by Theodor Sparkuhl. The film's running time is 100 minutes.
SALTY O'ROURKE is a Paramount film which has not had a release on DVD or VHS. It's yet another hard-to-find title that needs to be freed from behind the Paramount/Universal "Iron Curtain"; perhaps someday these films will be part of a MOD program. In the meantime, I'm grateful to my friend Carrie for making it possible for me to see it!