This sensitive adaptation of John Steinbeck's coming-of-age story, "The Gift," stars Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin, a lonely young boy growing up on a farm in the Salinas Valley. His city-born father Fred (Shepperd Strudwick) has never been happy with life on the farm where his wife Alice (Myrna Loy) was born, and the two spend much time arguing. To escape the bickering, Tom seeks out ranch hand Billy Buck (Robert Mitchum), who becomes like a father to the boy.
One of the four stories John Steinbeck published under the title THE RED PONY, "The Gift" is the source of this touching coming-of-age story, and the only time director Lewis Milestone ventured to touch on such a theme outside a wartime setting. The film stars Peter Miles as Tom Tiflin, a boy of about ten, growing up on an isolated ranch in the Salinas Valley. Since his city-born father has never adjusted to life on the ranch which his wife Alice (Myrna Loy) has inherited from her amiably double-talking father (Louis Calhern), the couple squabble constantly. Given such an environment, the boy spends much of his time out on the ranch, especially in the company of cowboy Billy Buck (Robert Mitchum). Peter worships the laconic ranch hand, who is actually more of a father to the boy than Fred, a fact which adds to his father's unhappiness. The boy's long-held wish to have a pony is fulfilled when Billy's prize mare gets a colt, and he makes a gift of it for the boy, teaching him to care for and train it. THE RED PONY is a beautifully realized adaptation of the Steinbeck work, well acted and directed, and particularly notable for a Copland score perfectly suited to its subject.
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