Maryland, the Reality
Several years ago I wrote an article about Monty R, a dark horse competitor, racing in Maryland’s triple-crown series of hunt races in 1940, against, Blockade, the greatest steeplechase horse of the era. The article was published in the February 9, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. While researching the article, I learned that during the 1940 Maryland steeple chase season Twentieth Century Fox film crews shot Technicolor footage of the races, which was included in a feature film released later the same year.
Maryland, Real to Reel
The movie, Maryland, starring Fay Bainter, Walter Brennan and a young John Payne, was released in late 1940. It was an effort, in the era before sequels, to cash in on the success of another horse racing film, Kentucky, released in 1938, which also starred Walter Brennan. My research had whetted my appetite to see and savor the Technicolor beauty of Maryland. I was frustrated to find that it had not been released on videotape or DVD. So, I was delighted to recently discover that Maryland can now be viewed online at Hulu or Fancast.
Beautiful, But Flawed
The film is beautiful and well acted, if formulaic. The presentation of Maryland’s landed gentry society and the hunt races are stunning and accurate. The footage of the Maryland Hunt Cup race looks the same as it does today except the clothing fashions and cars. The land is unchanged in its beauty. The film’s great weakness is its stereotypical treatment of African Americans in a Gone With the Wind style. It even has Hattie McDaniel of Gone with the Wind fame, playing what amounts to a reprise of her role in that film a year earlier. Black men fared worse in the script than the women, which is a shame because it marred what could have been a much better film without the demeaning characterizations.