KENTUCKY

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Feb. 6, 2015

During the Civil War a young child sees his father murdered by a soldier that wants his horse for the war effort. Naturally, this leaves an indelible impression on the lad — one that lasts for decades and leads to a feud between two Kentucky families.

Seventy-five years later in the modern day (circa 1938, that is), that boy has grown to be 80-something Walter Brennan, still bitter and, like his father before him, still breeding racehorses.

When his grandson (Richard Greene) falls in love with a member of the rival family (Loretta Young), neither realizes the conflict right away, but a rift is in the making. Of course, love always finds a way. (Among the co-stars is another Utah native, veteran character actor Moroni Olsen.)

That’s the plot and primary cast of “Kentucky” (1938), which recently made its home-video debut with a DVD manufacture-on-demand release on the Fox Cinema Archives label.

      

                    Walter Brennan, 'Kentucky'

And the film is notable on several counts. It provides an early starring role for Salt Lake native Loretta Young, and she’s terrific. There is also a good performance from Richard Greene (he would gain his biggest fame nearly two decades later in the popular TV series “The Adventures of Robin Hood”).

And Walter Brennan’s performance here — a 40-something playing an 80-something — marks the second of his three Academy Awards as best supporting actor (after “Come and Get It” in 1936 and before “The Westerner” in 1940). Only three male actors have managed to take home three Oscars, the other two being Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis.

        

But “Kentucky’s” real claim to fame is that it was another successful experiment with Technicolor (after “Becky Sharp,” “Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” and a few others) and went a long way toward convincing the major studios that color movies were a serious step to consider — eventually leading to a pair of major successes (“Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz,” both 1939), which solidified the process as an important standard.

Of course, it would be another couple of decades before it became THE standard, but after 1939 color movie production dramatically increased.

And the lush Kentucky bluegrass in this 1938 charmer, along with vivid horseracing sequences that benefit from location shooting, really stand out in color.