The Black Stallion is a 1979 American film based on the 1941 classic children's novel The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. It tells the story of Alec Ramsay, who is shipwrecked on a desert island, together with a wild Arabian stallion whom he befriends. After being rescued, they are set on entering a race challenging two champion horses.
The film is adapted by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg and William D. Wittliff. It is directed by Carroll Ballard. The movie stars Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Hoyt Axton, and the Arabian horse Cass Ole. The film features music by Carmine Coppola, the father of Hollywood producer Francis Ford Coppola, who was the executive producer of the film.
Alec Ramsay (Kelly Reno) is an American boy traveling aboard the steamer Drake off the coast of North Africa, when he sees a wild black stallion being heavily restrained by ropes leading to his halter and forced into a makeshift stable on the ship. Captivated by the sight of the animal, he later returns and feeds it some sugar cubes, but is caught by the supposed owner, who shoves him away, telling him in Arabic to stay away from Shetan (Devil).
Later, in their stateroom, Alec's father (Hoyt Axton) shows him the objects he won in a card game. He gives him a pocket knife and a small statue of Bucephalus, Alexander the Great's horse, from the loot and tells him the story of how Alexander became Bucephalus' master â" "if you can ride that horse, you can own that horse." Later that night, Alec is thrown from his bunk by a violent rocking of the ship in a storm. Emerging on deck, he finds that it has caught fire and is sinking. In the chaos, he sees the black stallion trapped and manages to free him with his knife. It then jumps overboard into the sea. Unfortunately Alec himself is swept overboard when a giant wall of water crashes over him. Struggling to stay afloat in the water, he swims toward the horse and manages to grab hold of its restraints just as the ship explodes.
Alec awakens alone on the shore of an uninhabited island. At first he is sad and frightened. Exploring, he comes upon the horse, trapped again by his ropes which have become caught in some rocks. He realizes the stallion had surely saved him from drowning. Once more he manages to free it, but it runs away. He discovers means to survive by catching fish and gathering seaweed. One morning he awakens to find himself eye to eye with an angry cobra. He is paralyzed with fear. Suddenly the horse appears and tramples it, saving his life once again, but then immediately runs off.
Alec decides to try to get closer to the stallion. He offers him some seaweed, which Alec can harvest by swimming â" the only food in the barren desert area. It struggles with his distrust of humans, but the act of taking the food from the boy's hand seals the bond between them. They play together, running and swimming. Finally Alec mounts him, and after several attempts to stay on, he rides him and the two gallop together over the island, united as one.
One day an Italian fishing ship arrives. Several men row a small boat to the island, and Alec calls out to them. They try to take him forcibly off the island without the horse. But it swims out into the ocean and follows them, and so both of them are taken onto the ship and rescued.
Back home in suburban New York, Alec is given a hero's welcome. He keeps the horse, which he has named The Black, in his backyard, but one morning he runs out the gate which a garbage man has left open. Spooked by the traffic in the street, he flees through the town. Alec gives chase but finally loses track of him. In the morning, he meets an elderly horse owner named Snoe (Clarence Muse) who tells him where The Black is. He finds him in the barn of Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney), a retired jockey. He vigorously asserts his ownership of him, but Henry attempts to claim him himself, having spent all night trying to catch him. But when he sees the bond between the two, he realizes that he really does belong to Alec. Eating breakfast in Henry's kitchen, Alec looks out the window to where The Black is standing and realizes that he is at home on the farm. Henry offers Alec the use of a stall in which to keep him.
Later Alec wonders how fast The Black might be, and he and Henry decide to train him for the racetrack. Henry teaches Alec to be a jockey. The Black surprises him with his speed. He conceives a plan to get him into a race involving the country's two current champions. He sets up a secret demonstration at night for a reporter to witness his speed, keeping the identity of him and Alec secret. The news of a "mystery horse" has spread, and he is allowed to enter the race. Alec's mother (Teri Garr) at first refuses to let him ride in it but then relents, seeing how important it is to him. They make the long train trip to the famed Santa Anita racetrack.
The race is the most anticipated horse racing event of the year. Heading for the starting gate alongside the two champions, The Black rears in challenge to one of his opponents and sustains a leg wound. Alec does not see it until he is in the gate. As he begins to dismount, the bell rings and the horses take off. He desperately tries to stay on The Black and stop him, but he keeps running. When Alec regains his balance, The Black is far behind his opponents. But he encourages him to run as fast as he can, and they are soon back in the race. As they head for the finish, there's a magnificent cinematic flashback to the two of them galloping along the island's sandy beach, and The Black overtakes the other horses and wins by two lengths. Later, a veterinarian assures Alec that the horse will recover from his injury. The film ends with Alec holding the small statue of Bucephalus while The Black inspects it with curiosity.
- Kelly Reno as Alec Ramsay
- Mickey Rooney as Henry Dailey
- Teri Garr as Mrs. Ramsay, Alec's mother
- Hoyt Axton as Mr. Ramsay, Alec's father
- Clarence Muse as Snoe
- Michael Higgins as Jim Neville
- Ed McNamara as Jake
- Doghmi Larbi as Arab
- John Burton as Jockey No. 1
- John Buchanan as Jockey No. 2
- Kristen Vigard as Becky
- Fausto Tozzi as Rescue Captain
- John Karlsen as Archeologist
- Leopoldo Trieste as Priest
- Frank Cousins as African Chieftain
- Don Hudson as Zaurog
- Marne Maitland as Drake Captain
- Tom Dahlgren as Veterinarian
Cass Ole, a champion Arabian stallion, was featured in most of the movie's scenes, with Fae Jur, another black Arabian stallion, being his main double. Fae Jur's main scene is the one where Alec is trying to gain the trust of the Black on the beach. Two other stunt doubles were used for running, fighting and swimming scenes.
El Mokhtar, an Egyptian Arabian racehorse, was the producers' first choice to portray the Black, but they were unable to secure his services for the film from his owners, who declined any offers. He does appear in The Black Stallion Returns, alongside Cass Ole, by which time the studio bought out the syndicate of owners in order to secure El Mokhtar's services.
Napoleon was portrayed by Junior, who previously appeared in National Lampoon's Animal House as Trooper, Niedermeyer's horse.
The film received two nominations for the Academy Awards:
- Mickey Rooney was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
- Robert Dalva was nominated for Best Film Editing.
In addition, Alan Splet was awarded with a Special Achievement Award for sound editing.
Golden Globe Awards
Carmine Coppola was nominated for Best Original Score at the Golden Globe Awards. He was nominated twice in this category but ended up winning the award for Apocalypse Now instead.
British Academy Awards
Caleb Deschanel was nominated for Best Cinematography by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards.
LA Film Critics Awards
The film received two awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Cinematography (Caleb Deschanel) and Best Music (Carmine Coppola).
The film also won the 1979 National Society of Film Critics award for Best Cinematography.
In 2002, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" .
The movie was followed in 1983 by a sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, which also starred Reno. There was also a television series called The Adventures of the Black Stallion which aired from 1990 to 1993 and starred Mickey Rooney and Richard Ian Cox. In 2003, a 45-minute prequel called The Young Black Stallion was shot and released for IMAX theaters.
- The Black Stallion books
- Official website
- The Black Stallion at the Internet Movie Database
- The Black Stallion at AllMovie
- The Black Stallion at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Black Stallion at Box Office Mojo
- The Black Stallion at the TCM Movie Database