Summary: Seabiscuit is a tale of triumph and perseverance. Set in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is a true story (based on a book by Laura Hillenbrand) of one horse and three men: a jockey, a trainer and a businessman.
2003 Universal Pictures and Dreamworks LLC
Directed by Gary Ross
Book by Laura Hillenbrand
Screenplay by Gary Ross
Tobey Maguire .... Red Pollard
Jeff Bridges .... Charles Howard
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Seabiscuit is a tale of triumph and perseverance. Set in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is a true story (based on a book by Laura Hillenbrand) of one horse and three men: a jockey, a trainer and a businessman.
Seabiscuit was a horse that defied all the odds to become a champion. And in doing so, he captured the hearts of a struggling nation. In overcoming his difficulties, he became an icon of hope for the people of the Depression.
We all love a story about the lowly and broken being restored and claiming victory. We love it because we want it to be our story. Stephen Ives, the director of a documentary about the famous horse, has spoken of Seabiscuit’s contagious appeal:
‘We all love to root for the underdog. Seabiscuit makes us feel
that we can do it. That it is possible to make something of
yourself with hard work, commitment and a little luck. This message, both now and in the 1930s was intoxicating for
the Americans and seemed to embody their American Dream.’
The Seabiscuit Story
Despite being a successful car manufacturer, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) loses his zest for life when his only son tragically dies in a car accident (which in turn leads to the break-up of his marriage). Charles gets a second chance through the love of Marcela (Elizabeth Banks), a woman who sees and understands his broken heart. She introduces him to horses – a great shift down in gear from cars and the pursuit of making money. Charles decides to buy a racehorse.
Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is a horse trainer who has lost his world of wide-open space and ranges. Most people see him as a lunatic on the fringe of life. He is frequently awkward with people, yet finds horses far less complex - cultivating an almost mystic communication with them.
Charles and Marcela don’t judge Tom by his external circumstances; instead, they see a man who will spend his last five dollars to save a broken horse. When Charles hires him to find a horse and jockey, Tom picks two unlikely runners: Seabiscuit and Red Pollard are both at their lowest point. They are broken, wounded angry losers, and they seem incorrigible.
Pollard (Toby Maguire) is a failed boxer who has spent much of his life on the streets and in bus shelters. He was abandoned as a teenager by his parents, so has no family. He was left to fight for survival during an unforgiving time. His only inheritance is a bag of poetry books and the memory of the family and home he has lost. And he has changed his name from ‘John’ – ‘the beloved’ - to ‘Red’ – ‘the angry’.
Despite not being a great jockey, being blind in his right eye and 5ft-6 (which is tall for a jockey), Tom hires him.
Seabiscuit’s early career is a disaster. He races 35 times as a two-year-old, and comes last nearly every time. When Tom finds Seabiscuit, he has a rugged appearance and a frantic temperament; he is too small, and is considered worthless because he cannot be trained.
Clip One – When like Meets like
Tom Smith is sitting by a fire at night, when, through the bushes, Charles Howard appears and introduces himself. Standing near the fire is a horse, who has a bandage wrapped around his leg, with a piece of Hawthorn root inside it.
“Will he get better?” asks Howard.
“Already is, I reckon” replies Smith.
“Will he race?” asks Howard.
“Not that one,” says Smith.
“So why are you fixing him?”
Smith thinks for a moment: “Because I can. Every horse is good for something. You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.”
Howard knows that this is the man he’s looking for.
Three months on, Tom Smith is in Saratoga, looking for a horse and a jockey on behalf of Charles and Marcela. “It ain’t just the speed, it’s the heart” he tells them.
The first time he saw Seabiscuit, the film’s commentator tells us, he didn’t pay attention to his size, or to his wheeze. He looked him straight in the eye, instead, and saw something he liked.
Smith is having another look at the horse walking around the yard, when his attention is drawn to a fight that breaks out nearby. A man is challenging all comers. “Come on, I’ll take you all on!” he shouts. It’s Red Pollard, the over-size jockey with a spirit to match. He looks at Red. Then turns to look at Seabiscuit. And a connection is made.