Film Review of The Story of Seabiscuit: Shirley Temple in Drama About Unlikely Champion Racehorse

by DerdriuMarriner

How does a knobby-kneed racehorse impact on characters played by Barry Fitzgerald and Shirley Temple in the 1949 film version of "The Story of Seabiscuit"?

A prescient trainer and his pretty niece cannot forget a family member’s racetrack death.

She devotes herself to family and nursing. Will her uncle make peace with his past when he bets everything on knobby-kneed “Seabiscuit”? Shirley Temple in Irish-accented role of Maggie O’Hara meets jockey Ted Knowles (Lon McCallister) in “The Story of Seabiscuit," a fictional romance set against the true-life backdrop of Seabiscuit’s phenomenal success and victory in the Race of the Century.

Actual footage of the race was woven into the film’s tribute to this grand horse.

against all odds: a winning team on November 1, 1938 in Baltimore's Pimlico Special

George Monroe Woolf (May 31, 1910 – January 4, 1946) rode Seabiscuit to victory over Triple Crown champion War Admiral in one of America's greatest upsets in thoroughbred racing history.
George Woolf with Seabiscuit
George Woolf with Seabiscuit


All horses are special and some are unforgettable in The Story of Seabiscuit by writer John Taintor Foote, producer William Jacobs, and director David Butler. Wilfred M. Cline, Irene Morra, and David Buttolph handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s:

  • Burns Ranch;

  • Hollywood Park Racetrack.

The 98-minute drama fictionalizes Seabiscuit’s (1933-1947) life. Its distributor was Warner Bros. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were November 11 and 12, 1949.

The movie begins with Walkin’ Murphy (Sugarfoot Anderson) arriving at Paris, Kentucky’s train station. Margaret (Shirley Temple) is a nursing student. Uncle Shawn (Barry Fitzgerald) joins George Carson (Donald McBride) as Thomas Millford’s (William Forrest) trainers.

Shawn’s 30-year reputation at Lord and Lady Maitland’s stables follows him. Nephew Danny’s death and steeplechaser Blackwatch’s broken back at Aintrie’s last jump haunt him. Identifying first yearlings to claim dangled carrots impels him.

George and Thomas consider Man o’ War’s (1917-1947) knobby-kneed grandson Seabiscuit shipping paddock-worthy. Ted Knowles (Lon McCallister) offers to buy Seabiscuit if Shawn facilitates his courting Maggie. Thomas opts to keep Seabiscuit.

Charles Stewart Howard (1877-1950; Pierre Watkin) and second wife Marcela Zabala (1903-1987; Rosemary DeCamp) buy:

  • 16,000-acre/6,475-hectare Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, Mendocino County;

  • Seabiscuit for $8,000 in 1936.

Charlie’s fortune comes from being:

  • California’s top Buick salesmen

  • San Francisco’s top rescuer during the April 18, 1906 earthquake.

Charlie hires Shawn and Ted.

Shawn cuts two holes in Seabiscuit’s blinders. He has Ted:

  • Drive Seabiscuit to the front;

  • Whip Seabiscuit three times when rivals approach.

Seabiscuit wins without the whip.

Shawn contacts Nursing Superintendent Newsome (Marjorie Eaton). He flatters her as refreshingly unlike County Kerry’s (fictitious) Miss Newsome. He presents himself as in LA for the afternoon to take Maggie to All Saints’ 2 p.m. service. They watch Ted race Seabiscuit at San Carlos.

Ted becomes Shawn’s assistant after being:

  • Injured at Santa Anita;

  • Nursed by Maggie.

Seabiscuit carries “Iceman” George Monroe Woolf (1910-1946; Bill Cartledge) to victory at Pimlico’s Match of the Century against War Admiral (1934-1959) on November 1, 1938. He is retired, 1939-1940, after his front left leg strikes the ground. His suspensory ligament ruptures.

George accepts riding Circle F’s Heel Fly. Ted asks to ride Seabiscuit in Santa Anita Handicap’s “Hundred Grander”. Maggie breaks up with Ted. Shawn confides that beautiful Great Aunt Sheila never married because no man was headstrong enough for her.

The movie ends with:

  • Seabiscuit acing Santa Anita on March 2, 1940;

  • Maggie and Ted marrying;

  • Seabiscuit retiring on April 10, 1940;

  • Frank Buchler sculpting a hand-tooled, life-sized bronze statue for Santa Anita’s Seabiscuit Court walking ring, 1941-.


headline after astonishing victory of Seabiscuit over War Admiral

Daily Racing Form, vol. XLIV, no. 235
Daily Racing Form, vol. XLIV, no. 235



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


The Story of Seabiscuit - Trailer

Published on YouTube on June 21, 2011 by warnervod ~ URL:

Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral - 1938 Match Race (Pimlico Special) ~ actual footage of the Race of the Century

Uploaded to YouTube on February 25, 2007 by Vintage North American Horse Racing (cf1970) ~ URL:
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Amazon Instant Video: rent or buy with 1 click

The Story of Seabiscuit

Shirley Temple Black's autobiography

Child Star: An Autobiography

Championship Horse Seabiscuit Standing in Stall after Winning Santa Anita Handicap in 1940

Photo by Peter Stackpole
Championship Horse Seabiscuit Standing in Stall after Winning Santa Anita Handicap

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 06/03/2024, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

Film Review of Fort Apache: Shirley Temple in 1948 Western Wit...

Characters played by John Agar, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, and John Wayne i...

Film Review of Honeymoon: Shirley Temple in 1947 Comedy

What do diving accidents do to characters played by Guy Madison, Shirley Temp...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...