Brave One, The (1956): Irving Rapper’s Oscar-Winning Tale of Friendship of a Boy and a Bull (Scripter Dalton Trumbo, Blacklisted)

Irving Rapper, better known for his melodramas, directed The  Brave One, a tale of a boy and a bull set in Mexico of the 1950s, starring Michel Ray, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., and Elsa Cárdenas.

The Brave One

It tells the story of a Mexican boy who tries to save his beloved bull Gitano from a deadly duel against a champion matador.

The Brave One was the last film to win the Oscar for Best Story before the award was discontinued. It was also nominated for two other Oscars: Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording.

Leonardo, the young son of the cattle herder, takes the animal home, gives him the name “Gitano” and raises him lovingly.

Gitano’s mother had been presented to Leonardo’s father (Rafael Rosillo) as gift from his employer (landowner Don Alejandro), for a great favor he had done for Don Alejandro. But no document exists of the gift or of Rosillo’s ownership.

Don Alejandro is in Europe, taking part in car races. Meanwhile, Don Alejandro’s manager has all the young animals branded with Alejandro’s brand, including Gitano. After weeks, Leonardo receives a letter from Don Alejandro with a deed of gift attached.

Years later, when Gitano turns four, Don Alejandro has fatal accident in a race. Because he is in debt, his estate goes down. This includes Gitano because Leonardo can no longer find the deed of gift; the fact that Gitano is branded with Alejandro’s brand speaks against Leonardo’s ownership.

Gitano is sold and sent to the bullring in Mexico City. Desperate, Leonardo goes to the capital to ask the new owner to release Gitano, but his efforts are unsuccessful.

Leonardo then goes to the Mexican president, and the latter is so touched by the boy’s confidence that he endorses the release of Gitano. When Leonardo arrives back at the arena, it is too late: Gitano is fighting with the bullfighter Fermin Rivera.

The fight is of unusual length and Gitano’s condition is exceptional. The torero is thrown on the ground, when the cry arises from the crowd: “Indulto!” (Pardon). More spectators take up the call and it swells into a hurricane. The entire stadium is transformed into spectators with white handkerchiefs, wishing to give life to the brave bull.

Shortly before the matador is set to give the fatal blow to Gitano, the Indulto request is granted by the management. The matador bows to the bull and steps down. The audience is then horrified when Leonardo jumps into the ring and runs towards the wild bull.

In the closing scene, Gitano recognizes Leonardo as his master- companion, and both leave the arena peacefully.

The story credit was originally given to Robert Rich, a pseudonym used by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, who had been jailed for 11 months starting in 1950, then blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

It was actually the name of the nephew of the film’s producer Frank King. Initially Rich claimed authorship of the screenplay, though his uncles denied the claim.

The Nassour brothers sued King Brothers for $750,000 claiming the story was lifted from Emilio and Bull written by Paul Rader, which the Nassour Brothers had shown the Kings in 1951. The claim was settled out of court.

The film is based on El Toro Estrella, “about a boy, a bull, and a dinosaur,” upon which the films The Beast of Hollow Mountain and The Valley of Gwangi are based.

The movie was neither a critical nor commercial success.

Oscar Awards: 1
Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (Dalton Trumbo writing under pseudonym “Robert Rich”)

Oscar Nominations: 2

Best Film Editing–Merrill G. White
Best Sound– Buddy Myers

A restored version was released in 2016 on Blu-ray.

Michel Ray as Leonardo
Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. as Rafael Rosillo
Elsa Cárdenas as Maria
Carlos Navarro as Don Alejandro Videgaray


Directed by Irving Rapper
Screenplay by Harry S. Franklin, Merrill G. White, story by Dalton Trumbo (credited as Robert Rich), based on Corrida de Toros Original Screenplay by Juan Duval (died before  production)
Produced by Frank King
Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Edited by Harry S Franklin and Merrill G. White
Music by Victor Young

Production company: King Brothers Productions

Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: October 26, 1956

Running time: 100 minutes

Films Directed by Irving Rapper

Shining Victory (1941)

One Foot in Heaven (1941)

The Gay Sisters (1942)

Now, Voyager (1942)

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)The Corn is Green (1945)Rhapsody in Blue (1945)Deception (1946)The Voice of the Turtle (1947)Anna Lucasta (1949)The Glass Menagerie (1950)Another Man’s Poison (1951)Forever Female (1953)Bad for Each Other (1953)Strange Intruder (1956)The Brave One (1956)Marjorie Morningstar (1958)The Miracle (1959)Pontius Pilate (1962)The Story of Joseph and His Brethren (1962)The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)Born Again (1978)