A supernatural romantic comedy perfect for starting the spooky season. I watched it and now you need to.
The Return of October is a 1948 film directed by Joseph H. Lewis and starring Glenn Ford and Terry Moore.
“This is the warm-hearted story of wholesome Terry Moore, whose late uncle Willie is reincarnated as a Thoroughbred horse. At least, as far as Ms. Moore is concerned, he is.”
The film opens in a raucous courtroom with our heiress, Terry, being accused of “thinking a racehorse is her uncle.”
Then we’re flashed back to the beginning of the story with Terry and her uncle at the track, watching a racehorse named Sunset. Sunset is due to be sold even though he shows great promise.
Later that day, Terry wins big gambling with the barn hands. Her uncle disapproves (mostly) and then goes on a rant about his allergies to Goldenrod, before he discovers Terry paid their overdue feed bill in order to keep Sunset a little longer so they can enter him in a race. Uncle Willie hopes the winnings will pay off the remainder of their debts.
At the track, Terry heads to the betting window to put five dollars on Sunset when she shares a meet-cute with Dr. Bassett. The man is flabbergasted when Terry accuses him of stealing her money before she can place a bet and then berates him for his opinions on race horses.
Unfortunately, Sunset loses the race causing Uncle Willie to collapse and go to the hospital while Terry hitches a ride with a very reluctant Dr. Bassett. On the way, we discover he teaches psychology and is studying the horse/human connection.
Everything changes for Terry when her Uncle dies and she is forced to move in with her mean aunt and conniving cousins. But, despite being forced into etiquette classes and attending the opera, Terry continues riding and gambling via one of her Uncle’s old friends. It’s this friend that tells Terry there’s a horse auction later that night.
At the auction, Terry meets a horse named October that she is convinced is her late Uncle.
October turns out to be a bargain because he’s a cribber, so Terry bids on him. It’s almost a done deal when Dr. Bassett shows up and starts bidding against her. Terry eventually wins, but doesn’t have any money, so Dr. Bassett not only pays for the horse, but drives them home. There he discovers she can’t repay him his money… pretty much ever.
Dr. Bassett proposes October live at the university campus for a few weeks so he can at least complete his study. Terry agrees, but when she drops by for a visit, she causes a scene by training October around the edge of the football field.
Terry’s continued belief that October is actually Uncle Willie and increasingly erratic behavior begins to worry everybody. But Dr. Bassett takes advantage of the weirdness by selling the idea of secretly observing her for research to his bosses. They agree the project sounds worthwhile, so he begins spending every waking moment with her. Terry, being Terry, quickly decides they should fall in love.
The plot really thickens when Terry’s aunt dies and leaves her the entire family’s fortune, enraging her cousins who secretly plot to invalidate the last will and testament by proving Terry is incompetent.
Will Terry lose the inheritance? Will she fall in love with Dr. Bassett or kick him to the curb when she finds out he’s secretly using her to further his career? Is October really Uncle Willie? You’ll just have to watch and see!
I have to admit I absolutely love these old, golden age movies and this “enemies to lovers” romantic comedy is no exception.
The actors are charismatic, particularly Terry Moore who plays our charming and quirky protagonist. Glenn Ford is fantastic in his role as the befuddled professor that gets steamrolled by Terry’s exuberant youthfulness and infectious optimism. Their comedic timing is excellent and the banter is on point. They also excel at the fast paced dialogue, a trademark of the era.
The horse scenes are limited, but realistic. The race scenes appear to have been filmed live and Terry seems completely comfortable in the stable when she’s cuddling with October.
I will warn you that the ending isn’t necessarily happy, but it works. It’s more melancholic, another characteristic of most 1940’s films.
I give The Return of October 3.5 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes. Watch it here.
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver.