Gallant Bess

Gallant Bess is a motion picture released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1946. It was loosely based on the true story of U.S. Navy Warrant Officer Arthur Parker's rescuing of an injured filly during World War II.[2][3] Portions of the movie were filmed on the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in October 1945.[4] This was the first MGM motion picture made in Cinecolor.

Gallant Bess
Theatrical poster
Directed byAndrew Marton
Produced byHarry Rapf
Written byArthur Parker, under the pseudonym Marvin Parks (story origination)
Jeanne Bartlett (story)
StarringMarshall Thompson
George Tobias
Music byRudolph G. Kopp
CinematographyJohn W. Boyle
Edited byHarry Komer
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • January 1, 1947 (1947-01-01)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,011,000[1]


Art Parker grows up on a ranch in Montana in the early 1900s and has worked with horses. At the age of 17, he lies to enlist in the U.S. Navy. During World War II, he is stationed in the Solomon Islands and befriends a local rancher.

After a Japanese bombing raid, the rancher asks Parker for help rescuing a filly that has been injured. Parker ends up taking the horse to the Navy base and training her. She eventually becomes a morale booster for the sailors, as well as the unit's mascot.

Bess learns a number of tricks, including running to a sandbagged cave for protection whenever the air raid siren sounds. This leads to those who knew her giving her the nickname "Foxhole Flicka", after the horse in the 1941 children's book My Friend Flicka.

When Parker receives his orders to return to the U.S., he is denied permission to take Bess with him. He eventually either receives permission, or makes the right people think he received permission, and is allowed to build a stall on a ship for Bess.


According to Parker family lore, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, heard of Parker's actions and convinced the president to grant permission to bring Bess home.[2]

After the war, Parker was approached by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to film several movies with Bess. Gallant Bess was the first to be filmed and was to be a true account of Bess' rescue, however, the movie was written such that the first half of the movie, until the character "Tex" joins the Navy, was purely fictional. The rest of the movie closely resembled the true account, but still with much artistic license.

The Navy would not allow Parker's name to be credited to the movie since he was still on active duty, so the movie is fictitiously credited as "Based on a true story as told by Lt. Marvin Park, U.S.N.R." In the movie, Bess starred as herself, and Parker had a cameo in a scene taking place during a violent thunderstorm. Neither actor in the scene could control Bess with the practical effects used to produce the scene, so Parker was filmed attempting to calm Bess.

Because M-G-M did not follow the true account as closely as Parker believed they would, the series of movies with Bess that were planned were never filmed. Bess also became friends with Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor, and she was visited and ridden by other notables such as Charles Lindbergh.

Bess foaled Gallant Pat in the 1950s, and lived out the rest of her life with Parker on a ranch in Grass Valley, California. She was euthanized in the late 1960s due to a brain tumor. She still bore the scars from her World War II injuries. Bess, in the movie, was a Thoroughbred and Arabian according to information.

The rights to Gallant Bess are now owned by Warner Bros.,[5] and it is occasionally shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel.

Harry Rapf's son Matthew produced Adventures of Gallant Bess for Eagle-Lion Films, but this movie did not star the original Gallant Bess from this film and is wholly unrelated to Bess and this story.


The film earned $1,487,000 in the US and Canada and $524,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $196,000.[1]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Based on personal knowledge of the author as a grandson of Arthur Parker
  3. "Did you know a movie actress lived in Lincoln? | Lincoln News Messenger". Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  4. Hynes, William, LST119, n.d., URL accessed 2006-11-22
  5., Re: Gallant Bess, Email to Chris Parker, 2007-1-22
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