It is a pleasure to go into an unpublicized double feature and find two good moving-pictures. Such is the attraction of the current bill at the Keith. Although Boots Malone and Family Secret differ greatly in subject matter, they have something in common; they are mature, well acted dramas told in completely believable terms.
Boots Malone has top billing. Set at a Maryland race track, it is the story of a young boy and a hardboiled jockey's agent, bound together by the thrills of horse racing. There is little of the traditional "Win the big race" story. When the climactic dash down the homestretch begins in this film, it is commonly accepted that the hero's horse will win. The race has been rigged, fixed.
This simple fact is indicative of the spirit of the entire production. Horse racing is not treated as the most glamorous of all events, the sport of kings. People are not depicted as loveable, infallible paragons of righteousness. They are good and bad, depending on which day you meet them.
William Holden is largely responsible for the accuracy of this portrayal. He plays the title role honestly, turning in his best friend when he needs money and blowing town when things get hot. Johnny Stewart, the youngster he instructs in the jockeying trade, has made an impressive debut in this film.
Family Secret is something of a problem movie. A law school student accidentally kills his best friend in a drunken brawl. There are no witnesses and he decides not to confess. The story deals with the strained relationships arising from this situation.
Lee J. Cobb as the murderer's father gives a masterful performance. Shaken by the boy's decision not to confess, he finds himself defending the man who has been falsely accused. He tries to proceed without recognizing his peculiar position. The other characters involved have similar problems, all revolving around the action of the guilty boy, John Derek. Further comment would give way what amounts to an intensely absorbing plot.