Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken was a 1991 Disney film about a young girl named Sonora who becomes the star of a diving horse act in Depression-era America. This was the type of kid-friendly, family-oriented movie that — if you were a girl of a certain age — you watched over and over and over again. Watch this movie again as a grown-up, and you’ll be taken aback by a few things…
1. Did you remember that this was a true story? Dude.
This is just sheer insanity. (Well, in a crazy-awesome way. More on the real Sonora later.)
2. Sonora’s motivation to leave home is pretty much based on a hairstyle.
As a kid, you probably thought of Sonora as a special girl who was too good for her surroundings and you supported her decision to run away.
But really, this girl just wants a cool new haircut and a glamorous life. Her aspirations aren’t quite wholesome or even of the “see the world” variety. More like “see Atlantic City.”
3. How old is Sonora?
This is where things become blurry and disturbing. Just how young is Sonora? In the film, her age is never specified, however we see her attending school. The actress who portrayed Sonora, Gabrielle Anwar, was 21 at the time of filming, but c’mon — aren’t we made to believe that Sonora is more like 15? Maybe 16?
The real Sonora Webster began diving horses when she was 19.
4. Sonora and Al have a craaaaaazy age difference.
But there’s something kind of weird about Sonora’s romantic relationship with this guy, Al, who is clearly older. But by how much? And although the film depicts time over several years, Sonora is still clearly very young when they get together.
Sonora’s autobiography, A Girl and Five Brave Horses, confirms this: “Al was some twenty years older than I.” Dang, girl.
5. Oh, by the way. Al is also Jake Ryan. Swooooon.
7. Seriously. It’s a weird idea.
Out of all the possible spectacles and acts one could create, William Frank “Doc” Carver thought people would enjoy seeing a girl on a horse — up as high as 60 feet — dive into a pool of water. Does the concept not strike you now as kind of random? (And totally dangerous.)
Carter began his horse diving act in the 1890s. The trend remained popular through the ’20s. (Above, a diver in the ’50s, a period during which diving horses recaptured attention.)
8. She did the dive blind, THE END.
So, you remember the plot. About two-thirds of the way through the film, Sonora loses sight in both eyes during a dive that goes wrong. And the last scene is her triumphant first dive while blind. In a voiceover, here is the last few words of the movie: “I had found my destiny…I also found happiness with Al. We were married that fall and had a wonderful life together.” Cue credits. Well that wrapped up fast.
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