Filming the deer and fawn scenes in the hit movie 'The Yearling' presented the biggest challenge to the animal trainer known as Morgan. To furnish the required supply of actors for these scenes alone, Morgan kept on hand a herd of twenty deer. Ten fawns of various ages were necessary, since the picture script called for shots of the star, Flag, in different stages of growth. The fawns, as they grew older, or turned an off shade for technicolor use, had to be replaced by new ones. To be prepared for sudden demands on the part of script or director, the animals were taught a variety of unfamiliar actions, which they learned to do naturally and without fear.
To give the appearance of coming when called on the set, they were trained to lead on a thread. They learned to lie on a bed and to walk into a house as naturally as though it were a pasture. These actions Morgan taught his deer actors in anywhere from four days to a week. On a visit to the Silver Springs Court, housing more than sixty M.G.M. actors and technicians, and approximately the same number of animals, the secret of Morgan's genius was discovered. Behind the Court, were rows of square cages, laid out side by side and containing the smaller animals. The deer section of this two-acre zoo, lying at right angles to the smaller cages, was composed of grassy, wire-enclosed pens. A row of steps led from the grass to connecting barns. Fawns were toddling up the steps, moving delicately on tiptoe across the barn floor, ears working and tails tucked between their legs.
Morgan stood by the feeding table, his tattooed chest bared. One of the fawns ran up to him. It nuzzled its nose into the palm of his hand and bleated. Morgan produced a bottle from a sterilizer on the bench, and the fawn began a tug of war with the nipple. "Take it easy or you'll get some gas in your stomach, little insect," Morgan cautioned. Fawns were fed only after mounting the steps between yard and barn, and crossing the barn floor to the feeding table. As the house is the common habitat of Jody's pet, Flag, these fawns had to be early accustomed to wooden floors and steps. Flag, in the book, drinks out of a pail. This created a new stumbling block. Usually a fawn will shy away from anything but a bottle. One fawn named Joe mastered the art of drinking from an artificial container. A shy animal, he did not make the same rush for the bottle as the others.
One day Morgan placed a pail of milk in the privacy of his stall. Joe lapped it up contentedly. So he became the privileged actor, appearing in all scenes where Jody is shown feeding the fawn. Morgan's success seems to lie in his philosophy about animals. "Deer are just like people," he says, "you have to study them individually."