National Velvet (1944)

“I, too, believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly once in his life.”

Synopsis:
With the help of an itinerant trainer (Mickey Rooney) — and the blessing of her mother (Anne Revere) — the 12-year-old daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) of a small-town butcher (Donald Crisp) enters her horse, the Pie, in the Grand Nationals.

Genres:

Review:
Clarence Brown’s adaptation of Enid Bagnold’s 1935 novel features 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in her first starring role after notable supporting appearances in both Jane Eyre (1943) and Lassie Come Home (1943). She’s positively luminous, if a bit overly dreamy for a young woman presumably focused enough to compete in such a major event. Oscar-winning Revere is appropriately stoic as Velvet’s supportive mother, who knows first-hand what it means to chase a sporting dream despite all odds. Less engaging — though he tries hard — is Rooney as the troubled son of Revere’s former coach, who spends the entire film waffling between loyalty to Taylor’s family and a penchant for less savory pursuits. Ultimately, one’s enjoyment of this film will depend on their tolerance for its folksy charm and feel-good storyline, as well as their overall love of anything horse-related. (Call me a wet blanket, but all I could think about was when Velvet would fall and get seriously hurt. Does she? I won’t say a word.)

Note: Watch for Angela Lansbury — the same year as her debut in Gaslight (1944) — in a small role as Velvet’s love-sick older sister.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet
  • Anne Revere as Araminty Brown
  • Fine use of outdoor sets

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a one-time look.

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One Response to “National Velvet (1944)”

  1. Not must-see, and rather in agreement with the assessment. That said, it’s harmless-enough and, mainly for the performances, older ffs with kids may want to sit through it with their budding-ff children.

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