Sunday, May 27, 2012

Horseathon: National Velvet (1944) BUY 6 and up

      Horses. What does it feel like to love a horse?- Angela Lansbury in National Velvet

        Personally, I like horses. They're cute and majestic, but they also are strong and durable. Seriously, they're probably one of the most abused animals in the world, and yet, they will still love us as we love them. Why? Well,any animal lover (including me) can tell you the reason why is because of a loving connection between the human and the animal. In my words, a loving relationship between a human and a pet is one of the best things that can ever happen to you because they seem to understand you better than most humans will ever will and they can sense what your dreams are. Such a connection exists in the 1944 classic National Velvet, which is best known for introducing a young Elizabeth Taylor to the world, (or to American audiences.)  Let's take a look, shall we.
             In 1920s England, young Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor) encounters upon a young man named Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney), whom her father (Donald Crisp) hires him as hired hand to work at his butcher shop. (How ironic is that the daughter of a butcher gets a horse that somehow doesn't get turned into meat.) Anyway, the reason why Mi came to town was that he found Mrs. Brown's (Anne Revere) name in his dead father notebook and wants to know what the connection is between the two. Throughout the entire movie, Mi and Velvet develops a best friend relationship between the two of them, which will come in handy later on. Hint. Hint.
         Seven minutes into the movie, and we get our first glimpse of our main interest, (other than Liz), and that would be a young Angela Lansbury in her second role. Just kidding. It's really the Pie, (short for Pirate)  or the freaking horse that the obsessed Velvet falls in love with at first sight of it. Luckily for her, the owner is piss... I mean... really upset at his horse for being a wild reckless rebel. So upset, that he holds a raffle for it in town. Through a series of twists and turns, Velvet manages to win the Pie. (Otherwise, this movie would be boring if she didn't win it. Ironically, it almost did happened.)
      Though a series of events, Velvet decides that the Pie should be placed in England's greatest race, which is The Grand National. She's helped by her family and Mi, who used to be a jockey until he accidentally killed someone, and the Pie is accepted into the race. However, Velvet fires the jockey they hired for being a jerk, and she decides to ride the horse herself, which is a no-no in the racing world. But can she and her beloved horse successfully win the race? 
           This is one great movie, and it's not because of the incredible horse race, even though that's part of the reason why I like it so much. The real reason why is that it has superb acting, an engaging plot, and of course the themes. Let's discuss them one by one. After all, I can do whatever I want on my own blog. :)
Who knew that Anne Revere was a direct descendant of Paul Revere?
    The acting is really amazing, unlike some other horse films. (Remember Disney's Home On The Range?)  Elizabeth Taylor is perfect for the innocent/bold Velvet, Mickey Rooney's always great, Donald Crisp is a character you'll both hate and admire at the same time, and fans of Angela Lansbury will not be disappointed by her acting skills. My favorite performance is that of Anne Revere. She may be one of the greatest cinematic mothers ever, for she's warm, bold, graceful, hard working, cheerful, worried, and wonderful at the same time. Her scenes in which she's encouraging her daughter to pursue her dreams always makes me cry for she plays a caring mother who would do anything for her daughter. That's awesome. In fact, she won an Oscar for it! Give that woman a blue ribbon! Sorry, Pie.
           Sadly, this movie isn't perfect. For one thing, the movie is kind of sexist because Velvet, a constantly fainting girl, is shown idolizing horses so much that even her own father gets sick of it. Don't get me wrong for I know Mi likes Pie, but at the same time I know that he sort of hates him at first and  that all of her family aren't really crazy about horses. So, Velvet is sort of being played as the stereotype of cute girls loving horses, which is not a nice thing for Hollywood to be doing at all. But the sexist accusations doesn't stop there, for at the very beginning, when school is being let out for summer, all of the boys get out early, while all of the females are forced inside to sing a boring song. Happily, the sexist accusations stop there for the movie turns into a fable of following your dreams.
         Unfortunately, there's more problems with the movie. One is Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins' character as Velvet's brother. He's really annoying! My gosh did I hate him. All he did was whine, make a mess, do boyish things and say that classic line, "I was sick last night". Believe me, it's just painful to listen him say that line. Another annoying thing is Hollywood's ever popular use of drunk comic relief as Mickey Rooney gets drunk. It just makes me upset to see drinking played as a comic situation, not a dangerous one! For really sensitive kids, they will cringe at the fact that some riders/horses fall, and that Velvet falls down while she's training Pie. Spoiler Alert: They will really cringe when they see Pie getting really ill and the fact that our heroine loses the race partly because she's a girl.
           Thankfully, this film's main strength is its wealth of positive messages/themes. Dreaming big, enjoying life but knowing when it's time to move on to bigger adventures, and taking risks are all hugely influential themes in here, and there's a lot more in here that I sadly won't cover here. However, the main statement of the film is that when people and animals have loving relationships, they'll have the best time of their life. In one scene, Velvet refuses to let Pie go to Hollywood, knowing that he won't understand it. Her crying eyes and bold attitude in that one scene shows a deeper love for her horse that makes the world seem to disappear, leaving only their love intact. Plus, the horse is awesome.
Aw. It's adorable.
       Thank you, Page for hosting this amazing Horseathon and letting me participate in my first blogathon. This post is dedicated to you and all of the other participants. 


  1. You're right - this movie does have a lot of positive messages. And the horse IS awesome!

  2. Matt,
    I really did enjoy your honest review of National Velvet. Visually it gets an A then the acting is very strong and when you consider both Rooney and Taylor's age. I think any age would enjoy this film and get a positive message from it as you've mentioned here.

    One of the things that I did find refreshing about NV was it went against what the audience expects, roots for in the end which is always allowing our hero to win. Life isn't always about winning but getting the most from an experience whether it's winning a horse race or being accepted for trying our best.

    I love that you've dedicated a blog for kids as it's never to early to start enjoying classic films. Let's face it! They are much more enjoyable than what's offered, put out by Hollywood today.
    I'm so glad that you participated in my Horseathon. Getting to meet talented bloggers is always a bonus in hosting these events.
    You have a new follower as well.

  3. A rewarding and thoughtful movie with amazing visuals. A true heart warmer.

    You have a very interesting blog. All hail the horseathon!

  4. I enjoyed your "family friendly" perspective on this classic horse movie, Matt! It's been ages since I've seen NATIONAL VELVET but I remember being pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. I'm not the world's biggest Liz Taylor fan, but she's cute as a bug in this movie and the supporting cast is great, as you say.

    Thanks for the fun review!


  5. Matt, nice review! National Velvet is for sure a great movie to be shown to kids, because of this message. And, for the older audience who is familiar with classic movies, there are Liz Taylor, Angela Lansbury and Mickey Rooney :)

  6. When I was toiling in the video rental fields in the late 80s, I'd always recommend National Velvet to folks looking for a family film and having exhausted all the Disney material. It really is a timeless classic...and Anne Revere is my favorite part of the film, too. Nice review!