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Saturday, 3 November 2012

National Velvet (1944) - Star of the month... Angela Lansbury

'National Velvet' is a 1944 family drama directed by Clarence Brown and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Anne Revere, Donald Crisp, Angela Lansbury, Jackie "Butch" Jenkins and Reginald Owen.

In 2003, 'National Velvet' was selected for preservation by the US Library of Congress National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Based on the novel by Enid Bagnold, 'National Velvet' tells of the story of 12 year old Velvet Brown (played by Taylor), living in Sewels, Sussex, England, as her abnomrally close relationship with her horse, Pie. Velvet wins Pie in a raffle and aided by a young drifter, Mi Taylor (played by Rooney), Velvet is determined for Pie to win the Grand National horse race.

Did you know...

  • An 18 year old Gene Tierney was offered the role of Velvet Brown in 1939 - due to production delays, Tierney returned to Broadway; when the film resumed Tierney had already signed a contract with 20th Century Fox
  • Susanna Foster turned down the role of Velvet Brown
  • Future British MP Baroness Shirley Williams auditioned for the role of Velvet Brown
  • In 1941, MGM proposed filming 'National Velvet' with Shirley Temple and Spencer Tracy, however Temple's mother turned it down beliving it wouldn't showcase her daughter's talent - 8 years later Temple starred in a similar film 'The Story of Seabiscuit' (1949) which was not a success
  • Most of the film was filemd in Pebble Beach, Calfornia with most of the scenic views are from the Pebble Beach Golf Links - if you look closely you can see some golf holes in the background
  • Elizabeth Taylor was given The Pie as a birthday gift after filming was filming
  • A spin-off TV series 'National Velvet' was broadcast in 1960
  • A sequel called 'International Velvet' followed in 1978

Awards and nominations...

  • Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere)
  • Academy Award winner for Best Film Editing (Robert Kern)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Director (Clarence Brown)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color (Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary, Edwin B. Willis & Mildred Griffiths)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography, Color (Leonard Smith)

Closing remarks

'National Velvet' is a heartwarming family film, although it does get quite slow at times, and overall runs a little too long.

We do get some great performances from some of the great child//teen stars of the 1940s: Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury and Jackie "Butch" Jenkins. I would say Jenkins steals the film with his brilliant performance as the youngest child.

The musical score sounds very much like the Christmas carol "What Child is This", which makes the film feel like a Christmas movie even through it isn't. I also found it a little corny hearing Velvet's parents call each other "Mr. Brown" and "Mrs. Brown", especially since they were married.

If you have a young daughter, I strongly advise agaisnt showing them 'National Velvet' as they too will want a horse of their own to ride to victory.

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