ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #12: National Velvet (1944)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twelfth review was for the 1944’s classic National Velvet directed by Clarence Brown. Enjoy!

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National Velvet classifies itself in every way as a family movie. In other words, children like it, teens, and adults can enjoy this colorful little gem.

National Velvet is directed by Clarence Brown, released in 1944, with an unbeatably stellar cast with great performances from all actors including Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere, Angela Lansbury, Reginald Owen, etc.

National Velvet tells the story of a young girl, Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor) who loves horses. She lives in a small English Village, Sewels, with her parents (Donald Crisp and Anne Revere) who both work in the butcher shop, her sisters Edwina (Angela Lansbury) and Mally (Juanita Quigley), and her brother Donald (Jackie “Butch” Jenkins). One day, she meets Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney) en route to the village to meet Mrs. Brown.

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Mi’s father has just died and he’s discovered Mrs. Brown’s contact information in his paper and wants to know what her connection was to his father. Velvet, who has found a new friend in Mi, takes him home. Mrs. Brown remains vague about her connection with Mi’s father, but, despite that, she offers him a place to stay and asks to Mr. Brown to give him a job, because the young man is clearly in need of money.

Along with Mi, Velvet Brown has met a beautiful horse from Farmer Ede’s (Reginald Owen) ranch and renamed it “Pie.” Pie has caused a lot of trouble to his owner who has decided to get rid of him by organizing a drawing for someone to win the horse. Mi obtains tickets for the Brown family. To her great disappointment, Velvet doesn’t win, but the horse is later brought to her when a mistake in the drawing is considered. Mi knows a lot about horses (but refuses to ride them following an incident) and mentions the Grand National, a prestigious equestrian competition. Velvet is convinced Pie could win the Grand National and, after many hesitations, Mi accepts the chance to train him. Now if only they can find a jockey.

Best known for her legendary beauty and her numerous marriages, Elizabeth Taylor also had a brilliant acting career since she began at the age of ten. National Velvet was her fifth film; she was only 12 at the time. It’s fascinating to compare this young girl to the great Elizabeth Taylor she later became with her impressing us from the beginning until the end. She certainly is as brilliant a child actress as she was as an adult. Her acting in National Velvet can be qualified as honest and passionate. Velvet Brown’s love for horses makes us dream, realizing what real passion means transmitted to us through Taylor’s emotions. The actress herself knew how to ride horses and was allowed to keep Pie after the film was made.

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Anne Revere won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her beautiful portrayal of Mrs. Brown, and she offers the most touching and unforgettable performance of the film. What a great mom Mrs. Brown is! The soul of the film is embodied by her and she makes us realize a great deal about life itself, how it works and how we have to manage it. Her connection with all the other characters is equally strong. She doesn’t seem to show her feelings, but we know she’s fond of every member of her family, even of Mi.

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All the other actors in National Velvet give excellent performances: Mickey Rooney became a favorite of mine precisely because of this film; in her second film (after Gaslight), Angela Lansbury still proves to us she started her career in the best way; Donald Crisp is always appreciated.

National Velvet, a film from the early ’40s, offers us a beautiful color palette utilizing Technicolor film stock. The film’s canvas adds magic and allows us to see Elizabeth Taylor’s beautiful eyes. It’s not without mentioning the film was nominated for a Best Art Direction (color) Oscar and Best Cinematography.

This most enjoyable film also won the Oscar for Best Editing (proved with the Grand National horse race scene) and was also nominated for Best Director. With five Oscar nominations and two wins, National Velvet can only be classified as a timeless film that will entertain generations and reunite families to the beauty of classic films.

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National Velvet is a film that gives us hope and makes us realize giving up is never the solution. Facing challenges can be good as they help us learn. National Velvet is a film that tells us: “listen to your passion and find a way to reach it, even if it’s hard.” Trying is winning. And this doesn’t only concerns riding horses, but every beloved activity you engage in. The film will also make you laugh, smile, maybe even cry, but in every case, it will reach your heart.

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