Top of the World: Olivia de Havilland Turns 101!

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Today, the strong, lovely, talented, legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 101 years old and we are very lucky to still have her with us! Aging gracefully, she certainly is one of the most beautiful women of that age! For the occasion, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Eroll Flynn!

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For the occasion, I’ve decided to present you a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films! Remember, these are my personal favourites, so it’s purely subjective. I ask you to respect my choices.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen a total of 12 of her films so far.

Here we go!

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 1935)

I’m not THAT much a fan of this film, but I’ve decided to put it at #10 as 1- It has to be praised for the excellent performances (including Olivia’s one), 2- A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains, after all, my favourite Shakespeare play, 3- I love the magic and poetry embodied by the dreaming cinematography and 4- the two other ones I saw, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Santa Fe Trail left me a bit indifferent.

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9. Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Quite a creepy film, but I’ve always found Olivia de Havilland’s performance quite interesting as it is very different from the innocent Melanie Hamilton for example! And who would say no to a film reuniting her, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead?

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8. The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

This western was the last collaboration between Curtiz and De Havilland. Somehow it’s not too well-known, but I think it deserves more recognition. It’s a beautiful film and our Livie is absolutely touching in it.

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7. My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

One thing: I STILL have to read the book by Daphné du Maurier. Ok, this film contains his flaws, but it remains an appreciable one to see. Olivia is quite fascinating playing this ambiguous Rachel! Who is she really?! This film is a good way to size her versatility as an actress.

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6. The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

I actually just watched this movie today in honour of the celebrated one! I quite enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. Olivia and James Cagney (such a great actor!) looked just adorable together. The presence of Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson was, of course, highly appreciated as well. A good comedy movie to watch when you feel like not concentrating too much!

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5. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

I’ve always loved psychological movies and this one makes no exception to the rule. Playing two roles in one film never looks like an easy task, but, here, Olivia did it wonderfully. A fascinating film.

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4. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938)

Of course, we all like the collaborations between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. This one has to be my favourite one without hesitation. Olivia is so lovely as Lady Marian and the film itself is a wonderful entertainment!

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3. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

I’ve said that I’ve always loved psychological movies. Well, this one is another great example. I love to see the evolution of the characters in these. Here, Olivia de Havilland certainly gives one of her best and more challenging performances. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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2. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

And happy birthday to William Wyler, who was born on July 1st too! Well, if Olivia won her second Oscar with this film, it’s not without reasons. An extraordinary performance, full of subtleties and perfectly calculated. She gives an extraordinary essence to her character and it’s hard to surpass her. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it. Of course, I don’t think William Wyler ever made a bad film…

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  1. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

Ok, I know, this is not a very creative #1, but what can I say? I love the film ok! There would be so much to say about it, but for what concerns Olivia, she illuminates the screen and is in perfect harmony with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t think of anyone better to portray Melanie Hamilton. This is the first film of hers I saw. What a great introduction to her filmography! 🙂

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Well, that’s it! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

I want to thank Crystal and Laura for hosting this amazing blogathon. Please take a look at the other entries here:

The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn Day 1

Happy 101 birthday dear Olivia!

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Top of the World: Celebrating Bernard Herrmann with 10 Wonderful Scores!

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Yesterday, the famous movie music composer Bernard Herrmann would have been 106 years old. He did not only share his brilliance in his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, but in all the movie scores he composed. It’s for that reason that he is a favourite among many cinephiles. He certainly was among those movie composers who perfectly knew how to musically illustrate the atmosphere of a film.

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I didn’t have time to “celebrate” him yesterday as I was working, but I thought I should honour him today with one of my traditional top lists! So, let me introduce you my 10 most favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! Of course, that was a most difficult exercise as he was a master of music. I had to change the order of my top many times.

Before continuing, remember that these are my personal favourite ones, so it’s purely subjective. You obviously can’t contest my personal tastes. 😉

Ok, here we go!

10. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Ah! How can we forget this haunting music regrouping strings only?! The shower scene is not the most “melodious” Bernard Hermann moment, but probably the one people will remember the most.

9. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

As much as I’m not THAT much a fan of this film (despite the fact that it is considered the best movie of all times and blablabla), there are TWO things that I love enormously about it, one of them being the music (the other one being Joseph Cotten). I love how it is at the time very sinister or very joyful. Typical Herrmann!

 

8.The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

My favourite Hitchcock’s film! And certainly one of my favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! It’s so orchestral, I love it! You unfortunately won’t hear it in this clip, but, during the film, there are some notes that remind us a lot of Vertigo‘s score that Herrmann will compose two years later. Of course, we all remember Herrmann’s cameo in the film! 🙂

 

7. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)

Without being Hitchcock’s best film, one can’t deny that this is among Herrmann’s best scores! Actually, it might be the best thing about this film. I absolutely love it.

 

6. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

When those notes start, you know you are in for something special! Somehow, I can always see Carlotta Valdes’s portrait when I hear this music or the famous dream sequence. A team work between Hitchcock and Hermann always creates prodigies! Another film that is considered “the best of all times” and, once again, Bernard Herrmann had the chance to be part of the team!

 

5. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

As far as I can remember, North by Northwest has always been one of my very favourite music scores. It succeeds to so perfectly capture the attention of the viewers. Once again, one can perfectly visualize the film in his/her head while listening to this GREAT score!

 

4. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)

I must be honest, I didn’t become familiar with that score until… well today. The reason is that I’ve seen the movie only once and quite a long time ago, so let’s say the music was not necessarily fresh in my memory! But when I was re-listening to some of the Herrmann scores, I discovered how great it was! I just can’t believe I haven’t took the time to listen to it more carefully before. It’s just ace! Somehow, I can visualize the movie in my head when I listen to it. It truly makes me want to watch it again! 4m14 – 4m30: this moment is absolutely terrifying, but great!

 

3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)

That is THE sound of science-fiction! My favourite sci-fi film and very probably my favourite music score for a sci-fi film. In this score, we can hear both acoustic and electronic instruments, including two Theremins, which create those typical sounds from outer space.

 

2. Obsession (Brian de Palma, 1976)

It goes without saying, I am obsessed with this film score (ouuuu!). It’s just spellbinding. I especially love the first minutes of it. I can always see the scene where Cliff Robertson throws the suitcase with the money on the street or that unforgettable final scene… For a movie that is very similar to Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann was of course the ultimate choice for the music!

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  1. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Ah, the last and ultimate Bernard Herrman’s score! From Citizen Kane (his first movie music score) to Taxi Driver (his last), he proved to be an absolute musical master. Taxi Driver‘s music is so mesmerizing and fits perfectly the dark New-Yorkian atmosphere of the film. It sort of makes me want to take saxophone lessons!

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your personal favourites in the comment section!

Cheers to Herrmann!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #23: The Woman in the Window (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 twenty-third review was for the 1944s classic The Woman in the Window directed by Fritz Lang. Enjoy!

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The work of author-director Fritz Lang has an established notoriety among cinephiles, particularly for his innovative masterpieces, Metropolis and M. One most not forget that the German director also had an important career in the United States in the ’40s and ’50s, and his American films are now considered Hollywood classics, among them his collaborations with Joan Bennett. These films show Bennett in different kinds of essences, but they all complete each other. Where does a beginner start? The Woman in the Window is a good option, with all the perfect ingredients of their collaborations added into a film noir aesthetic and starring two other Lang actors: Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea.

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The Woman in the Window was released in 1944, based on the novel Once off Guard by J. H. Wallis. The main character is criminology professor Richard Wanley (Robinson) who has always been fascinated by the portrait of a beautiful young lady exposed in a storefront window. One evening, after spending time with his friends at the club, he goes to observe the portrait again and is surprised by the lady herself (Joan Bennett). They have a drink and the lady, whose name is Alice Reed, takes him to her home to show him other sketches by the painter who made her portrait.

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While they are casually talking, Alice’s rich lover, known by her as Frank Howard (Arthur Loft), interrupts and is not happy to see her in the company of another man. Blind with jealousy, he fights with Wanley and in self-defense Wanley kills Howard with a pair of scissors. Instead of calling the police, Richard decides to hide the body in a forest. He and Alice make sure no detail is left to let the police. The following day, Richard’s friend district attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) shares with him information about the mysterious disappearance of a rich man by the name of Claude Mazard. Richard quickly makes the connection and understands that Claude Mazard and Frank Howard are the same person. The body is soon found by a boy scout and the investigation begins. The two “partners in crimes”, Richard and Alice, have to hold their breath and face this problematic situation the best they can.

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The Woman in the Window has one of the most mysterious and beautiful character entrances in classic film history. While Richard observes Alice Reed’s portrait, her face slowly begins to appear in the window’s reflection, mesmerizing Richard and the audience. Joan Bennett has this mysterious dark look (and voice) that make her perfectly suitable for Fritz Lang’s noirs. We never truly say if Alice Reed is good or bad, and this ambiguity is created by the enigmatic aura around her. She can choose whether to remain Richard’s partner in crime or let him down.

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After Alice’s unforgettable entrance, she explains to Richard how she likes to observe people who admire her portrait:

Alice Reed: Well, there are two general reactions. One is a kind of solemn stare for the painting.

Richard Wanley: And the other?

Alice Reed: The other is a long, low whistle.

Richard Wanley: What was mine?

Alice Reed: I’m not sure. But I suspect that in another moment or two you might have given a long, low, solemn whistle.

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Edward G. Robinson is shown in a different light compared to his roles in early gangster films. His role is similar to the one in Scarlet Street: an ordinary man involved in a lot of complications. This proves his versatility and that the man could play sensible characters. There is a lot of wisdom in Richard despite all that happens to him and he knows how to keep cool.

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The work of cinematographer Milton R. Krasner on The Woman in the Window is worth praising. Creating interesting nightlife scenes is often expected of film noirs and this film isn’t an exception. Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson perfectly fit in this ambiance. The interior and daytime scenes are filmed with a lot of class and create an interesting contrast between the darkness of the night and the clarity of day. Krasner also worked on Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street and many other notorious classics.

 

Fashion fans will also be delighted by the work of Muriel King, designer of Joan Bennett’s gowns. All are faithful to the high society fashion of the ’40s and, once again, add a lot of visual beauty to the film. King manages to accentuate Joan’s beauty with both dark and light fabrics.

 

The Woman in the Window is a perfect film for those who love to see mysteries being solved. It remains fascinating, but also for the way the course of events themselves is developed. The spectator is kept at the edge of his seat from beginning till end. Fritz Lang was a master of noir, as he also proved with The Blue Gardenia in 1953 and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in 1956.

All of Bennett and Lang’s films are one of a kind and are all worth watching, but The Woman in the Window is a favorite. Will it be the case for you?

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ClassicFlix (TeenScene) – Review #17: To Be or Not to Be (1942)

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 seventeenth review was for the 1942’s classic To Be or Not to Be directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Enjoy!

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“To be or not to be? That is the question.” We all know the line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Since its creation, it has crossed the ages, marking the world of theatre and literature. But, what if we mix Shakespeare, the theatre and WWII? That’s what Ernst Lubitsch did with To Be or Not to Be (1942), one of the most ingenious comedies ever made.

When I watched it for the first time I loved it. It’s a film full of surprises. Once you have seen it, To Be or Not to Be encourages you to see it several more times.

To Be or Not to Be takes place in Poland’s capital of Warsaw in 1939. A group of actors is staging a play about Hitler and the Nazis called Gestapo. Josef (Jack Benny) and Maria (Carole Lombard) Tura are the troupe’s two big stars. However, Hitler’s presence is more and more menacing for the world, so the actors have to cancel the play and perform Shakespeare’s Hamlet instead.

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Maria Tura has an admirer whom she accepts to meet in her lodge during the “To Be or Not To Be” speech performed by her husband. The young admirer is Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), a bomber pilot desperately in love with Maria. When he is back in London, he discovers a spy operation is being organized and is menacing the Polish Underground (the Polish resistance during World War II). Stanislav goes back to Warsaw to try to stop the operation. Maria and the troupe are ready to help him and save Poland by using their acting talents, their SS costumes from Gestapo and Bronski, an actor who physically resembles Hitler’s.

To Be or Not to Be is one of those audacious anti-Nazi movies made right during WWII. Ernst Lubitsch wasn’t afraid to make fun of the German enemy, even despite the film being banned in Germany upon release. In the same vein is Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

The first thing about To Be or Not to Be is the fact it is not just a comedy, but an intelligent comedy. The film’s main subject is a serious one: war, and there are sad moments, such as after Warsaw has been bombed by the Germans or when the comedians in the theatre receive the news that war is declared.

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Despite the sadness it’s the way the subject is treated that allows this to be classified as a comedy. The real fun here is the irony of certain scenes and how the characters fool their enemies (and us) by using their theatrical strategy to save Poland. Regardless, this remains a dangerous game as the actors are constantly risking their life.

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A wonderful script and story are where the origins of this cleverness and our many laughs lie. The action keeps coming with a wonderful tact and many memorable lines that can’t be forgotten. Here are some examples:

1- Greenberg: Mr. Rawitch, what you are I wouldn’t eat.

Rawitch: How dare you call me a ham?!

2- Maria Tura: It’s becoming ridiculous the way you grab attention. Whenever I start to tell a story, you finish it. If I go on a diet, you lose the weight. If I have a cold, you cough. And if we should ever have a baby, I’m not so sure I’d be the mother.

Josef Tura: I’m satisfied to be the father.

3- Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski: I hope you’ll forgive me if I acted a little clumsy, but this is the first time I ever met an actress.

Maria Tura: Lieutenant, this is the first time I’ve ever met a man who could drop three tons of dynamite in two minutes. Bye!

4- Greenberg: A laugh is nothing to be sneezed at.

5- Bronski [disguised as Hitler]: Heil myself!

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I wonder why this film never received a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination though it was nominated for a Best Music Score Oscar.

While you’re watching To Be or Not to Be, you’ll be mesmerized by Carole Lombard’s performance. I can’t think of a more suitable actress in the role of Maria Tura. Why? Because Carole Lombard had the perfect skills to play comedy. She is hilarious, but remains perfectly elegant at the same time. We can believe she is a woman with an immense sense of humor. Sadly, this was Carol Lombard’s last films as she died in a plane crash just after the shooting.

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To Be or Not to Be is the results of a professional teamwork. The rest of the cast is unforgettable too. Jack Benny makes a great foil alongside Lombard, and Robert Stack is irresistible as the young pilot. (To Be or Not to Be was one of his first films.) The real tour the force is the supporting cast, especially Felix Bressart as Greenberg and Tom Dugan as Bronski. The film would be nothing without them.

To Be or Not to Be was snubbed by Germany on its release (unsurprising if we refer to the historical context). We’d have to wait for the ’60s to see the film projected in German theatres.

After the release of To Be or Not to Be, Ernst Lubistsch said of the film:

“What I have satirized in this picture are the Nazis and their ridiculous ideology. I have also satirized the attitude of actors who always remain actors, regardless of how dangerous the situation might be, which I believe is a true observation. It can be argued that the tragedy of Poland realistically portrayed in To Be or Not to Be can be merged with satire. I believe it can be and so do the audience which I observed during a screening of To Be or Not to Be; but this is a matter of debate and everyone is entitled to his point of view…”

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Even if it’s a comedy or a satire of Nazism, To Be Or Not to Be was not meant to make us forget the horrendous events of WWII, but to make us see and understand them in a different point of view.

A remake of the film directed by Alan Johnson and starring Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft was released in 1983. It didn’t have as much of an impact as the 1942 version.

To see something different, clever and highly entertaining, To Be or Not to Be is a fine film. It will certainly make you realize what you are missing and what the wonderful possibilities during the fine Hollywood golden era were.

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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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