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Monday, January 5, 2015

"National Velvet" (1944)

So often relegated to that damned-with-faint-praise moniker 'family picture', this female Bildungsroman deserves a reappraisal. A young English country girl (Elizabeth Taylor) wants desperately to enter her horse in the Grand National Steeplechase. She's helped by her kindly parents and an ex-jockey (Mickey Rooney). Taylor's performance (she was 12) is scarily pitch perfect, and the lovely, cozy art direction of 1920s Sussex life, all tweeds, chintz, and green valleys is comforting eyecandy. Yes, you can read deeper meaning into her fanatical love of horses and her budding womanhood, but just enjoy the sincere storytelling. And the final race is a nailbiter.

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