National Velvet

Director: Clarence Brown
Year Released: 1944
Rating: 2.0

Yes, yes, it's a classic and all, but my tolerance for what I consider 'sappiness' is at an all-time low. This is The Black Stallion-as-done-by-Frank Capra, a story of a butcher's daughter (Elizabeth Taylor ... really, really young) who obsesses over horses (not in a good way: she, before going to bed, engages in some bizarre 'riding' ritual in which she wraps rope around her feet ... like a harness ... and pulls on them while moaning and gyrating frantically; this comes off very uncomfortably, as if her obsession is almost sexual), falls in love with a wild beast she calls The Pie (it terrorizes the whole village of Sussex) and partners up with vagabond Mickey Rooney (really young), who has a questionable history (don't all drifters/vagabonds?). It's ultimately a feminist statement about a girl who dreams of being important in a man's world, and about fighting against the odds and such, but to be mighty honest none of this struck a potent chord in my steel heart - it's dated material that's been rehashed and recycled into so many forms over the years that you (or just me) tend to forget where the whole concept originated. Other complaints: Rooney's tear-filled revelation to Taylor regarding his horse-trauma is lame at best; you could feel it coming a mile away. A lot of the characters are one-dimensional - most notably Taylor's (relatively unimportant) siblings, the oldest of which (Angela Lansbury!) is boy-hungry, the middle infatuated with caged birds. Her parents are probably the most interesting characters in there, although her mother is strangely written - her ever-flowing bits of advice are overly philosophical and ethic-driven (think of her as a lower class Spinoza), while her husband comes across as being both contradictory and thick-headed (yes, once again reinforcing that no, men are not always in the right). We get it. Really.