National Velvet

National Velvet ★★★★

Well, this one took me by surprise, seeing as I have no interest in horses and I knew the plot by osmosis despite never having seen the film. I was totally charmed by the skill of its old-school filmmaking, constructing a world in the English county of MGMshire. You know which notes it's going to hit, but boy, does it hit them sharply and clearly. It carried me along on a wave of goodwill.

I realise that my pleasure was chiefly focused on the presence of three of my fave females from the classic Hollywood era.

In the 40s Anne Revere was a superb and rock-solid dependable presence as the maternal figure who may have exerted firm control on her charges but who brimmed with integrity. She picked up her deserved supporting Oscar for this, out of her trio of nominations. And then in 1951 was set upon by the hounds of HUAC - and her career was decimated.

This was not Elizabeth's Taylor debut but it was the role that made her a child star. She glistens with star quality and her ability to match the seasoned pros around her is quite remarkable. She is utterly adorable.

Angela Lansbury is actually wasted as Velvet's elder sister. She had so much more to give than this non-role and Hollywood was incredibly dumb about underusing her in its heyday. But hey, she's still going strong. Dame Angela was the 100-1 outsider in finishing the steeplechase with flying colours so three cheers for the champ.

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