Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1944. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Theodore Reeves, Helen Deutsch, based on the novel by Enid Bagnold. Cinematography by Leonard Smith. Produced by Pandro S. Berman. Music by Herbert Stothart. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary. Costume Design by Irene. Film Editing by Robert Kern. Academy Awards 1945.
Adored by young and old alike for decades, and rightfully so. Elizabeth Taylor became an overnight, eternal star with her delightful performance as a pre-teen girl in an English village who is obsessed with horses. After falling madly in love with a wild stallion she names The Pie, she teams up with a bitter ex-jockey (Mickey Rooney) who had come to her village in search of her mother’s connection with his late father, and the two of them decide to prepare their equine companion for the big National Sweepstakes race. Clarence Brown does an unbelievably good job of making a satisfying tearjerker out of what is essentially a lightweight piece, emphasizing the enviably warm and loving family life that Taylor has at home without ever overly sentimentalizing it, and at the same time celebrating the satisfying triumph of her getting to live her cockeyed dream. Anne Revere deservedly earned an Academy Award for her no-nonsense, heartening performance as Taylor’s wise and richly storied mother, and Brown would repeat all these elements to an even greater degree the following year in The Yearling. A family classic.