Playing the Ponies - Tuesdays in May
This stirring TCM salute includes other film treatments of classic Kids and Horses's fiction. National Velvet (1944), based on the Enid Bagnold novel, made a star of little Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet, who realizes "a breathtaking piece of folly" -- riding her stallion in England's Grand National. That film also has a sequel: International Velvet (1978), with Tatum O'Neal as the young heroine who triumphs on her trusty steed. Black Beauty (1946) is one of many film versions of Anna Sewell's classic 1877 novel about the misadventures of a beautiful stallion; this one concentrates on Beauty's first owner, an English girl played by Mona Freeman.
They're Off and Running g focuses on horses, real or imagined, that compete in the racing classic The Kentucky Derby. The Story of Seabiscuit (1949), predating the more recent movie about the great thoroughbred champion that galvanized America during the Great Depression, includes a fictional love story involving a grown-up Shirley Temple and Lon McCallister. Glory (1956) features another maturing child star, Margaret O'Brien, in the story of a young woman who gets her favorite filly into the Derby with the help of a folksy trainer (Walter Brennan).
Best Bets looks at other films revolving around the racetrack, including the charming My Brother Talks to Horses (1947) with little Jackie "Butch" Jenkins as the precocious tyke who does just that, thereby gaining inside info about which nag might win the Preakness! Similar in some ways, The Rocking Horse Winner (1949), a dramatic fable from England based on a D.H. Lawrence story, has a much darker tone in its story of a boy who can pick racetrack winners after riding his magical hobby horse.
Stories of Horses of the Old West include two TCM premieres from 1946 that are sure to touch the hearts of horse lovers of all ages. The rarely seen Smoky is based on the Will James story of a cowhand (Fred MacMurray) and the devoted stallion from which he is wrenchingly separated. My Pal Trigger, Western star Roy Rogers' personal favorite among all his movies, spins a tall tale about how Roy obtained his magnifi cent palomino, aka "The Smartest Horse in the Movies." Rogers' wife Dale Evans (billed below Trigger!) joins Roy in singing several tunes.