A warm and fuzzy family film about a young girl's love of her horse and her pursuit of a win at the Grand Nationals horse race. This stars an incredibly beautiful 12-year old Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, and Donald Crisp as the curmudgeonly but lovable father, Mr. Brown.
There are some scenes that are TOO coincidental, such as how Velvet (Taylor) acquires the horse to begin with, and how the results of the race are decided. Why take the long way around? We know she's going to win the horse or we'd have no movie. Why tiptoe around the obvious? The race itself, consisting of jumps over hedges and ditches, is breathtaking. A number of horses don't complete the jumps, jockeys are thrown or fall from their horses, and the recording of this event makes you feel you're actually there. Kind of a Ben-Hur feel to it in some ways.
Mickey Rooney was a hugely talented actor as a child, and he doesn't disappoint here. He is by turns sweet or bossy or calculating or afraid. He has a wonderful series of scenes with character actor Arthur Treacher as they watch the race progress.
I've always found Elizabeth Taylor's early performances a little too saccharine for my tastes, but she has a glow in her face and her voice that you can't help but be drawn to. Small children, especially horse-obsessed little girls, will like this, and it's good enough that adults won't be pulling their hair out while watching it.
The main theme at the time was probably about going after your dreams, and it is that. But Velvet's talk with her mother (Anne Revere) about those dreams also holds a feminist message -- that women can do anything men can do. What better message could there be for little girls?