Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Eternal Treasure - A report on National Velvet

"Large dreams come easier when it's dark and still?" - Mrs. Brown, National Velvet


National Velvet (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1944) is the movie based on Enid Bagnold's 1935 book of the same name. National Velvet stars the dazzlingly smart and enchantingly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in her first starring role at age 12 as Velvet Brown. It also features fellow young actor Mickey Rooney, and later Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury.
Shot entirely in California, the movie, set in Sewels, Sussex, England follows the exquisite journey of a girl dreamer and her family. Her family consists of her mother and father, who refer to each other as 'Mr. Brown' and 'Mrs. Brown' throughout the movie. Velvet is the youngest of three sisters and has a younger brother. Velvet is a lover of horses, but falls in love with The Pie (short for Pirate) when her 'heart skipped a beat instead of losing lunch'. The Pie captures Velvet's attention after he escapes from his owner Mr. Ede, runs loose and jumps a wall comparative to Becher's Brook in the Grand National Sweepstakes race.
Young Velvet eventually wins The Pie through a raffle after his owner had had enough of his antics. She persuades her parents and enters her horse into the Grand National. In a time when only men were allowed to be jockeys, Velvet convinces Mi, played by Rooney, to cut her hair and disguises herself as a boy. Velvet falls off the horse shortly after winning the race and was later discovered to be female and disqualified.
National Velvet went on to win two Academy Awards in 1945; Anne Revere won for Best Supporting Actress and Robert J. Kern for Best Film Editing. In 2003 the classic was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, hailing it as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Mr. Brown reminds his daughters at the dinner table 'You have only your faces for your fortunes', but later when Velvet wins the Grand National Race and became a media sensation he tries in vain to convince her to take up several lucrative offers, including one of £5,000 to travel to Hollywood with The Pie to be a film star. Velvet turns down the offers simply because she thought The Pie "wouldn't like being looked at."
The movie stands ahead of its time, envisioning a world where women are equal to men and where girls can not only compete with boys, but also win them. The film's other nod to feminism is Velvet mother's role, played by Anne Revere. Mrs. Brown is the confident, seasoned voice of reason in the household, a role model and inspiration for Velvet. Mrs. Brown was only 20 years old when she swam the English Channel and won. When her youngest daughter shares her dream of becoming a famous rider she challenges her as to why she waited until nighttime to tell her, if it is 'Because large dreams come easier when it's dark and still?'
Later, after being satisfied that Velvet's motives were pure, Mrs. Brown encourages the young rider, 'Your dream has come early.' Mrs. Brown then symbolically passes the baton to Velvet by giving her the prize money she won for swimming the Channel. 'Win or lose, it's how you take it that counts, and knowing when to let go', flowed the words of wisdom like pearls from her mother's lips.
National Velvet won the hearts and minds of viewers. It was a defining moment for young Elizabeth Taylor, who etched her name on the list of greatest actors of our time. No equivalent can be identified today, who lights up the screen like Taylor did. Her eyes were ever engaging in this movie as she was firmly and fully immersed into her role, making the National Velvet not only a national treasure, but an eternal one.

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