National Velvet (1944)

Mickey Rooney turns in one of his most sensitive, understated performances in this beautifully made adaptation of Enid Bagnold’s story of a girl’s devotion to her horse. Even before Elizabeth Taylor became an international superstar, this film was considered a classic for its thrilling race scene (often hailed as one of the best ever put on film) and the family dynamics portrayed by an expert cast, headed by Oscar-winner Anne Revere, Donald Crisp and Angela Lansbury in her second film. Producer Pandro S. Berman had tried to buy the rights for RKO in 1935 as a vehicle for Katharine Hepburn. He lost the bidding war to Paramount, which eventually sold them to MGM, but the outbreak of World War II stalled their plans to shoot on location in England. When Berman moved to MGM, he revived the project with director Clarence Brown, best known for his Garbo films. Initially, they thought Taylor too small for the role, but after three months of special exercise and diet she literally grew into the role that would make her a star.

Dir. Clarence Brown

In attendance: Margaret O'Brien, Eddie Muller