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50/ AUGUST 2012 THE RIDER My Favourite Films About Horses By Glenda Fordham.

Summer is a great time to relax after a hard day fishing on the lake or flipping burgers on the BBQ and catch up on some great movies, especially movies about horses. Growing up in the Australian bush, I always looked forward to watching cowboy movies during school holidays on one of the two TV channels available in the late 60’s. Of course everything back then was in black and white but it didn’t really matter to me as long as the films had lots of horses. And invariably there was a happy ending to all of those movies but I do remember going through several handkerchiefs watch- ing My Friend Flicka.

So with such a hot summer this year, I thought I’d share some of my favourite horse movies with you in case you wanted to crank up the a/c and chill with the family around the big screen tv armed with a big tub of popcorn…and a box of Kleenex just in case!

horse, horse nearly dies, boy heals horse, boy’s dad tries to get rid of horse, horse and boy stay together in the end. This is a multi-tissue movie and you’ll want to go out to the stable and give your own pony a big hug and a carrot afterwards.

Brothers. The jokes and crazy stunts are still hysterical to this day. Silly fun for all the family.

Phar Lap is stuffed and mounted in a big display case. Standing there look- ing up into his huge glass eyes, I remember feeling so sad that this beau- tiful beast could no longer gallop across his home paddock. Phar Lap the movie recaptures the excitement and pride this amazing horse brought to an entire nation.

ing the stallion on the beach accompa- nied by the Coppola score – if you aren’t moved by these scenes, you must be made of stone! Anyway, boy & horse make it off island, enter a big race, kid and horse triumph and live happily ever after…until the 1983 sequel which is nowhere near as good.

National Velvet (1944) Beautiful young Elizabeth Taylor stars in this exciting tale of England’s Grand National steeplechase along with Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp and Angela Lansbury. Our Liz tames and trains a spirited horse to run in Eng- land’s grandest race and your heart will race as Liz and her horse charge towards the finish line, leaving jockey Mickey back at the start line. No tis- sues required, everyone will be cheer- ing at the end.

War Horse (2011)

I originally reviewed this exciting film in the January 2012 issue of The Rider. The film is based on real life experiences of the million plus horses sent into battle during WWI and the book and stage play of the same name. Director Steven Spielberg lends his award-winning story-telling talents to this tale of Joey, a farm horse who finds himself behind enemy lines while his young owner joins the British Army in order to find his four-legged friend. Younger children may find the war scenes a little scary, especially when the horses are treated brutally. You will definitely need tissues for this one.

Black Beauty (1994)

I remember when I first started writing for The Rider in the 90’s, this was one of the first films I reviewed. Embarrassingly, I cried like a baby during the press screening so you have been warned….lots of tissues required here. Based on the famous 1877 novel by Anna Sewell, the cast features Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and tv’s Sharpe), Alan Cum- ming (tv’s The Good Wife and Broad- way’s Cabaret), David Thewlis (Harry Potter) and the talented American Quarter Horse Docs Keepin Time as Black Beauty.

The Black Stallion (1979)

My Friend Flicka (1943) starred tal- ented child actor Roddy McDowell (also star of the Lassie films) and this was one of the first films about horses I remember seeing on tv. Boy meets

Featuring stunning cinematogra- phy and an amazing musical score courtesy of composer Carmine Coppo- la, this Francis Ford Coppola produced film is a sweeping adventure story told in the first half with minimal dialogue. A young boy (Kelly Reno) survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a desert- ed island with a horse who was also travelling on the boat. There are haunt- ingly beautiful scenes of the boy tam-

Day at the Races (1937)

One of the Marx Brothers’ most famous and hilarious films features Groucho as Dr. Hugo Hackenbush, a vet posing as a doctor, who struggles to help keep a sanitarium open with the help of a misfit racehorse and a bril- liant cast of Hollywood’s best early comedic actors including all the Marx

Hidalgo (2004)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, the film takes place in the 1890’s with an American mustang and his US cavalry dispatch rider owner competing against sheiks in The Ocean of Fire, a 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian desert. Great special effects, thrilling chases, flying manes and even Omar Sharif making an appearance - some- thing for every member of the family. No tissues needed here.

Other exciting racing films include The Story of Seabiscuit (1949) the original movie based on the life and career of the great US racehorse starring a teenaged Shirley Temple, and the more recent 2003 Tobey McGuire and Jeff Bridges version, Seabiscuit. Other great racehorse movies include Shergar (1999) based on the true story of a champion race horse abducted by IRA terrorists, then rescued by an orphaned boy, and Ruf- fian (2007) the story of the thorough- bred filly who dominated North Amer- ican horse racing in the early 1970s.

The Man From Snowy River (1982) I remember seeing this film at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival and getting goosebumps watching hundreds of Australian brumbies (wild horses) gal- lop across the screen. Based on a famous Australian poem of the same name, it tells the story of a young mountain horseman who is forced to seek work with a rich plains rancher whose valuable racehorse escapes and joins up with the wild bush horses. Young man falls in love with rancher’s daughter, rancher banishes young man, rancher loses daughter, young man finds the daughter and the racehorse, gains rancher’s respect and daughter’s hand in marriage. Lots of amazing scenes of the bush horses charging hell-for-leather down sheer mountain terrains and across wind-swept moun- tain cliffs. Toronto-born actor Tom Burlinson plays the title role and is supported by then Aussie heart-throb, Jack Thompson, and Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas in a surprise double-role. An exciting adventure film for all the family.

My Pal Trigger (1946) is the story of Hollywood’s greatest cowboy star, Roy Rogers, and how he met his Palomino friend, Trigger. In an era when Transformers rule and Batman and avatars are the norm for kid film fodder, it’s nice to step back and revisit the good old days of the cowboy movie matinee. The Roy Rogers film fran- chise helped shape many young lives in the post-WWII years, bringing good family values, kindness and a clearly defined sense of right to a war-ravaged world. In Roy’s films, the good guys wore white hats and they always won. Continuing into the 50’s, Roy brought those values to the TV screen and reached millions of youngsters - hands up those of you who remember Bullet, Roy’s faithful German Sheppard dog or Buttermilk, Roy’s wife Dale Evans’ pretty mare who always played sec- ond-banana to Trigger. This film is available on DVD and is perfect for family viewing.

Phar Lap (1983)

Based on a true story, this is a racing film very dear to my heart. Phar Lap was a legendary racehorse in Aus- tralia during the 30’s (think Cinderella Man with four legs!) Against all odds, this big red steed with no pedigree wins race after race Downunder and when he’s brought to the US to com- pete at the big-money tracks, he keeps on winning resulting in major losses for the big gambling syndicates and track bosses. Phar Lap mysteriously dies and after nearly 80 years, the mys- tery surrounding his supposed “murder by the mob” is still a sore point with Aussies. Again starring actor/horseman Tom Burlinson (The Man from Snowy River), this film makes me cry every time. When I was a little girl, I was taken to the Melbourne museum where

And finally, here’s a wonderful Canadian horse film: Pit Pony (1997) is the story of a lonely young lad in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, in the early 1900’s who is forced to work in the coal mines after a tragic family acci- dent and forms a close bond with one of the ponies working down the mines. Lots of tissues needed for this film but a really good choice for kids and grown-ups alike. This is one of the first films for young Canadian screen-queen Ellen Page.

Most of these films are available on Netflix, Rogers or Bell on-demand channels, some are available for view- ing and sale on the web, as well as at your local DVD rental store. Happy summer movie viewing to all readers of The Rider and enjoy your favourite horse flicks.

Glenda Fordham

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