Black Beauty (1994 film)

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Black Beauty
Black Beauty, a 1994 film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Caroline Thompson
Produced by Peter MacGregor-Scott
Robert Shapiro
Screenplay by Caroline Thompson
Based on Black Beauty 
by Anna Sewell
Starring Andrew Knott
Sean Bean
David Thewlis
Jim Carter
Peter Davison
Alan Cumming
Docs Keepin Time
Narrated by Alan Cumming
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by Claire Simpson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
Release dates
  • July 29, 1994 (1994-07-29)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United Kingdom/United states
Language English
Box office $4,630,377

Black Beauty is a 1994 film adaptation of Anna Sewell's novel by the same name directed by Caroline Thompson in her directorial debut.[1] The film stars Andrew Knott, Sean Bean and David Thewlis. The film is also treated as an autobiography of the horse Black Beauty as in the original novel, and is narrated by Alan Cumming as the voice of the 'Black Beauty'.[2] This is the fifth feature film adaptation of the 1877 classic novel by Anna Sewell.[3]


Black Beauty (voiced by Alan Cumming; played by Docs Keepin Time) narrates his own story. He is born on a farm in the English countryside and remains by his mother's side until he is sent to Birtwick Park to serve Squire Gordon and his family.

Lady Gordon, the squire's ill wife, is pleased by the beautiful horse and gives him his trademark name, Black Beauty. Beauty is smitten with the squire's bitter chestnut mare, Ginger, who being rather feisty rebuffs his attempts to be friendly. However, Beauty also befriends Merrylegs, a perky white pony who gives rides to the squire's young daughters, Jessica and Molly.

On a stormy night, Beauty is pulling a carriage holding the squire and his caretaker, John Manly, home from town, but sensing danger refuses to cross a partially flooded bridge. When John tries to pull him to move, Beauty steadfastly refuses. When the bridge finally gives way, crushing into the river, John slips and falls in, but manages to hang on to Beauty's bridle. Beauty and the squire save John, and after John thanks Beauty with a grateful hug, they again head off back home.

Young Joe Green, who works in the stable, volunteers to look after Beauty that night, since John is still rather shaken from the accident. Though well intentioned,Joe's lack of knowledge about horses causes him to give Beauty ice cold water to drink and to neglect to dry him off or cover him with a rug for overnight, which causes Beauty to fall ill. The following few days John, Joe, and the squire treat and nurse Beauty, fearful for his recovery. They're pleased when a few days later he thankfully recovers.

Lady Gordon's illness gets worse, and she is taken to a doctor in a carriage pulled by now great pals Beauty and Ginger. When they stop at an inn for the night, the barn where the horses are being kept catches on fire due to a carelessly dropped pipe. Being tied up they're unable to escape the fire themselves, and after much fearful commotion, just as they're close to being consumed by the flames, thankfully they're both bravely rescued by Joe.

Lady Gordon's doctor orders her to leave England for a warmer place because her illness is so advanced. The squire and his family bid a sad goodbye to John, Joe, and the beloved horses. Whilst pony Merrylegs is given to the vicar as a gift, but who promises never to sell him.

Beauty and Ginger are taken to Earlshall Park, home of the Lord and Lady of Wexmire, and Joe bids a tearful goodbye to Beauty. Beauty and Ginger are paired up to pull Lady Wexmire's carriage, but she demands that the horses wear uncomfortable bearing reins to raise their heads high, as that is the aristocratic fashion, which angers both but incenses Ginger, who reverts to her untamed tantrums. When the next day Lady Wexmire orders the horse's heads be strapped up even further, Ginger breaks away from the carriage in a rage, leaving her distressed and causing a deep gash on one of Beauty's hind legs.

Reuben Smith, the horses' new caretaker, rides to town with Beauty to take a carriage to be repainted. That evening, he rolls out the tavern boisterously over-drunk, can hardly mount Beauty, and ignores a passing squire's warning that one of the horse's shoes needs replacing. He nevertheless rough rides Beauty home, thoroughly overextending him. Only stopping when Beauty, close to collapse, throws that loose shoe and stumbles to the ground, throwing Reuben off and suffering disfiguring injuries to his knees, which have been rubbed raw. Reuben is dismissed from his job, and Beauty is later sold by Lord Wexmire.

He is bought by a man who keeps horses for renting, treats them terribly, and rents out indiscriminately. He works there another few years. When in poor condition from being overworked, Beauty is eventually taken to a fair, where he briefly spots Joe, now a grown-up, but amongst the masses Joe doesn't notice him. Beauty's whinnies instead catch the attention of Jerry Barker, a kindly looking taxi carriage driver from London, who's immediately taken by Beauty and buys him once successfully haggling the cost down to 17 guineas.

Jerry introduces Beauty to his warm family - wife and two young children, who name him Black Jack. Though Beauty dislikes the harshness of London, he nevertheless likes his job as a taxi cab horse and Jerry's kindly treatment of him, something he'd not had for many a year now. One day, Beauty is elated to spot Ginger, now a cab horse too - but weak from years of past abuse, she hardly recognises him. Beauty begs for her not to give up, but too soon she's lead away by her owner on a fare. Some time later, Beauty is shocked by an approaching wagon; he's immediately crestfallen as he can sense that atop it lies the body of his poor friend Ginger - now dead. It seems she had finally succumbed.

One snowy night, Jerry has a dreadful cough that worsens as he's kept waiting for hours outdoors in the freezing weather for his passengers to leave a party. His condition then worsens, and a doctor advises him to quit his job and move to the countryside if he wishes to survive. Beauty is reluctantly sold once again, this time to a grain dealer whom Jerry believed would treat him kindly. However, they do not, and he's forced to pull heavy loads of flour, day after day, for two never-ending years - until he collapses from utter exhaustion.

He is taken to a fair to be sold, but he is now so weak and in poor condition that no one wants to buy him. Then Farmer Thoroughgood and his grandson spot Beauty, and a young man sees him, too. Beauty realizes that the young man is Joe, and though he's hardly able to, he finds the strength and whinnies for his old friend. Joe, recognising the sound, walks over; at first uncertain he's amazed when the signature white star on his forehead (having previously been covered over by his mane) confirms it is indeed his Beauty. The two are finally reunited.

Beauty lives the remainder of his life at Thoroughgood's farm with Joe, who promises that he will never sell Beauty again.



Critical reception[edit]

Despite commercial failure, Black Beauty received mixed to positive reviews upon its release. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 78% of 9 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.6 out of 10.[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a mediocre review reacting negatively towards the horse's voice over stating that "it plays like a cross between New Age mysticism and anthropomorphism run amok."[5] Similarly, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly found the narration to have "the effect of making a basically charming story go drippy." However, she concluded her review on a positive note, saying that "girls will inevitably love all this."[6]

Box office[edit]

The film did poorly in the box office,[7][8] grossing only $4,630,377 domestically.[9]


Black Beauty
Film score by Danny Elfman
Released July 19, 1994
Genre Soundtrack
Label Giant
Danny Elfman chronology
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Black Beauty
The Frighteners

The film's score was written by Danny Elfman and was released on CD and cassette tape through Warner Bros.' Giant Records label.

Track listings
  1. Main titles
  2. Baby Beauty
  3. Gang on the Run
  4. Mommy
  5. Jump for Joy
  6. Kicking up a Storm
  7. The Dance/ Bye Merrylegs
  8. Sick
  9. He's Back (Revival)
  10. Frolic
  11. Ginger Snaps
  12. Goodbye Joe
  13. Wild Ride/ Dream
  14. Is it Joe?
  15. In the Country
  16. Poor Ginger
  17. Bye Jerry/ Hard times
  18. Memories
  19. End Credits

See also[edit]


External links[edit]