National Velvet (film)

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National Velvet
PosterVelvet 01.jpg
Original film poster
Directed by Clarence Brown
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay by Helen Deutsch
Based on National Velvet
1935 novel
by Enid Bagnold
Starring Mickey Rooney
Donald Crisp
Elizabeth Taylor
Angela Lansbury
Anne Revere
Reginald Owen
Terry Kilburn
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Leonard Smith
Edited by Robert Kern
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 14, 1944 (1944-12-14)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,770,000[1]
Box office $5,840,000[1]

National Velvet is a 1944 American Technicolor sports film directed by Clarence Brown and based on the novel of the same name by Enid Bagnold, published in 1935. It stars Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, and a young Elizabeth Taylor.[2][3] In 2003, National Velvet was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."


Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor and The Pie in National Velvet
Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet

National Velvet is the story of a 14-year-old horse-crazy girl, Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor), who lives in the small town of Sewels in Sussex, England. She wins a spirited gelding in a raffle and decides to train him for the Grand National steeplechase. Velvet is aided by a penniless young drifter named Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney), who discovered Mrs. Brown's name and address among his late father's effects, though he is unaware of why it was there. Hoping to profit from the association, Mi accepts an invitation to dinner and a night's lodging at the Browns' home, but Mrs. Brown is unwilling to allow Mi to trade on his father's good name and remains vague about how she knew him. Nevertheless, she convinces her husband (Donald Crisp) to hire Mi over his better judgment, and Mi is brought into the home as a hired hand. It is revealed that Mi's career as a jockey ended in a collision which resulted in another jockey's death. Mi has not held a job since, and now hates horses.

Velvet had named the horse she won "The Pie" after his owner, Mr. Ede, called the troublesome gelding a pirate, prompting him to raffle him off. Seeing the horse's natural talent, Velvet pleads with Mi to train him for the Grand National. Mi believes it a fool's errand, not because the horse lacks ability, but because they have no way to finance the effort. He makes his case to Mrs. Brown, but she consents to Velvet's desire to train the horse. To cover the entrance fee and other costs, Mrs. Brown gives Velvet her prize money for swimming the English Channel. Velvet and Mi train the horse and enter him into the race.

Mi and Velvet travel to the Grand National. Mi hires a professional jockey, but the night before the race, Velvet senses he has no faith in The Pie and will not win. Velvet convinces Mi to fire the jockey, leaving them without a rider. That night Mi overcomes his fear of riding and intends to race The Pie himself. Instead, he discovers that Velvet has slipped on the jockey silks and intends to ride herself. Knowing the dangers, Mi unsuccessfully attempts to dissuade Velvet, who is determined to ride. As the race unfolds, Velvet and The Pie clear all hurdles and win the race. Elated but exhausted, Velvet faints and falls off her mount at the finish. As the doctor attends to her, he discovers that Velvet is a girl. Velvet and The Pie are disqualified, but Velvet knows The Pie proved himself a champion. Velvet becomes a media sensation and is offered large amounts of money to travel to Hollywood and be filmed with The Pie. To her father's disappointment, Velvet tearfully refuses the offers, claiming that The Pie would not like being stared at. Velvet says that she raced The Pie at the Grand National because he deserved a chance for greatness. Velvet chooses to have a normal life for her and her horse. At the close of the film, Mi takes his leave without saying goodbye to Velvet. Mrs. Brown gives Velvet permission to tell him about her relationship with his father. Velvet rides off to find Mi on the road and tells him that his father had been Mrs. Brown's coach as the first woman to swim the English Channel.

The film differs from the book in a number of respects. For example, Velvet's horse in the book is a piebald, and thus is given the name "The Piebald" or "The Pie" for short. In the movie, Pie is a chestnut, and another explanation for his name was given. Velvet, in the book, is a sickly child who is given to great imagination and spirit; her father is stern and given to anger, but the mother is stronger still and stands up to him . Since her days as a swimmer she has become a large woman, and weighs 16 stone—224 pounds (102 kg) at the time of the story, and warns Velvet never to allow herself to be burdened by weight. In the book Mr. and Mrs. Brown also have a 15-year-old daughter named Meredith, in addition to Edwina, Malvolia, Velvet, and Donald. The Meredith character does not appear in the movie.


Lansbury and Kilburn are the last surviving primary cast members.

Production notes[edit]

An 18-year-old Gene Tierney, who was then appearing on Broadway, was offered the role of Velvet Brown in 1939. Production was delayed, however, so Tierney returned to Broadway.[5] Much of the film was shot in Pebble Beach, California, with the most-scenic views on the Pebble Beach Golf Links[6] (with golf holes visible in the background). Elizabeth Taylor was given "The Pie" as a birthday gift after filming was over.

This was the first of two films casting Elizabeth Taylor and Anne Revere. The other film, A Place in the Sun, featured Revere as the mother of Taylor's love interest, played by Montgomery Clift. In that film, however, the two actresses never shared the screen with each other in any scene.

Mickey Rooney's scenes were shot first in one month allotted by the US Army before Rooney was inducted in June 1944.[7]


  • "Summertime" - Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Lansbury, Juanita Quigley, MGM Studio and Orchestra Chorus Girls, and Norma Varden


National Velvet currently holds a 100% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

It was very successful at the box office earning $3,678,000 in the US and Canada and $2,162,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $785,000.[1]

Academy Awards[edit]

The film won two Oscars, and was nominated for three others, in 1945:[9]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards March 7, 1946 Best Director Clarence Brown Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Anne Revere Won
Best Cinematography, Color Leonard Smith Nominated
Best Art Direction – Interior Decoration, Color Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary;
Interior Decoration: Edwin B. Willis and Mildred Griffiths
Best Film Editing Robert J. Kern Won

Other adaptations[edit]

  • National Velvet was dramatized as a one-hour radio play on the February 3, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, with Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp and Janice Scott.
  • In 1960, the film was adapted into television series which aired on NBC.


In 1978, a sequel, International Velvet, was released. The film stars Tatum O'Neal, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Hopkins, and Nanette Newman, who plays Velvet Brown as an adult. After the events of "National Velvet" Donald got married, had a daughter named Sarah Velvet Brown, and moved from England to Cave Creek, Arizona. Sarah comes to live with Velvet and her boyfriend John after Donald and his wife die from their injuries in a car accident. Elizabeth Taylor did not reprise her role as Velvet in the sequel.


  1. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study{{inconsistent citations}} 
  2. ^ Variety film review; December 6, 1944, page 14.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; December 9, 1944, page 199.
  4. ^ Eagan, Daniel (2010). America's film legacy : the authoritative guide to the landmark movies in the National Film Registry ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Continuum. p. 380. ISBN 978-0826429773. 
  5. ^ Tierney and Herskowitz (1978) Wyden Books. "Self-Portrait". pg.23
  6. ^ "Monterey Movie Tours!". Monterey Movie Tours!. 2003-08-10. Retrieved 2016-10-26. 
  7. ^ "Rooney, Mickey, Pfc Deceased". Retrieved August 9, 2017. 
  8. ^ National Velvet at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ "NY Times: National Velvet". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 

External links[edit]