One of the most beloved children's classics ever filmed, National Velvet holds up almost as well today as it did in 1944. True, modern audiences are much more familiar with elements of the story now, and they may find a bit of the plotting somewhat farfetched; but most audiences will be caught up in the sheer excitement and good will of Velvet that they will gladly overlook any shortcomings. There's so much to praise in Velvet that it's hard to know where to begin -- or would be, if it weren't for the fact that the climactic event remains the best horse racing sequence ever put on film. It's gripping, spine tingling and just plain fun, a sequence that will have viewers on the edge of their seats and ready to stand and cheer. Credit for this spectacular segment is due equally to director Clarence Brown, cinematographer Leonard Smith, editor Robert J. Kern and composer Herbert Stothart, all of whom work together seamlessly. Brown's work throughout is nearly flawless, drawing forth sterling performances from his cast, capturing every highlight of the screenplay and telling the story with keen attention to pacing and cinematic detail. Elizabeth Taylor is sheer magic as Velvet, Mickey Rooney gives a wonderful, understated performance, Angela Lansbury is lovely and Anne Revere makes the absolute most of every moment. Then there's Pi, one of the most beautiful creatures ever put on the screen, a force of nature that is irresistible. Velvet is a dream of a movie -- one from which you won't want to awaken.
by Craig Butler review