National Velvet is a horse picture with wide general appeal. The production also focuses attention on a new dramatic find – moppet Elizabeth Taylor.
Backgrounded in England, it tells of a former jockey (Mickey Rooney) who’s become embittered through circumstances and plans to steal from a family that befriends him. But the family’s 11-year-old daughter, Velvet softens him.
From this point on, early in the film, Velvet becomes the dominant character in the story [from the novel by Enid Bagnold]. The kid is nuts about horses. When a neighbor raffles off an unmanageable brute he’s unable to handle she wins it on tickets paid for by Rooney. Over the objections of both Rooney and her father, nag is entered in the greatest race in England, the Grand National Sweepstakes.
Story is told with warmth and understanding. There is much detail, in this direction, between husband and wife; between Velvet and her mother and between the two kids, especially when Rooney confesses to an abiding fear of horses ever since he rode in a sweepstakes which ended in another jockey’s death.
1945: Best Supp. Actress (Anne Revere), Editing.
Nominations: Best Director, Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction