'National Velvet'

It's probably the best-loved horse film ever made -- with good reason. You'll never see a better star performance than Mickey Rooney's as Mi Taylor, a jockey emotionally crippled from a deadly spill who nonetheless helps a butcher's daughter, Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor), train her horse for the Grand National Steeplechase. Mi tells her, "Someday you'll learn that greatness is only seizing opportunity: clutching with your bare hands 'til the knuckles show white." Rooney conjures a rue-streaked avidity that steals viewers' hearts even when Mi considers stealing money. And the way Mi lends his strength to Velvet as a trainer is inseparable from Rooney's generosity to his co-star, the 12-year-old Taylor. The scene in which Mi cuts Velvet's hair so she can masquerade as a jockey is difficult dramatically and technically. Rooney and Taylor pull it off with ease, staying tuned to each other's feelings as if caught in a Platonic love duet.--Mike Sragow
AP file photo
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