Elizabeth Taylor, famous for her luminous eyes and scandalous marriages, had her first starring role at the age of twelve in National Velvet. Based on the 1935 novel by Enid Bagnold, this 1944 film tells the story of Velvet Brown, a 12-year-old girl who won a horse in a raffle. National Velvet is December’s Literary Flick. It will be shown on Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Velvet decides to train her horse for the Grand National Steeplechase, and wants to be the jockey, although female jockeys are banned from the race. Mickey Rooney stars as Mi, a former jockey who is drawn into helping Velvet train her horse. Angela Lansbury has a supporting role as Edwina Brown, Velvet’s older sister.
Taylor called it "the most exciting film" of her career. MGM wanted an actress with a British accent and the ability to ride horses. Taylor was cast, but as she was deemed too short, filming was pushed back several months to allow her to grow. She used that time to practice riding.
National Velvet became a box office success upon its release on Christmas 1944. Of Elizabeth Taylor, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times stated "her whole manner in this picture is one of refreshing grace," while James Agee of The Nation wrote that she "is rapturously beautiful ... I hardly know or care whether she can act or not."