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Film: Hold your Horses

By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES online August 2014

Hold your horses drawing by Henry P. Raleigh

No, I’ve not seen “War Horse.” And I do not intend to see “War Horse.” Oh, it’s not because I have anything against horses- they mind their business, I mind mine, our paths never cross. Nor do I have anything against the movie. People I know have seen “War Horse” and pronounced it a fine film. I am willing enough to go along with the public opinion. The thing is, you see, I simply will not watch a movie in which a horse is a featured player. I cannot help it. My unhappy reaction to horse films began in 1949, a psychic scarring, so to speak. “Black Beauty”, a movie of 1946, made from Anna Sewell’s novel, was discovered by the English department of my high school - a popular novel, a popular film, what a grand way to stir the minds of students by an exciting comparison of these two art forms. And who doesn’t love horses while providing welcome relief from all that Silas Marner and House of Seven Gables? But I hated it. Adolescent males are not really fond of sentimental stories about a young girl losing her horse and finally finding it after a lot of sticky melodramas. Nor did it help that girl in the film was played by Mona Freeman, the stock adorable teen in many youth movies of that era. Now I ask you, can a horse movie ever deviate from a formula fixed back in the days of William S. Hart: the cunning early years, the trials and tribulations of maturity, a few life threatening gigs, a joyful and inspirational ending followed by academy awards for over acting and unbearable cuteness? You know what I mean, all these things drenched in lachrymose clichés. It should be noted that “Black Beauty” gave birth to two further re-makes, the last in 1994 and so shameless in weepiness that this one had the horse delivering a running narrative. So maybe I was wrong, nevertheless I skipped over “National Velvet” and “The Horse Whisperer.”

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