Written by Rae Earl


Rated or Dated: International Velvet

Standard Issue writers revisit an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Rae Earl canters through the notoriously sudsy sequel to 1944 horse epic National Velvet.

international velvet1What and why: International Velvet is the story of an American orphan (Tatum O’Neal) who comes to Britain to live with her aunt who once won the Grand National and who once was played by Elizabeth Taylor. Now she’s Nanette Newman and she lives with the Captain from The Sound of Music but that doesn’t matter. The point is Tatum sees a horse being born, trains him, gets British nationality and wins the Olympics. It’s not far-fetched. This could happen. I BELIEVE.

If you’ve ever spent a lot of time on donkeys at Skegness dreaming you’re actually winning a gold medal (73% of my life) this is the film for you. It’s a horsey fairy tale but it’s TOUGH. The dressage prance to glory is littered with sacrifice, heartbreak and death. Potential boyfriends are rejected, Christopher Plummer has to write lowbrow erotica so they can afford a new saddle and Brian Tilsley from Coronation Street burns to death in a Mini Cooper.

Worst of all a horse gets a terrible case of air rage, goes berserk on a plane and has to be shot, on the command of Sir Anthony Hopkins, IN THE HEAD. It’s got a happy ending but we are really put through it. In International Velvet fame costs and when the foal is born in the stable right there is where you start paying. Basically it’s the best two-hour soap opera ever created.

Rated or dated: International Velvet was panned on release mainly because no one could move on from Liz Taylor fluttering her big violet blue ones in National Velvet and because critics are wrong. So WRONG.

This 1978 film is stellar. You have a plucky, single sighted, completely selfish heroine who can’t make friends but who you just root for. O’Neal as Sarah Brown goes from age nine to 18 in one film (almost) completely convincingly and Anthony Hopkins as the magnificently curmudgeonly Captain Johnson is only slightly less scary than he was in The Silence of the Lambs. Also I still want Nanette Newman to be my aunty. She’s lovely.

The ending is gooey and I suppose it helps a bit if you like three-day eventing but how many other films show a female giving her all for sport? It’s refreshing to see a young woman forsake snogs for a decent piece of showjumping. International Velvet was doing This Girl Can about 35 years before anyone else.

Rated? Not just rated – it should be on the (inter)National Curriculum.


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Written by Rae Earl

Rae Earl is the writer of 'My Mad Fat Diary' and the 'OMG!' Hattie Moore series. She has never, despite three decades of trying, taught a cat to show jump. @RaeEarl