I am just devastated over the cancellation of the HBO series Luck. Not only because I thought the writing and acting were superb (especially that Nick Nolte), but because I heard that the cancellation is a result of the death of three horses on set. I consider myself an equestrian and I just hate to hear about that stuff, even though I know it unfortunately is a big part of the horse racing world. I’m the girl who at 6 used to look out my bedroom window at night and ask someone (God/my parents/the great and powerful Oz) to give me a horse. Now, growing up in a loft in NYC didn’t exactly make this dream an easy reality, so what did my parents do? They surrounded me with stuffed animals, they built me a horse out of a table saw and some Styrofoam, and they introduced me to a world of movies that I proceeded to watch over and over and over again.
The first film is National Velvet. Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, English accents – what’s not to love? Liz plays a 15-year old girl who wins a horse in a raffle (yeah, I looked around for these so-called raffles and came up empty) and then continues to train it with Mickey’s help and actually ride it in the greatest horse race in all the world – the Grand National. I knew behind-the-scenes trivia from the movie (Liz actually hurt her back during one of the jumping scenes and they had to suspend production) and my mother and I used to recite lines together… about Liz’s mouth retainer which she cleverly referred to as a Devil’s plate. Oh it was so wonderful and innocent and it kept me occupied through my adolescent years.
Then in my tween years came a film that introduced a bit of danger into my innocent world… Sylvester. Ever heard of it? It stared Melissa Gilbert as 16-year old orphan trying to raise two younger brothers when a crotchety old horseman (Richard Farnsworth) introduces her to the horse, Sylvester. Together, they train him to become an Olympic jumping champion. Her love interest, Michael Schoeffling (of Sixteen Candles fame) perfectly played the older, more experienced ranch hand with a heart of gold. Oh boy, did I want to meet a ranch hand. We took a class trip to one of those dude ranches the first year I saw this movie, and my search for said ranch-hand came up empty.
Moving right along to my early teens came my infatuation with a much more widely known flick – Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, staring the beautiful Gabrielle Anwar and – Michael Schoeffling! This is the tail of Sonora (I loved that name at 13) and her death-defying horse Lightning who could jump from a platform 25 feet in the air into a pool of water below to the amazement of the ticket buying crowd below. Insert love story, drama between Schoeffling and his set-in-his-ways father, scenery from Atlantic City during the depression and a surprise illness and you’ve got a wonderful tale of a girl who loves her horse, but also achieves a healthy relationship with a man and travels the world doing the occupation she loves. A nice transition for a girl like me about to enter junior high, right?
So those are my horse tales. They were just what this horse-crazy girl needed to get by without one to call her own. Which is your favorite?
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken