The Black Stallion: Sunday, June 17, 4 p.m.
A magnificent horse (four of them, actually) and a gorgeous film
by Shirley Hartt
Why not stop by the Revue on Father’s Day to see the ultimate boy with a horse movie! We’re screening The Black Stallion as part of our regular books and film program at 4 p.m.
Pauline Kael commented that The Black Stallion “may be the greatest children’s movie ever made” and another critic called it “one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and genuinely magical movies ever made.”
Adam Nayman, who is our guest host for The Black Stallion screening and discussion, loves the book and film:
“Walter Farley's book is a rousing feat of description that the film version is more than equal to: Caroll Ballard's direction is lyrical in a way that Farley's prose never quite approaches. The first section of the film, done mostly without words, is an example of pure cinema; when it leaves the desert, the film is slightly more conventional but leans again on the strong narrative drive of the book and succeeds. It's a wonderful movie.”
Critic Mark Deming wrote: “First-time director Carroll Ballard captures the mysterious relationship between humans and animals, treating the stallion with the same intelligence and respect as the rest of his cast; he also draws fine, understated performances from Kelly Reno and Mickey Rooney, and Caleb Deschanel’s photography makes this a feast for the eyes. The Black Stallion is that rare contemporary family film that will fascinate adults as much as their kids, if not more so.”
Walter Farley got the idea for The Black Stallion when he was in high school, and it was accepted for publication while he was still an undergraduate at Columbia University. Published in 1941, it was an instant success, and in 1944 won the Young Reader’s Choice Award. The New York Times stated: “The Black Stallion is about the most famous fictional horse of the century.”
Written in a simple, straightforward style, the book opens with teenager Alec Ramsay travelling by ship on his own after visiting his uncle in India. After he befriended the stallion, only he and the horse survive a dramatic storm at sea, and find refuge on an isolated desert island. Alec fights for survival and gradually wins the trust of the wild horse who ultimately allows him to ride him.
Walter Farley wrote 34 books in total, with 20 about The Black, including The Young Black Stallion, written with his son, Steven. Many are still in print.
An artistic and commercial success, the 1979 film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The Black Stallion won several film awards for the exquisite music by Carmine Coppola (father of Francis, who was executive producer for the film) and the magnificent cinematography of Caleb Deschanel.
The movie features a strong cast, with Kelly Reno as Alec, Mickey Rooney as Henry, the former jockey and horse trainer, Teri Garr as Alec’s mother and Hoyt Axton as his father. The main star, of course, is the wonderful Arabian stallion, Cass Ole as The Black, assisted by three stunt doubles.
Toronto audiences have an added bonus. They can try to identify the places in Toronto and its environs that stand in for Flushing, New York. The Red Rocket streetcar is the giveaway that many scenes were filmed here.
At Book Revue events, our guest host introduces the film and moderates a post-screening discussion. There's a break after the movie, with complimentary baked goods. We also have free books to give away at each screening.
Tickets are $10 for members and seniors; $12 for non-members; $7 for kids.