Black Beauty (1946): Max Nosseck’s Version of Anna Sewell’s Novel, Starring Mona Freeman

In 1946, Zanuck, head of Fox, assigned Max Nosseck to direct Black Beauty, the screen version of Anna Sewell’s popular novel of the same, about the love of a young girl for her horse.

Set in 1884 in England, the tale centers on country squire Wendon (Charles Evans), who forbids his adolescent daughter Anne (Mona Freeman) to watch his horses, but she sneaks into the stables.  Anne gets the colt on her birthday, naming it Black Beauty. The two get closer and closer as they grow up together.

Anne befriends an American named Bill Dixon (Richard Denning), who comes to visit the neighboring farmer.

Anne then starts riding her horse and teaching him to jump, but the bliss is threatened when her father wants to send her away to a boarding school to learn how to be a woman.

Anne falls in love with Bill, but he still regards her as a child. When they are out riding together, Bill brings the neighbors’ daughter, Evelyn Carrington (Evelyn Ankers), which makes Anne jealous.  To get Bill’s interest, she shows her skills as a horsewoman, riding side-saddle like a mature woman.

After Evelyn’s horse is injured, she borrows Black Beauty to go riding with Bill. Anne decides to follow them, and borrows another horse from her father, Ginger, but she falls off when jumping recklessly to show off.  Knocked unconscious by the fall, Bill brings Doctor White (John Burton) on Black Beauty.

The horse is exhausted from the hard riding, and suffers a leg injury. Given cold water to drink, Black Beauty becomes very sick.  Joe leaves, blaming himself for the horse’s condition. But the horse begins to get well again, and Bill and Evelyn come to visit Anne.

Going off to boarding school, Wendon’s employee John (J. M. Kerrigan) promises Anne to take care of her horse, but Black Beauty gets severely ill.

John only pretends to put the horse down, firing his gun out of sight, thus missing the horse. When Anne comes back from school she hears the good news from John.

Black Beauty is then sold on an auction, and it’s now owned by local baker who doesn’t treat him well. Anne and John go looking for him, followed by Bill. In their search they meet Joe, who knows the horse’s new location.

Anne tries to save Black Beauty from the stable’s fire, and she and the horse are rescued by Bill.

In the requisite happy ending, Anne and Bill kiss, and Black Beauty is about to become father of a colt.

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