National Velvet (1945): Making of Family-Friendly Child-Animal Classic

Making of Movie

Elixabeth Taylor, then 12, was not the first choice.

An 18-year-old Gene Tierney, who was then appearing on Broadway, was offered the role of Velvet Brown in 1939. Production was delayed, however, so Tierney returned to Broadway.

Much of the film was shot in Pebble Beach, California, with the most-scenic views on the Pebble Beach Golf Links (golf holes are visible in the background).

Elizabeth Taylor was given “The Pie” as a birthday gift after filming was over.

This was the first of two films casting Taylor and Anne Revere. The other film, A Place in the Sun, featured Revere as the mother of Taylor’s love interest, played by Montgomery Clift. In that film, however, the two actresses never shared the screen with each other in any scene.

Mickey Rooney’s scenes were shot first in one month allotted by the U.S. Army before Rooney was inducted in June 1944.

Mickey Rooney played a similar role in the film Black Stallion (1979), for which he earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination.

Differences from the Book

The film differs from the book in several significant respects.

Velvet’s horse in the book is a piebald, and thus is given the name “The Piebald” or “The Pie” for short. In the movie, Pie is a chestnut, and another explanation for his name was given.

Sickly Girl

Velvet, in the book, is a sickly child, blessed with wild imagination and strong spirit. Her father is stern and given to anger, but the mother is stronger still and stands up to him.

Since her days as a swimmer, she has become a large woman and weighs 16 stone—224 pounds at the time of the story. She thus warns Velvet never to allow herself to be burdened by weight.

In the book Mr. and Mrs. Brown also have a 15-year-old daughter named Meredith, in addition to Edwina, Malvolia, Velvet, and Donald. However, the Meredith character does not appear in the movie.

In the novel, the professional jockey hired by Mi to race at the Grand National is said to have finished in 4th place at the previous event, it is possible this character is a reference to 1932 Ascot Gold Cup disgraced competitor Arthur Pasquier.