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Literature / National Velvet

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National Velvet was first a 1935 novel, then a 1944 film, then a 1961 TV series.

The story begins with Velvet Brown, a neurotic 14-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own a stable full of horses. After her father's employee Mi, (son of her mother's former swim coach) makes an offhand remark that a local piebald horse could win the Grand National (a real life horse endurance race), Velvet goes from obsessing over her collection of paper horses to wanting to win the horse in a raffle and train it. Once Piebald (King in the TV series) is hers, she and Mi become serious about racing. Velvet uses a fake name to compete, disguising herself as a boy, and when her true gender is discovered, she becomes a national sensation for reasons besides the racing.

In the film, Velvet was played by Elizabeth Taylor, in her Star-Making Role. Also in the cast were Mickey Rooney as Mi, Angela Lansbury as Velvet's older sister Edwina, and Anne Revere (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress) and Donald Crisp as their parents. It was directed by Clarence Brown.


There was also a sequel to the movie released in 1978, called International Velvet and starring Tatum O'Neal in the title role.

Tropes related to the metaseries:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the novel, Velvet is a "thin as famine" blonde with crooked teeth and considered unattractive (until she gets on a horse). Elizabeth Taylor, of course, matched no part of that description.
  • Ill Girl: Velvet has a weak stomach and generally frail nature. This is what leads to her gender being revealed after The Big Race, when she faints from exhaustion and a doctor has to examine her.
  • The Merch: In-universe, Velvet is disgusted by the merchandise produced to make a quick buck off her new-found fame.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Velvet disguises herself as a boy in order to participate in the race.


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