Black Stallion, The (1979 with Kelly Reno and Mickey Rooney)

USA / United Artists / 1979

Cast: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Clarence Muse, Hoyt Axton, Michael Higgins,

Based on Walter Farley’s 1941 novel, The Black Stallion chronicled the tender bond that develops between a shipwrecked boy and a wild black horse. As in the 1970’s Black Beauty, the bond between horse and child was the focus, with each learning lessons from the other.

The journey begins aboard an ocean steamer, where American boy Alec Ramsey is traveling with his father. The boy befriends an untamed stallion called simply, “the Black,” feeding him sugar cubes on the sly. When the ship is sunk one stormy night, Alec and the Black end up on a deserted island, lost to the world.

The two form a unique friendship, learning to trust and communicate with each other worldlessly. When the boy is finally rescued, he insists that his companion come with him. Back in civilization, Alec and the Black struggle to fit in, winding up in the care of ex-jockey Henry Dailey. Dailey trains the stallion as a racer, leading to a thrilling climactic competition.

Charming audiences with its visual inventiveness and classic narrative, The Black Stallion was a triumph, a truly unique family film. The lengthy production paid off in the end, featuring luscious cinematography from Caleb Deschanel and a moving, low-key performance from screen legend Mickey Rooney as Dailey. A sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, followed in 1983, continuing Alec and the Black’s adventures.

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