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The Rocking Horse Winner (1949, John Mills, John Howard Davies)



Young Paul hangs on every word of the groom, Bassett, who has an inexhaustible fund of racing yarns. But Paul also idolises his mother Hester who she is glamorous and spendthrift. When his father loses his job, Paul fears that his mother will be bereft at having to rein in. Ferociously riding his rocking horse and picturing himself as a champion jockey, he begins to foresee the winners of races. His strange skill brings in splendid gambling proceeds but the price paid for this turn of events proves higher than money.

ANTHONY PELISSIER, who also made ‘The History of Mr Polly’ and ‘Meet Mr Lucifer’, is one of the many underrated names of British cinema, an imaginative and thoughtful film-maker. This, the first dramatisation of D.H.LAWRENCE, preserves the highly sexual subtext with some skill.

JOHN HOWARD DAVIES, who grew up to be a television executive, has a suitably dreamy, wan quality (he was also David Lean’s Oliver Twist) and JOHN MILLS, here producing for the second time (‘The History of Mr Polly’ was his first shot), makes a fine job of the groom. The story is a bit pressed by feature length but it is entirely absorbing and not like any other film of its age. Indeed, until Peter Shaffer’s ‘Equus’, no other work would quite so boldly present the image of horse-riding.

production details
UK | 91 minutes | 1949

Director: Anthony Pelissier
Script: D. H. Lawrence Anthony Pelissier

Valerie Hobson as Hester Grahame
John Howard Davies as Paul Grahame
Ronald Squire as Oscar Cresswell
John Mills as Bassett
Hugh Sinclair as Richard Grahame
Charles Goldner as Mr. Tsaldouris
Susan Richards as nannie
Cyril Smith as bailiff