7.5/10
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The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)

Not Rated | | Drama, Fantasy | 30 November 1949 (UK)
A young boy receives a rocking horse for Christmas and soon learns that he is able to pick the winning horse at the races.

Director:

(as Anthony Pélissier)

Writers:

(short story), (screenplay) (as Anthony Pélissier)
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Cast

Cast overview:
...
John Howard Davies ...
...
Oscar Cresswell
...
...
Richard Grahame
Charles Goldner ...
Mr. Tsaldouris
Susan Richards ...
Nannie
Cyril Smith ...
Bailiff
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Storyline

In London, the young Paul Grahame lives with his upper class but financially broken family. His wasteful mother Hester Grahame is a compulsive buyer, spending all the family money on new expensive dresses, jewels and objects for their home. His father Richard Grahame is a gambler, losing money in the horse races. His uncle Oscar Cresswell is permanently covering the Grahame family debts. When the servant Bassett is hired, Paul finds that he can predict the winner of the horse races by rocking his wooden horse. Paul asks Bassett to become his partner. The two of them bet their money on the races. Paul wants to prove that he is lucky in order to silence the house, which perpetually whispers to him that it needs more money. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"One of the finest portrayals of youthful distress that you are ever likely to witness." -- N.Y. TIMES See more »

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

30 November 1949 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Amartiai goneon  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Commenting on "The Rocking Horse Winner", John Baxter in his book "Science Fiction in the Cinema" (1970) notes that: "The ability to pick horse-race results is probably British sf's only genuine contribution to the list of sf film elements". See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Bassett: Are you looking for me?
Paul Grahame: You're Bassett, aren't you?
See more »

Connections

Version of The Rocking Horse Winner (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Silent Night
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Gruber
English lyrics by John Freeman Young
See more »

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User Reviews

 
You have a runaway talent for spending money and that's all.
14 November 2013 | by See all my reviews

The Rocking Horse Winner is directed by Anthony Pelissier, who also adapts the screenplay from the D. H. Lawrence short story of the same name. It stars Valerie Hobson, John Howard Davies, Ronald Squire, John Mills, Hugh Sinclair and Susan Richards. Music is by William Alwyn and cinematography by Desmond Dickinson.

Dreadful, Evil Money.

There's a handful of British films from the 1940s that deserve to be far better known, films that blended haunted themes with film noir traits and visual smarts. The Night Has Eyes, Uncle Silas, Corridor Of Mirrors and the magnificent Queen Of Spades readily come to mind. Now it has an official DVD release, we can add Anthony Pelissier's brilliant The Rocking Horse Winner to the obscure gem list.

Story has young Paul Grahame (Davies) receiving a weird looking Rocking Horse for Christmas. He's an introverted and sensitive lad, seemingly reaching out for some sort of guidance from his parents. Unfortunately his mother, Hester (Hobson), is a spendthrift badly hung up on money as some sort of status symbol, while his father, Richard (Sinclair), is a gambler, and not a good one at that. With Uncle Oscar Creswell (Squire) bailing them out of financial trouble for the last time, the Grahame family are heading for bankruptcy unless income can be found. Befriending the new handyman, Bassett (Mills), Paul is delighted to find that Bassett is an ex-jockey and regales him with tails of horse racing, he even learns from Bassett how to ride his Rocking Horse like a real jockey. Then something magical happens, Paul seems to be able to predict the winners of real horse races, and the money starts to roll in…

D. H. Lawrence's story gets a faithful adaptation and transfers quite excellently to the screen. It's a haunting fantasy at heart, but one tinged with utter sadness, and being Lawrence it has a sex metaphor sitting right in the middle of the greed and exploitation thematics. As story progresses, it soon becomes evident that Paul has to ride his Rocking Horse to a frenzied climax, if he doesn't get there then he will not see the name of the next race winner. Initially he is thrilled to be able to win lots of money, the house seems to be telling him that his parents must have more money, so aided by Bassett, he is saving the cash to help his frantic mother, who by now has resorted to pawning possessions for cash. But the more he wins, and the more Bassett and Uncle Oscar also profit, the further away from his parents Paul gets. Soon enough it's going to come to a head and it will prove to be devastating for the Grahame family.

Pelissier, Alwyn and Dickinson each work respective wonders to smoother the picture with a sense of the unearthly, not so much supernatural, but like a blurry discord, a purgatory where ignorant parenting dwells and childhood innocence is corrupted. Pic is crammed with sinister imagery. The Rocking Horse itself is up in the attic, which gives the makers perfect opportunities for shadows to enhance the "unhealthy" scenes of Paul riding away like a boy possessed, while for the key scene Pelissier uses a depth perception technique that is gloriously disorientating. An ascent by Paul up to the attic is moody magnificence, Hester's visit to the back room Pawnbroker (Charles Goldner) drips with unease, while the finale features a near demonic last shot that literally will be burned into your soul.

With top performances from the cast to seal the deal, this tale of a boy and his Rocking Horse gnaws away at the senses as the fallibility of the human condition is frighteningly laid bare. 9/10


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