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In WWII Austria, Col. Alois Podhajsky must protect his beloved Lipizzaner stallions and make sure that they are surrendered into the right hands. But Patton's something of a horse fancier and can help...if he sees the stallions perform. Written by
In 1945 after the 328th Regiment, 26th Infantry Division captured the renowned Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Patton, an expert horseman himself, requested a performance of its white Lipizzaner stallions. So on August 21, 1945 a show was put on for General Patton, a host of American officers and troops. He described the in his diary that day, calling it "extremely interesting and magnificently performed." See more »
Great Disney film about the White Stallion's of Vienna
Despite a rather slow start, this film is absolutely classic Disney and well worth the time spent. Everyone should know the story of the Lipizzaner stallions and Col. Podhajsky, the man who risked everything to save them. The stallion's flight from Vienna at the tail end of WWII, and the fact that General Patton and the 3rd Army were heavily involved in their rescue, is exciting stuff and has achieved almost legendary proportions. It's to the film's credit that the viewer eventually gets wrapped up in the Colonel's crusade, and begins to feel a sense of wonder as random chance and pure luck conspire to save the Lipizzaner breed.
I would not have put Robert Taylor in the lead role of Col. Podhajsky, though. As he grew older he got stone-like in his acting, and this is one of his more granite-faced performances. Luckily for us they also cast Curt Jurgens, who plays a good Nazi for once. He is the standout in this production (human standout, that is; the horses are the real stars). He gives a bravura performance as a German General caught up in the atrocities of war with no idea how he could have ever gone along with the Nazis as long as he has. His eyes seem to bleed pain, and he gives the film a welcome dose of humanity as well as the viewpoint of a person who normally follows orders but who has had enough of doing what he doesn't believe in. Lilli Palmer plays the Colonel's wife, and she is more than adequate to the role.
Eddie Albert is used mostly for comic relief as a horse trainer, even singing a Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman song for us; fortunately he's good no matter what he does. And, an extremely young James Franciscus is an Army Major who plays a big role in interesting Patton in the horses, and also in liberating the mares and foals from a Russian onslaught in Czechoslovakia (and also a huge lot of American GI's being held prisoner in the same place); his 1000-watt smile is a welcome addition.
Bottom line, this is a wonderful film for the entire family, if you can get the kids to sit still through the slow beginning; the older they are the easier it will be. It's a film about a little-publicized event in WWII, and shows how the two sides worked side-by-side to save a treasured piece of Viennese history. The horses are gorgeous, and we don't see near enough of them, which is the only real detriment to this fine film about the marvelous White Stallions of Vienna and the Spanish Riding School.
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