One of the most popular books in the English speaking world Black Beauty has been done many times on the big screen and small. One would think however that in doing a TV mini-series the entire story would have been put on screen. And one would also think it would have stayed with its English origins instead of being transferred to America of the 1880s in Maryland as the scene of the story.
Saying that though the story in America still retains its charm for young audiences everywhere. I remember reading it way back in my youth and watching the film I forgot the English origins of the story as this film was that good.
The novel and the film is written from the point of view of the horse as we see him go through his life running into various specimens of humankind who owned and treated him with either abuse or kindness. Remember in the 1880s the horse was not a pet, he was an animal used for work be it racing or as we find later on Black Beauty's life as transportation or a work animal. The ASPCA was getting founded right around this time, but it certainly did not have the clout to stop animal abuse.
Black Beauty was born on a horse farm owned by Martin Milner and Eileen Brennan. The horse becomes the favorite of their son Ike Eisenmann. Circumstances force them to sell Black Beauty and the horse passes through several owners of varying temperaments regarding their animals.
A nice array of familiar names and faces dot the cast of Black Beauty. But I would say that standing out in the cast are Kristoffer Tabori as the grown up Ike Eisenmann who even after he goes to college and becomes a lawyer never gives up his quest to find his childhood chum. Tabori brings a real passion as a lover of that special horse to his performance. I would also include Warren Oates as the Washington, DC hack driver who owns Black Beauty for a spell, Mel Ferrer as his last and very cruel owner who owns a stable of horses that he rents to different cabdrivers until they're worn out, William Devane as a kindly Irish groom, and Diana Muldaur who is a society grand dame who is most precise in how her horses look and act.
Black Beauty is still a children's classic and I would recommend it highly for young audiences and quite a few adults will enjoy this as well.
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