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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:

Anthony Pelissier (as Anthony Pélissier)

Writers:

D.H. Lawrence (short story), Anthony Pelissier (screenplay) (as Anthony Pélissier)
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Cast

Cast overview:
Valerie Hobson ... Hester Grahame
John Howard Davies ... Paul Grahame
Ronald Squire ... Oscar Cresswell
John Mills ... Bassett
Hugh Sinclair ... Richard Grahame
Charles Goldner Charles Goldner ... Mr. Tsaldouris
Susan Richards ... Nannie
Cyril Smith 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 house. 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:

Exciting As Your Wildest Dreams! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Opening credits: The events and characters portrayed in this film are fictitious and any similarity to any incident, name or individual is co-incidental. See more »

Quotes

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

Version of The Rocking Horse Winner (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

Silent Night
(uncredited)
Music by Franz Xaver Gruber
English lyrics by John Freeman Young
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User Reviews

A Little Closer Look at an Unforgettable One-of-a-Kind
27 July 2014 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

I've seen a few rocking horses in my time, but none that looked like this one. With its predatory teeth, gaping mouth, and flaring eyes, it looks more like Halloween than X-mas. No wonder it's got supposedly demonic powers. But then the social-climbing parents need help of the monetary kind. Mom (Hobson) isn't happy with just a big house and servants. She wants top status among the British upper-class, and by golly she'll spend whatever it takes, affordable or not. Meanwhile, Dad (Sinclair) tries to keep up by losing at gambling, while Uncle Oscar (Squire) is finally fed up with doling out money from the family trust. That leaves the kids (Davies, et.al.) to make out as best they can with neglectful parents. So where will the money come from, and how will the kids connect with Mom. Enter an infernal toy.

I can see the premise being done on the Twilight Zone, but certainly not to better effect. With his rather narrow eyes, little Paul (Davies) is positively scary when demonically whipping both himself and the wooden horse into a sweaty frenzy. A thousand gory films could not register more strongly than these inspired scenes. It's a unnerving spectre that moves the entire film into a special category of its own.

Surprisingly, the suspense of the rocking horse is not built up in the movie's main part. Instead, the film's majority deals with more ordinary matters: placing bets, pawning dresses, Uncle Oscar, Bassett (Mills) and Paul. Thus a natural contrast is laid for the demonic scenes. Nonetheless, the acting is first-rate, though Sinclair pretty much fades into the background as Dad, while Hobson's mom takes center stage in sleekly determined fashion. Then again, Mills is especially winning as the humane handy man. Happily, he furnishes needed companionship for the lonely boy. And, given the parent's upper-class pretensions, I detect a comment on the effects of Britain's traditional class system.

To me, however, it's never clear whether the whispering comes from the house or from Paul's internalizing of the family's money troubles. But, either way, the never-ending need for picking race-horse winners drives poor Paul into continuing his rocking horse frenzy. The tragedy lies in the personal toll this takes on him for the sake of his generally oblivious mother. Still, it is possible, unless I missed something, that Paul is just lucky picking winners rather than rocking horse possessed. After all, he wants to think he's lucky and maybe he is. In that case, no supernatural would be involved. Instead the upshot would be how an imaginative boy internalizes overriding family greed. In that case, I think the ending would be even more tragic. I may be mistaken, but I don't think the screenplay forecloses this second possibility. Either way, however, those final scenes are genuinely memorable.

Speaking of endings, it's certainly not one Hollywood's Motion Picture Code would have permitted. Good for the British. Because what we're left with is a truly remarkable one-of-a- kind, whose moral is as timely now as 6 decades ago. Don't miss it.


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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 November 1949 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Amartiai goneon See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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