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The Black Stallion(1979)

Ranked by many alongside National Velvet (1944) as one of the greatest horse films ever made, this picture weaves a magical tale of a boy shipwrecked on a desert island with an Arabian horse. When they’re rescued, the boy turns his best friend into a racing horse with the help of a retired trainer (Mickey Rooney, the jockey from National Velvet). Producer Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to Walter Farley’s 1941 children’s novel, a classic that inspired a 20-book series, in hopes of creating a children’s studio film division. Coppola had produced a number of projects before this film but garnered a winner by trusting first-time feature director Carroll Ballard. Working with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, Ballard created indelible images of the boy and the horse’s island life. He also had the wisdom to cast Rooney, who earned his fourth Oscar nomination, and newcomer Kelly Reno, whose riding skills and rapport with the horse, played by Texas champion Cass Ole, brought a sense of truth to the film. Sound editor Alan Splet won an Oscar for his innovative work, which included attaching a microphone to the horse’s underside to capture his breathing and hoof beats during the climactic race scene. (d. Carroll Ballard, 118m, 35mm)

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