Just so you know, we watched the 1978 schmaltz-fest, International Velvet, so you won’t have to.
In case you’re wondering, the film is about a newly-orphaned teenager (Tatum O’Neal), who is shipped to England to live with people she doesn’t know, namely her aunt (Nanette Newman) and common-law husband (Christopher Plummer).
It’s not an easy adjustment. When they first meet, O’Neal tells Newman, “I didn’t want to come here.” Then she tells Plummer she can’t call him “Uncle” because he’s not married to her aunt. “So call me Mr. Seaton,” he quips.
International Velvet is, in a way, one of those Girl-Is-Saved-By-A-Horse movies. In this particular film, O’Neal gets a horse and begins competing. Before you know it, she’s at the Olympics and (spoiler!) is instrumental in winning Gold for the British team.
It sounds like a better movie than it is. Even though the cinematography is stunning, this film has a cringing late-1970s soundtrack, as well as a disjointed storyline.
Strangely, there are two things International Velvet refuses to Do Without, the first being narration, which is supplied by three different characters.
Newman is the first narrator, and her lines are nearly as overwrought as the music. At first it’s difficult to see the point of this blather, but we soon realize she’s a middle-aged woman who was once famous in her youth and hasn’t gotten Past It. Note her telling observation of O’Neal’s success: “I hoped she wouldn’t win too early, and afterwards have nowhere to go.”
Next in the narration line-up is Anthony Hopkins, as the Olympic trainer/coach, and he’s followed by a professional sportscaster, who, unsurprisingly, is the best narrator of the three.
The second thing this film cannot Do Without is Christopher Plummer in sweaters.
Despite a rather Rocky Start between O’Neal and Plummer, the two become friends and allies. Plummer’s character is a genuine and amusing fellow, a writer who sets aside meaningful projects so he can write tawdry stories (under a nom de plume) to pay for O’Neal’s equestrian training.
Plummer is one of the best things about this film. He’s sorely missed when he’s absent from the screen; his character doesn’t stew in his emotions, and he accepts O’Neal on her own terms.
Besides, he’s a rather dashing figure in those MGM wardrobe sweaters, which he wears most of the time. We’ve shown you some of these cozy items, but here are a few more:
As you can see, Plummer isn’t the only one in this film who wears sweaters, but he does wear them more than anyone else. His character is an author, after all, and you know the old Hollywood cliché: Movie authors must don sweaters.
International Velvet is the sequel to the Oscar-winning National Velvet (1944), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. In the 1944 version, Taylor plays a 12-year-old girl named Velvet Brown, who wins a horse and ends up competing in the Grand National.
Filmmakers asked Taylor to star in the sequel as the middle-aged Velvet, but she declined. Newman, who was married to director Bryan Forbes, was cast instead.
We’ve probably dissuaded you from seeing this film. If so, our Work here is Done.
If, however, you are a Christopher Plummer or equestrian sports fan – or a Sweater Aficionado – you may want to slog your way through International Velvet. You can see it for free HERE.
Gill, this one’s for you.
This post is part of CHARISMATIC CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER Blogathon, hosted by Pale Writer and Realweegiemidget Reviews.
International Velvet: starring Tatum O’Neal, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Hopkins. Written & directed by Bryan Forbes. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1978, Colour, 127 mins.