Weekend Movie to Watch: The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit
A 1968 Walt Disney classic!
Horse Nation speaks …
And I listen!
The movie opens with Fred Bolton struggling to solve two problems: satisfying his horse crazed daughter and designing an ad campaign for the stomach medicine Aspercel. In a flash of brilliance, a gimmick is born.
Fred’s boss likes the idea, believing it will appeal to a “higher class” of people via subliminal messages and gives Fred a $5000 budget to buy Helen a show horse. Once the horse arrives, Fred lures him off the trailer with a beer, cementing their awkward friendship for the rest of the film.
Helen and Aspercel’s first show begins well enough, but takes a turn for the worst with a runout at fence #3. When she is excused from the arena he yells, “Wasn’t good enough?!? Where’s that umpire?” With that comment he’s well on his way to being a proper horse show dad!
To improve her seat Helen starts daily lessons with trainer, SJ. The lessons include running barrel patterns bareback, ending with a crossrail.
A month into the training, Helen and Aspy are jiving. Cue the musical montage of awesome sauce!
Helen and Aspercel are racking up the championships, but Fred’s boss still isn’t sure it’s enough. He’s not getting the brand recognition he hoped for on the local show circuit, so he demands Helen and Aspercel compete at the Washington International Horse Show. Under the extreme pressure, Helen begins to buckle. She tells her dad she doesn’t want to show anymore!
Will Helen find the courage to take Aspercel to the big leagues? Will the ad campaign be a success for Fred? You’ll just have to watch and see!
There is a lot to love about this Disney classic. Dean Jones plays the clueless yet charismatic father, Fred Bolton, perfectly. I loved the comic relief moments, like Fred’s constant need for antihistamines around the barn and his penchant for sharing beer with Aspy. In fact, most of the best moments of the film are with Fred and the horse, rather than Helen.
Like when they bickered in the living room…
Or when Fred tried to ride him bareback in boxers and fuzzy slippers…
Or when they did an impromptu XC course while evading the police…
The hidden gem of the film was a very young Kurt Russell playing Ronny, Helen’s potential puppy love. The riding in the film was well done and believable. The old-school jumper classes were fantastic to watch, some of which appeared to be footage from actual competitions. I unfortunately could not find any information about the starring horse. IMDB lists his name as Albarado, with his two stand-ins named Could Be and Sir Winston. The horse is lovely and talented.
My one caveat is I didn’t care for the trainer, SJ, and her ticking biological clock. The characterization is a cliché from days of old that will surely infuriate every modern female viewer.
Still, this is a great classic film for the family to watch. I give The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit 3 ½ Golden Horseshoes.
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