Friend of the Family [1995]

My Friend Flicka: This gorgeous 1943 family film stars Roddy McDowell as a Colorado rancher's son who takes a shine to a colt named Flicka and chooses to train her. The boy's father (Preston Foster) isn't happy about the idea: the horse is an offspring of a stormy mare who may not be right in the head. For a while, Flicka seems determined to prove the rancher's point, fiercely resisting young McDowell's efforts at domestication. But persistence and love win the day, and Flicka grows up to be a magnificent animal and friend. The film was shot by director Harold Schuster and cinematographer Dewey Wrigley as if for the ages, marrying such perfect elements as a Technicolor sweep of the beautiful Rocky Mountains setting with a wonderful story, plus McDowell's charismatic earnestness. Based on the Mary O'Hara novel, this film was popular enough in its time to inspire a couple of sequels, though the original best stands up as a perennially worthy adventure tale for kids ages 5 and up. --Tom Keogh Thunderhead, Son of Flicka: A sequel to the wildly popular, heart-warming children's classic My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead stars the original winsome young Roddy McDowall as the horse-lover against all odds. The sequel is every bit as touching, involving, and misty-eye-inducing as the original film. Thunderhead, a headstrong albino colt, is the son of the mare Flicka, and McDowall's Ken McLaughlin sets out to find out what this wild thing can do. Thunderhead, when given his head, can fly as though winged, so Ken decides to enter Thunderhead in some horse races. But it becomes clear that Thunderhead can fly only if he's free. A tragedy threatens the sweet world that Thunderhead and Ken have created, and only that magical love between child and animal can overcome the stumbling blocks. Thunderhead, Son of Flicka is a worthy successor to the original film, and a touching family film for horse lovers of all ages. --A.T. Hurley Green Grass of Wyoming: The final installment in Mary O'Hara's landmark horse saga that includes MY Friend Flicka, The Green Grass of Wyoming is a worthy valentine to the love of horses and the wild America they represented in the mid-20th century. Robert Arthur replaces Roddy McDowall as Ken McLaughlin, the boy horse whisperer who connects on a subliminal level with four-legged critters. The equine star is Crown Jewel, a harness-racing trotter for whom Ken has hopes of championships and financial windfalls. But Jewel has something else on her mind--love, for the stallion Thunderhead (star of O'Hara's second installment, Thunderhead, Son of Flicka. Arthur is a talented, charming successor to McDowall, and the breathtaking scenery and cinematography will charm even those film fans who aren't big horse lovers. (Charles G. Clark was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography.) Burl Ives makes the most of his sidekick role as Gus, and Lloyd Nolan is sympathetic as Ken's financially struggling dad. Extras include a detailed featurette on the life of Mary O'Hara. --A.T. Hurley

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