Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Horse In The Gray Flannel Suit (1968)

Dean Jones stars once again in a light and amusing live action Disney movie, this time playing advertising executive Fred Bolton. Fred has two big problems in his life. His boss (Fred Clark) gives him just 24 hours to come up with a great new advertising campaign for Aspercel and his daughter (Ellen Janov) desperately wants a horse. Amazingly, Fred thinks that he can solve both problems at once by buying a horse for his daughter, naming it "Aspercel" and seeing that name spread far and wide as the horse wins tournament after tournament. No pressure then. Hopefully, trainer Suzie Clemens (Diane Baker) can help because Fred really wants to do well and keep his job. Mind you, he also wants his daughter to be happy above all else and when he's told of just how the pressure is affecting her by her young would-be suitor (Kurt Russell) he has to reconsider his entire plan.

Directed by Norman Tokar and written by Louis Pelletier (based on the book by Eric Hatch), The Horse In The Gray Flannel Suit may be a little too bland and twee for modern audiences but it still has enough going for it to make it worth a watch. The performances are all decent and the big finale makes you genuinely tense along with the characters who are waiting to see what their fate will be.

Dean Jones has always struck me as James Stewart with less watchability but he carved himself quite a comfortable little niche as Disney's leading reckless adult for a while, his performance here is just as good as any other that he gave. Diane Baker is very good as the horse trainer who grows closer and closer to the family, Ellen Janov is likeable enough as the daughter who suddenly finds her dream coming true, with a catch, and Kurt Russell doesn't have a whole lot of screentime but does well in his supporting role. Fred Clark is also very good as the demanding boss while Lurene Tuttle tags along as Aunt Martha and Lloyd Bochner comes along to cause some tension as Archer Madison, another horse trainer and a former boyfriend of Miss Clemens.

The whole thing is silly but no less enjoyable for it. Many of the scenes featuring lead characters on horseback make use of unconvincing stunt doubles but that just, somehow, adds to the charm. The movie isn't a Disney Classic (no matter what they put all over the DVD cover) but it remains a pleasant enough time-waster that you might still find capable of amusing the kids for a couple of hours.


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