The All-Too-Oft-Unnoticed Actors

     While watching the past films of this semester, I have noticed the unspoken actors. The actors I am referring to are the equine actors. Though their parts are often small and unnoticed, they play a major role in telling the actual story. These equine actors can add credit to the story line or take some creditability away from a film. In this essay I will discuss the horses in the films Wuthering Heights, The Innocents, and A Doll's House, and how they played roles in the films.

     The first horses are from the 1939 film Wuthering Heights, directed William Wyler and based on Emily Brontė's 1847 novel. They are only seen during the first few scenes of the film. The scene I would like to refer to is the one with the children (Rex Downing and Sarita Wooten) riding in the hills. This is the point at which poor planning on the part of the set director lost some credit in this film. The novel is set in England; but, when the children come riding across the hills, they are riding the horses in western saddle--western as in "cowboy" style saddles. This type of saddle would have never have been a part of the English countryside. These animals to my best knowledge are typical American Quarter Horses or quarter horses cross-bred. These horses are used very often in Hollywood. The horses as a bred are easily trained, therefore allowing different untrained riders to ride them.

     The subject of getting along with a horse leads me to the next film The Innocents, directed in 1961 by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. The part that the pony played in the film was very small but added a lot of detail and a bit of drama. The governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), arrives; and Flora (Pamela Franklin), the young girl, is excited about seeing Miles' (Martin Stephens) pony. Mentioning this shows how much money the uncle (Michael Redgrave) spends on the children. The cost of the pony, plus the money to keep one, is a large sum. This could possibly be seen as a form of hush money, anything to keep the children happy and quite. The drama the pony adds to the film is created while Miles is riding the pony. The all-white pony has its small nuzzle pointed in the air, as well as a scared look in its eyes. This small glimpse of the boy laughing while roughly riding his scared pony heightens the sense of good (white pony) verses evil (Miles with dark hair).

     The third group of horses I wish to discuss consists of the sled horses in the 1973 film A Doll's House. Director Joseph Losey picked a wonderful setting in Roros, Norway, true to Henrik Ibsen's famous 1879 play. The horses in this film are Norwegian Draft horses. They originated in Norway due to the animals' ability to deal with the cold weather. One can identify this bred of horse by its color. Normally the body of the horse is a light brown to tan, while the horse's legs, mane, tail, and tips of the ears are a rich black. By having authentic surroundings, a director adds to the richness of his film.

     All aspects of film are very important. Even some of the smallest details can capture a viewer and reel that individual in. On the other hand, that same small detail, if overlooked, can lead a viewer away. I believe that all equine actors have the ability to work both ways. Though the horses' parts are often small, they should never be overlooked.

Rachel Zaudke

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