Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)
Robert Taylor delivers the line as he teams with Walt Disney productions to enact the story of the struggles to save the Lipizzan horses during the final days of world war two. With Taylor narrating our tale begins in the spring of 1945 in Austria. He’s a colonel in the German army in charge of the Spanish Riding School that houses the special breed of horses.
Allied forces are closing in and with the help of his kindly General Curt Jurgens, Taylor moves the horses to Vienna to sit out the war. Once on the move, Taylor and his company including Eddie Albert will encounter airplane raids and the need to commandeer boxcars on trains to move the herd of stallions. Complicating matters is the fact that the mares have possibly fallen into Russian hands in Czechoslovakia.
Once in Vienna Taylor assumes the life of a civilian thanks to Jurgens releasing him and his riders from active duty. Just in time as the U.S. forces and James Franciscus arrive and thankfully know of Taylor and appreciate the horses he has struggled to keep safe from harm.
Turning up as General George S. Patton is John Larch a few years before George C. Scott’s name became synonymous with the real life General on screen. With a little help from Larch/Patton, Taylor just might recover the mares and save the Lipizzan lineage from extinction.
This feel good movie done Disney style features plenty of horsemanship and a couple of solid performances by co-stars Jurgens and as Taylor’s wife, Lilli Palmer.
“I don’t want to be judged a Nazi.” With the German war machine floundering, Jurgens has a fine scene reminiscing about the past. Before the world fell apart. He longs for simpler times but knows he is doomed to the inevitable end that befits a General once the coming surrender takes place. Due to his heritage, Jurgens was repeatedly called upon to play German officers but never allowed his roles to become evil caricatures. Look no farther then his great performance in The Enemy Below from 1957.
The presence of Lilli Palmer is a soothing one. She presents a necessary balance to Taylor’s hardened war weary colonel. She keeps him in line when he becomes to harsh with his young riders and is wise enough to urge him to go easy in his desire to retrieve the Lipizzan mares. Play the political game.
Sure Taylor comes off as a rather wooden character but still he commands the screen when on camera. He has that star quality about him that the camera loved. He casts an imposing figure as a German officer decked out in uniform and the customary full length black leather overcoat. Miscast perhaps. But his stern performance plays nicely off of Miss Palmer. Having moved to television, this was Taylor`s first theatrical film since 1959.
Assuming good old Uncle Walt put his stamp on this production, it`s notable that despite all the bombs and ground fighting near the climax of the film there are no fatalities on camera and barely any carnage visible. It`s perhaps the most explosive battle ever filmed with nary a casualty in sight.
Far from Taylor`s heyday it`s still a chance to see one of the true stars of the golden era one more time. Available on DVD thru the Disney line.