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On September 1, 2015, actor Dean Jones passed away at the age of 84. Disney fans were quite saddened by this as the lovable actor with “boyish good looks” was a staple in many live-action Disney films acting in 10 total!
To pay tribute to the man, I thought it appropriate to review one of his films. I’ve already reviewed one of his films on this blog already, The Love Bug. This time, I’m reviewing The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit.
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the movie begins, we’re introduced to the character of Fred Bolton, played by the late Dean Jones.
He’s actually an ad executive whose job is on the line as he has to think of a new way to promote an indigestion medicine called Aspercel. He and his team put their heads together to come up with a new scheme to please their boss, Mr. Dugan, played by Fred Clark.
None of their ideas (including a sort of visual aid demonstration mechanism)
cuts the mustard, so Mr. Dugan gives Fred 24 hours to come up with something.
As Fred drives home that evening, not only is his mind busy with thinking up a new scheme for Mr. Dugan, but he’s also received a $900 bill from the S.J. Clemens Riding Academy, a horse riding academy that his daughter attends. Fred finds the amount outrageous and demands to speak with Mr. S.J. Clemens…whom he soon discovers is actually a Miss.
Fred apologizes for his rash behavior and presumption and explains to Miss Suzie Clemens, played by Diane Baker, that he has work troubles on his mind. Suzie doesn’t mind, but can’t do anything about the $900 as it refers to many late payments that Fred hasn’t been able to make yet.
Fred’s not only been tight on money to pay for the lessons, but he hasn’t even gone to watch his daughter, Helen, played by Ellen Janov, ride. Apparently, she’s quite good. Later that night when they’re home, she even hesitantly asks her father if she can have a horse of her own.
Understandably, Fred’s quite against the idea since he can barely afford to make ends meet as it is and pay the $900 for the riding lessons much less buy a horse and maintain it. But, soon an idea festers in his head and he figures out a way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.
He convinces Mr. Dugan to sponsor a horse named Aspercel that will partake in horse riding competitions. This will bring the name of “Aspercel” to the upper class who follows horse riding. And he nominates Helen to be the one who will ride Aspercel. Mr. Dugan thinks the idea is genius and Fred’s happy that his job is safe and that his daughter can get a horse without costing him a cent!
They soon get the horse with the help and advice of Suzie, and Helen and Fred try to get acquainted with it. Everything seems to go fine until the first competition wherein Helen loses much to Fred’s dismay. Apparently, as good as Helen is, she’s just not good enough. He then asks Suzie if she’s willing to train and work with Helen every day including weekends so that Helen’s performance can improve. Suzie agrees to this and the results prove positive as Helen soon starts winning further competitions!
But, Helen doesn’t really want to partake in competitions. When she overhears a conversation between her dad and Mr. Dugan about how the latter needs Helen to win the remaining three competitions and advance to the finals, she silently does her best to continue on and appease her father.
Whilst Helen tries her best to please her dad, Fred, on the other hand, is too focused on his work to see what’s going on with his daughter. It’s only when a friend of Helen’s, Ronnie, played by a young Kurt Russell, tells Fred how Helen feels about all this does Fred understand and tells his daughter that she doesn’t have to ride Aspercel anymore.
No, that’s not the end of the movie. You see, Aspercel has made it to the finals, to nobody’s surprise, so he has to be ridden by somebody. Who should this somebody be? Well, professional horse trainer, Suzie, of course!
She’s willing to do this and even gets a fellow horse trainer friend (and ex-fiancé) Archer Madison, played by Lloyd Bochner, to help her train. This somewhat bothers Fred as he and Suzie have been getting along over the past couple of weeks and he’s even developed romantic feelings for her. It’s implied that she also has feelings for Fred, so Fred is somewhat jealous that her ex-fiancé is back in the picture.
Anyway, to nobody’s surprise again, Suzie and Aspercel manage to win the final competition and everybody’s ecstatic! Suzie even shares a victory kiss with Archer which Fred notices causing him to feel disappointed and miserable. But, all is set aright when Suzie explains to Fred that she just kissed Archer to thank him for all that he did and that it was nothing more than that.
Fred’s happiness level increases after hearing that and the movie ends with the two of them deciding to get married and taking a picture together with their winning horse, Aspercel!
And that was The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit and it’s a very simple film! It’s not a film that’s plot-heavy, but does have enough charm to get you invested in this story about an ad exec, his daughter, his love interest, and a horse.
The acting is done well, with Dean Jones being the ever lovable man that we know him to be! The horse competition scenes are done quite well too and in complete silence with no background music so that you can literally feel the suspense of the situation!
And while not necessarily a full-out comedy, the film does have that classic Disney humor element to it. There’s a scene where Fred goes after a run away Aspercel and is arrested under suspicion for kidnapping his own horse.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable film that probably should have a few more fans than it currently has. And it’s a great way to pay tribute to the late Mr. Dean Jones.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 31/35 = 88.57% (B+) !
The next review will be posted on October 19th.