Black Beauty (1946)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Black Beauty (1946) Movie Poster Image
Adaptation focuses on young girl and romance, not the horse.
  • NR
  • 1946
  • 74 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Shoeing and saddling a horse are shown briefly. How to bridle a horse is shown. Breaking a horse to the bridle and saddle are briefly shown, but specific details and the amount of time it really takes is glossed over. Although it's not a prominent theme in this version, the things we use horses for and how we treat them are touched on. Life lessons and character-building that come from caring for horses are touched on: that it'll teach you patience, self discipline, and responsibility.

Positive Messages

You have to treat your animals with kindness and take good care of them. If you put your mind to something and really stick to it, you can do it. Don't try and become someone else because it'll only make you unhappy; be yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroine Anne, who seems to be about 16 and is described as "on the verge of womanhood," models treating animals with kindness and patience. She's a bit of a tomboy and occasionally gets into trouble for things like sneaking out to the barn after bedtime. She models tremendous tenacity and determination in refusing to give up the search for Black Beauty. Her father is overly stern, but loving and emotionally available for Anne. She also has a loving relationship with the housekeeper Blake in the absence of her mother, who died before the story begins.

Violence & Scariness

Black Beauty is shown being whipped and abused on two occasions, one of which shows four or five severe blows with a whip. There's a scary barn fire with horses in peril. In the end they're all rescued, but not without further peril to Anne and Black Beauty. A shotgun is heard off camera implying that Black Beauty was put down because of a bad leg, but right after it's shown not to be the case. A brief fistfight is shown from a medium distance with one or two punches thrown.

Sexy Stuff

Mr. and Mrs. Dixon lean in and start to kiss as the barn door closes.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults have wine on a special occasion, but aren't shown actually drinking it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this version of Black Beauty veers far from the classic book by the same name. The plot revolves entirely around Anne. Black Beauty is seen only as her pet, in the context of how owning and caring for him shapes her character and provides a framework for her romance with Mr. Dixon. That being said, the importance of being kind to animals remains a theme, though not a prominent one. There's some violence when Black Beauty is shown being whipped, and there's a scary barn fire that's safely resolved. The version available for streaming is colorized.

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What's the story?

Anne (Mona Freeman) is given the newborn Black Beauty as a birthday present, along with all the responsibility for his care and training. She learns how to handle him with patience and self discipline, but it's not until the dashing Mr. Dixon (Richard Denning) literally leaps into her life that she learns how to apply those traits to herself and to humans. While she's away at finishing school, Black Beauty is sold for a work horse. When she returns to find him gone, she's determined to track him down no matter what.

Is it any good?

As a cute, horsey romance, this version of BLACK BEAUTY is mildly entertaining. Mona Freeman is lively and engaging as a tomboy who learns to give people, and herself, the same patience and understanding she gives her favorite horse. Richard Denning is a handsome, dashing, winning love interest. Although the content is appropriate for younger viewers, it's probably better suited to older kids and tweens, especially horse lovers, who'll appreciate watching Anne discover her romantic feelings for Mr. Dixon and learn how to handle them as well as she handles Black Beauty. Note that the version available for streaming has been colorized, and not particularly well, though it will probably make it more engaging and relatable for kids who aren't used to black and white.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their favorite pets. Do you have one? Do you love it as much as Anne loves Black Beauty?

  • Why are movies and books about horses so popular? What can they teach us about ourselves and how we treat others?

  • What were horses used for in the in 1880s, when the movie takes place? Do we use them for any of the same things nowadays?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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