Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Classic Nick Wed. 4 – Black Beauty

This week I would like to take a look at one of literature's most beloved, and well known, characters of which several book series, movies, two television shows and now a stage play have been based. Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Black Beauty, a beautiful, intelligent, lightening fast, black horse.

Now if you’re like me and have (admittedly) never read the Ann Sewell novel “Black Beauty” then the 1972 British children's television drama series is the perfect introduction into the wonderful world of Black Beauty.

The series, which was shown by ITV in the United Kingdom between 1972 and 1974, was produced by London Weekend Television and distributed internationally by London Weekend International. And even though this wonderful series first premiered in the UK in the early 1970’s it became a part of Classic (80’s) Nickelodeon when the network aired it in the very early to the mid 1980’s

In a "continuation" of the Anna Sewell novel we first meet Black Beauty in the series premier “The Fugitive” where Samson Ryder is breaking in his uncle’s horses. Beauty throws Samson then runs away and is discovered by Vicky and Kevin Goren while they are exploring their new surroundings. Beauty has been badly beaten, his eye is infected and he has the chills after his long run.

The children take him home for their father, widower Dr. James Gorden, to mend but when Samson discovers that the Gordens have ‘his horse’ he attempts to reclaim him only to find out that he must recover before the doctor will allow him to be moved. But of course by this time the children have fallen in love with him and beg their father to buy him from the Ryders, which he is unable to do because of the horse’s great value.

By the end of the first episode Dr. Gorden saves the life of old Mr. Ryder and in return Mr. Ryder gives the black horse to the Gorden family. It is at the end of this first episode that Vicky names him claiming that his name should, “describe him”, thus settling on the name “Black Beauty”.

From that point on the series focuses on the Gorden Family and their everyday life as they do their best to help their friends and neighbors, always with the aid of Black Beauty.

As stated above Dr. James Gorden is a widower but has employed a strong, but kind-hearted, woman named Amy Winthrop as his housekeeper. Very little is actually known about either of these characters but in the second season we are introduced to Ned Lewis who is Amy’s nephew. It is also in this second series where we are introduced to Dr. Gordon’s second daughter Jenny, “who has been away at school and has only just returned” however we do not see Victoria again.

The show was cancelled in 1974 but in 1990 new life was breathed into the series with the arrival of “The New Adventures of Black Beauty” which, like it’s predecessor, lasted a full two seasons from 1990-1992 however it is only the first season which is directly tied to the original series picking up 20 years after the first series. It stared Stacy Dorning and William Lucas reprising their roles as Dr. Jenny (Gordon) Denning and Dr. James Gordon with both actors appearing in the first season only from 1990-1991 for a total of 26 episodes.

Both series featured the theme song, "Galloping Home", which was written by Denis King and performed by the London String Chorale and both are currently available on DVD.

Personal Note:
I remember watching this on Nickelodeon in the very early 1980’s so I was around 12 or 13 when I use to watch it. Back then I liked it because Beauty was a beautiful black horse, Vicky and Jenny were pretty young girls who I wanted as my friends or sisters, Kevin, Ned and Albert were kinda cute and Dr. Gorden was so handsome. It was the perfect show for girls of that age but now that I’m an adult I still think all of those things but now I can see what I didn’t back then.

This show wasn’t just entertaining, it was educational as well, it taught children how to respect their elders (something that they are very lax in these days), it taught them not to lie no matter what the consequences, it taught them to always be kind to animals and not to be afraid to get involved and help your neighbors. This is one of the most wholesome shows that I would personal allow my children, whenever I have some, to sit and watch all day if they wanted too because of the strong moral values it contains.

Original Series Main Cast

Dr. James Gordon – William Lucas (52 episodes, 1972-1974)
Amy Winthrop – Charlotte Mitchell (52 episodes, 1972-1974)
Kevin Gordon – Roderick Shaw (51 episodes, 1972-1974)
Squire Armstrong – Michael Culver (31 episodes, 1972-1974)
Vicky Gordon – Judi Bowker (26 episodes, 1972-1973)
Jenny Gordon – Stacy Dorning (25 episodes, 1973-1974)
Police Constable Dickins – Kenneth Thornett (16 episodes, 1972-1974)
Albert Clifton – Tony Maiden (14 episodes, 1972-1974)
Ned Lewis – Stephen Garlick (11 episodes, 1973-1974)

Main Cast – New Adventures of Black Beauty

Dr. Jenny Denning – Stacy Dorning (26 episodes, 1990-1991)
Manfred Groenwald – Gedeon Burkhard (26 episodes, 1990-1991)
Dr. James Gordon – William Lucas (26 episodes, 1990-1991)
Victoria 'Vicky' Denning – Amber McWilliams (26 episodes, 1990-1991)
Frank Coats – David Bradshaw (24 episodes, 1990-1991)
Hilda Burton – Ilona Rodgers (24 episodes, 1990-1991)
Samuel Burton – Bill Kerr (24 episodes, 1990-1991)
Isambard –  Claire Chitham (9 episodes, 1990)
Constable Carmody – Andrew Robertt (5 episodes, 1990-1991)
Lewis Duncan – Timothy Raby (3 episodes, 1990)
Farmer – Bruce Hopkins (3 episodes, 1990-1991)
Lord Fordham – Frederick Treves (2 episodes, 1990)
Nigel – Christian Burgess (2 episodes, 1990)

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