Family / Romance
113 minutes / 1968
Horses, humor, and a little romance will make this one a favorite among the preteen girls in your family. Frederick Bolton is a single dad (no mention is made of mom, and it’s probably most logical to assume she died some years back) and an advertising executive, and trying to do his best to juggle his responsibilities. So when his daughter Helen asks him for a horse so she can stand a better chance in the horse jumping competitions, and his client wants an inventive way to promote their product, he hits on quite the creative solution. His daughter will get her horse, and they’ll name it Aspercel, after their client’s product, a remedy for upset stomachs. There is one hitch, though: to make the client happy, Aspercel will have to make regular appearances in the winner’s circle, so as to get the publicity they’re after.
That’s the crisis the movie pivots around. Helen is quite talented, and with a little help from her riding instructor, she’s got just what it takes to win. But when she finds out there her dad’s job depends on her winning, she can’t handle that pressure. And, fortunately, her dad doesn’t want her to have to deal with it either, even if it does cost him his job. This could have been a dumb movie if dear old dad hadn’t stepped up… because it did take him a bit of time to do so. But a loving, if occasionally clueless, father he is indeed.
But how is everything going to turn out all right in the end? Well, I won’t give it all away, but I will share that the riding instructor, Miss Suzie Clemens, is both willing and able to ride to the rescue!
One odd moment in the film occurs near the end, when Suzie gratefully plants a big kiss on one man, right before she becomes engaged to another. We’re not the only ones confused, but the confusion lasts only for a few moments, and perhaps we have to write it off as different cultural habits?
If you’re wondering about the odd title, it doesn’t come from anything in the film itself. The horse never wears a gray suit or anything else gray either (though I guess he’s kind of a speckled gray himself). The title is borrowed from a movie of 12 years earlier, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Why they borrowed it, I don’t know, as the two films are completely unrelated, and intended for different target audiences too.
Some critics faulted The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit for predictability, and it is guilty as charged. But for a family film, that’s not such a bad thing – the kids will know where it’s going and enjoy the ride. There is also fodder here for parents to discuss how competitive is too competitive, and how sports can’t be allowed to take over our lives. So, overall, a nice night’s entertainment.
While the DVD is readily available (maybe at your local public library) there doesn’t seem to be a trailer available online.