In WWII Austria, Col. Alois Podhajsky must protect his beloved Lipizzaner stallions and make sure that they are surrendered into the right hands. But Patton's something of a horse fancier and can help...if he sees the stallions perform.
Robert Taylor ... Col. Podhajsky
Lilli Palmer ... Vedena Podhajsky
Curd Jürgens ... Gen. Tellheim (as Curt Jurgens)
Eddie Albert ... Rider Otto
James Franciscus ... Maj. Hoffman
John Larch ... General George S. Patton, Jr.
Brigitte Horney ... Countess Arco-Valley
Philip Abbott ... Col. Reed
Charles Régnier ... Gen. Stryker
Erik Schumann ... Capt. Ranhoff
Douglas Fowley ... Lt. General Walton H. Walker
Philo Hauser ... Dispatcher
Max Haufler ... Engineer
Michael Janisch ... Refugee Leader
Despite a rather slow start, this film is absolutely classic Disney and well worth the time spent. Everyone should know the story of the Lipizzaner stallions and Col. Podhajsky, the man who risked everything to save them. The stallion's flight from Vienna at the tail end of WWII, and the fact that General Patton and the 3rd Army were heavily involved in their rescue, is exciting stuff and has achieved almost legendary proportions. It's to the film's credit that the viewer eventually gets wrapped up in the Colonel's crusade, and begins to feel a sense of wonder as random chance and pure luck conspire to save the Lipizzaner breed.
I would not have put Robert Taylor in the lead role of Col. Podhajsky, though. As he grew older he got stone-like in his acting, and this is one of his more granite-faced performances. Luckily for us they also cast Curt Jurgens, who plays a good Nazi for once. He is the standout in this production (human standout, that is; the horses are the real stars). He gives a bravura performance as a German General caught up in the atrocities of war with no idea how he could have ever gone along with the Nazis as long as he has. His eyes seem to bleed pain, and he gives the film a welcome dose of humanity as well as the viewpoint of a person who normally follows orders but who has had enough of doing what he doesn't believe in. Lilli Palmer plays the Colonel's wife, and she is more than adequate to the role.
Eddie Albert is used mostly for comic relief as a horse trainer, even singing a Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman song for us; fortunately he's good no matter what he does. And, an extremely young James Franciscus is an Army Major who plays a big role in interesting Patton in the horses, and also in liberating the mares and foals from a Russian onslaught in Czechoslovakia (and also a huge lot of American GI's being held prisoner in the same place); his 1000-watt smile is a welcome addition.
Bottom line, this is a wonderful film for the entire family, if you can get the kids to sit still through the slow beginning; the older they are the easier it will be. It's a film about a little-publicized event in WWII, and shows how the two sides worked side-by-side to save a treasured piece of Viennese history. The horses are gorgeous, and we don't see near enough of them, which is the only real detriment to this fine film about the marvelous White Stallions of Vienna and the Spanish Riding School.
This exceptional live-action Walt Disney adventure-drama might have benefited from a warmer actor in the lead role, but Robot Taylor (pun intended) nevertheless brings strength and conviction to the part of an angry but caring man. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, especially Lilli Palmer and Curt Jurgens who supply a depth of emotion to a dry and unsentimental story.
The film works the family-oriented animal interest of the Lippizan horses into the framework of a dramatic and often suspenseful wartime adventure. One needn't be a horse-lover to be caught up in the story and end up caring about the animals which in this film are symbols of art, grace and beauty surviving a war-torn world. The audience is teased with glimpses of the stallions at play and in training and learns to appreciate their value so that the full-blown horse-show finale comes as a welcome joy.
The well-produced movie was filmed on location in Austria and is handsomely photographed. There is a gripping battle scene and adults will be impressed with the maturity of the entire project.
Miracle of the White Stallions is a story set in the final days of World War II in Europe. Robert Taylor plays an Austrian Colonel in the German army. Back in his civilian days he was the head of the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna which featured the famous Lippazaner breed of specially trained horses. The school had been operating in Vienna for four hundred years and its future in doubt with both the American and Russian armies closing in and the Lippazaner mares over in Czechoslovakia.
The performances of these horses had entertained Viennese natives and visitors for generations and they were and are considered a national treasure. The film concerns Robert Taylor's efforts to save the horses aided of course by Lilli Palmer playing his wife.
The criticism of this film is that Taylor's performance is too wooden. But I think the point is missed that he was a single minded man on a mission and apparently flunked out of diplomacy school. Fortunately he's married to Lilli Palmer who smooths a lot of rough edges out during the film. I think that's what was intended in this script.
As the German surrender and Taylor fortunately falls into the hands of the Americans instead of the Russians, he manages to interest an American major played by James Franciscus in his quest. Who then in turn interests the theater commander who is George S. Patton.
As we learned in the movie Patton, George was an old horse cavalry man and even rode in the 1912 Olympics for the United States. Good thing he was in charge instead of Montgomery. Patton is nicely played by character actor John Larch.
Others in the cast of this very nice family film are Eddie Albert as Taylor's aide and Curt Jurgens as a weary German general who helps Taylor in his hour of need.
Nice piece of family entertainment from the Walt Disney studio.
# The red uniform that is used at the end of the movie is not original. The Spanish Riding school never used a red uniform. Disney found the original brown uniform too simple for a gala opening and introduced these uniforms.
# The equestrian performances were choreographed by the real Col. Alois Podhajsky.