In 1960 MGM produced a television series called National Velvet , modelled after the movie of the same name which starred Elizabeth Taylor.
Lori Martin played the role of Velvet Brown, a 12 yr old girl who lived on a dairy farm with her parents, Martha and Herbert, an ex-jockey -Mi Taylor, her brother Donald, and her sister Edwina (who had a boyfriend called Teddy). Velvet owned a thoroughbred stallion named King which she hoped would one day run in the Grand National Steeplechase. The show ran for 54 episodes between 1960 and 1962 with critics and audiences full of praise for Lori Martin’s performances.
One of the reasons Lori won the National Velvet role was because when her hair was dyed black (she was a natural blonde), many thought she had a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor at the same age when Taylor starred in the 1944 film version.
According to the show’s producers, she was just as good an actress as Elizabeth Taylor was at 12.
Lori later said that she “wanted the part so bad I couldn’t sleep.” Whilst filming the TV show, she recalls that “one day someone told me that Elizabeth Taylor was going to be in the Building. I ran right over hoping to see her and caught a glimpse just as she left. She was just so beautiful! I guess I was pretty at that age, but never anything like her!”
When Lori was six years old, her mother took her to an agent who specialized in child actors and actresses, thinking that performing might be a healthy outlet for her. She started getting parts immediately and her younger brother was signed by the same agent, but he lacked the same interest in acting. She auditioned so well that her parents soon allowed her to attend auditions by herself.
Her mother recalled that “I’ll never forget the first interview she went on. It was for a Chrysler commercial, and my car broke down about six blocks from the studio. I had to stay with the car, but Lori was all for going on in herself. She got out of the car, walked six blocks, found the right office, told the receptionist who she was, went in for her interview and got the job. Since then I’ve usually waited outside in the car and she’s handled everything herself.”
Blaze King, a 3 yr. old colt, who played the horse in the TV series, was bought especially for the show. King was trained for the show by Kenny Lee. After the show’s end, King and his double Chief, lived on a farm for underprivileged children.
I loved this show & after each episode I would beg my mum to buy me a horse! I wanted to live on a farm, just like Velvet it seemed such an idylic life for a little girl. The opening trailer still gives me goose bumps.
Watch the Opening Trailer for the National Velvet TV Series