The Rocking Horse Winner
Adapted from D. H. Lawrence’s short story, a boy learns how to pick horse-race winners to help out his spendthrift mother.
The boy Paul Grahame (John Howard Davies) meets handyman Bassett (John Mills) and tells his mother Hester Grahame (Valerie Hobson) that he likes him. Hester tells her husband Richard Grahame (Hugh Sinclair) they need more money. At night Paul sneaks downstairs to look at the Christmas presents. Paul gets a rocking horse and has Bassett carry it. Oscar Cresswell (Ronald Squire) reveals that Richard lost money playing cards.
Bassett teaches Paul how to ride. Oscar says he will give Richard a loan for his sister Hester. Oscar advises Hester not to spend so much. Hester receives a writ. She tells Paul that the lucky get money. Paul says he is lucky and offers to give her his savings. Richard tells Oscar that he has no work.
Bassett asks Paul which horse will win and agrees to bet for him. Oscar tells Hester and Richard that they face bankruptcy because he won’t loan them any more. Bassett tells Paul that they lost. Paul asks Oscar for money and gives it to Bassett.
Nannie (Susan Richards) tells Hester and Oscar that Paul rides the rocking horse in a frenzy. They watch him. Oscar takes Paul to the beach, and Paul says that he and Bassett are betting £300. A bailiff (Cyril Smith) demands £40 from Hester and will stay until he gets it. Oscar takes Paul to the races. Hester sells clothes and the case for £40. Paul’s horse wins.
Oscar asks Bassett about the betting. Bassett says that when Paul is sure, they win. Bassett says they have £1,200 and shows it to Oscar. Paul and Bassett accept Oscar as their partner. Hester walks home to save cab fare and gives the bailiff £40. He says she has to pay him too, and she asks Nannie for money, telling Paul to keep quiet.
Paul’s horse wins, and Oscar says they won £10,000. Oscar says he will arrange for Hester to get £1,000 a year.
Months later Paul has been losing. Bassett tells Oscar that Paul is not having fun anymore. Nannie tells Hester that the doctor said Paul must rest. Paul persuades Hester not to take him on vacation until after the derby.
Bassett drives Hester and Richard to a fancy party and discusses the derby with other drivers. Hester gets worried and calls Nannie about Paul. Hester goes home and finds Paul riding his rocking horse. Paul says it is Malabar and collapses. Oscar informs Hester that Malabar is a horse in the derby. Oscar tells Bassett that Paul is still unconscious but said it is Malabar. They both bet on him.
Bassett tells ailing Paul that Malabar won and that they have £80,000. Hester hears. Paul tells Hester he is lucky and dies.
Bassett takes the rocking horse outside and burns it. Hester refuses to accept the money from Bassett and tells him to burn it. He refuses to burn good money and says he will take it to her lawyer. In her grief she says the money is evil.
This ironic parable has the child supporting the parents by getting inspiration from his ecstatic riding on a toy. The mother comes to realize that her absorption in the things she can buy has caused her to lose her son, exposing the empty pleasures of materialism.