Anna Sewell (1820-78) wrote only one book in her lifetime but it became an all time children's classic.
The book, for which Sewell received just £20.00, was published in 1877 just three months before her death, and told the story of a black mare who had been brutally treated by a succession of cruel owners until it was finally taken in by a kind family that nursed it back to health. The TV series, with specially written scripts was not an adaptation but a 'continuation' featuring new characters created by Ted Willis, the creator of Dixon of Dock Green, Sergeant Cork and Mrs Thursday.
In the opening episode we meet Dr James Gordon, his daughter Vicky, son Kevin and housekeeper Amy, all of whom have moved from London to the small country village of Five Oaks. Whilst out exploring their new surroundings the children discover a wounded black stallion which they bring back to their new house in the hope that it can be saved. But the horse's owner, determined to break its spirit, arrives to collect the animal. The family offer to buy it off him but cannot afford the price he wants. When Doctor Gordon saves the life of the owner's uncle, they are given the horse as payment.
Judi Bowker starred as Vicky Gordon, the thoroughbred's latest owner for series one, but when the series returned Bowker had decided to pursue her career elsewhere and Vicky was replaced (without explanation) by fifteen-year-old Stacy Dorning as her sister Jenny who had previously been attending school in London.
Taking the traditional Sunday teatime family slot, set on a beautifully spacious Victorian country estate and with its evocative theme tune ("Galloping Home", which won the 1973 Ivor Novello Award for Best Theme Tune) it soon became a top twenty hit for London Weekend Television.
Sharing the directorial seat was Charles Crichton who later went on to make the hit movie A Fish Called Wanda. A sequel, The New Adventures of Black Beauty was made in 1990 with William Lucas (Dr Gordon) and Dorning reprising their roles.
Published on November 29th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.