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January 24, 2017

Episode 307: The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)

Special Guest: Maitland McDonagh

The 1949 adaptation of 's short story, The Rocking Horse Winner (adapted and directed by Anthony Pélissier) is an intense family melodrama shot like a horror film. The film stars John Howard Davies as Paul Grahame, a young boy desperate to bring his mother happiness.

Maitland McDonagh joins Mike to discuss this poignant work.

Buy The Rocking Horse Winner on DVD
Read The Rocking Horse Winner
Visit the official D.H. Lawrence website
Buy Maitland McDonagh's books

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"The Rocking Horse Winner" - William Alwyn



  1. Because the child was sensitive that means he was gay? Asinine commentary by the female guest. Not everything has to be seen through her LGBT lens.

  2. You disagree that he wasn't gay? I didn't hear any compelling evidence in her discussion. Her only reason to think so seemed to be that he was sensitive.

    Interesting comment on the sexual aspect you discussed:

    Critics have noted the connections between Lawrence’s published ideas about sexuality, particularly in the essay “Pornography and Obscenity,” and in “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” In “A Rocking-Horse: The Symbol, the Pattern, the Way to Live,” an influential article written in 1958, W. D. Snodgrass analyzed the psychosexual dimensions of the story through the lens of Lawrence’s published writings. Snodgrass summarizes Lawrence’s thesis as the argument that pornography is “art which contrives to make sex ugly . . . and so leads the observer away from sexual intercourse and toward masturbation.” Paul’s rocking horse riding, then, represents masturbation, “the child’s imitation of the sex act, for the riding which goes nowhere.” Lawrence’s point, however, is not that Paul’s “secret of secrets” kills him. What is unnatural from Lawrence’s point of view is that Paul and his mother are locked into a pattern of mutually frustrated desire. Neither one of them is directing their energy at an appropriate “polarity.” Significantly, however, they do not share equal responsibility for their situation. Lawrence, through his narrator, places all the blame on the mother and martyrs the boy in one final self-sacrificing ride.

    Source: Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton, for Short Stories for Students, Gale Research, 1997.

    1. I agree with Maitland that the story can be seen as the main character being gat. I disagree with your snotty tone.

  3. Snotty? Because I pointed out she didn't offer any evidence at all for her ridiculous assertions? I suspect most English children of that age, from the same time period and same upper-class households, probably behaved in a similar manner (except for the strange obsession with rocking horse-riding). Guess they can all be seen as being gay.

    1. Yes. Snotty from the first comment to now. Thanks.

  4. Actually you're the one who is being "snotty." Nice way to treat listeners who don't agree with you and your pal. Nice way to make them "former" listeners. Was Maitland one of your film professors? Is that why you defend her so vociferously? I know a few of your guests have been former film professors. Don't remember if Maitland is one of them.

    If I wanted to be "snotty" I would have said something like: I guess I shouldn't expect intelligent commentary from someone who thinks a hack like Dario Argento is college thesis material.

    How's that for "snotty"?

    1. Anonymous, you're certainly blowing things out of proportion.

      I agree with Maitland that the way the character is portrayed could be considered a metaphor for a gay child. That's her opinion and I agree with it.

      Anonymous, I don't ask for everyone to agree with ever opinion uttered on the show. We're discussing movies, throwing out ideas, working through them.

      For the record, Maitland is a friend, not a former professor. She's got a lot of great insights and I love having her on the show. So, will I defend her when someone Anonymous goes on the offensive? Yes. Will I discount that same Anonymous person has a confrontational tone? Yes. If that causes you to be a former listener, then it's your loss.