David Ladd in A Dog of Flanders (1959)

The Cart Dog

Every day young Nello (David Ladd) and his grandfather (Donald Crisp) pull their cart to Antwerp where they sell their milk and Nello looks longingly at the drawing material in a shop window as he dreams of becoming a painter like his idol Rubens. But the money they make from selling their milk is barely enough to provide for themselves let alone a stray dog they acquire when they find him beaten and abandoned by the side of the road. It takes some time for the dog to heal and to trust Nello and grandfather as his master but he does and ends up joining them with the daily trips to Antwerp, pulling the cart when grandfather is no longer well enough to make the journey. But one day grandfather dies and in the middle of Winter Nello and his dog are made homeless and having to do some growing up in order to survive.

Having never heard of "A Dog of Flanders" I was quite surprised to see there had been quite a few adaptations of the Ouida novel and as I watched this 1959 movie I was generally curious as to where the story was going to go. Okay so certain elements seemed quite obvious, right from the word go you knew that grandfather was infirm as he hobbles along with his health failing quite quickly but beyond that it actually didn't seem to be going anywhere other than something I didn't mention in the synopsis which is young Nello befriending an artist who he meets in Antwerp.

Donald Crisp in A Dog of Flanders (1959)

So I found a synopsis for Ouida's novel and discovered the ending which lead me to discover that most of the movie adaptations including this 1959 version of "A Dog of Flanders" change the ending. And to be honest I am a little disappointed as whilst this gives this version of "A Dog of Flanders" the acceptable ending many would want it also makes it kind of predictable and very much a traditional boy and dog movie dealing with struggles rather than something more original and frankly hard hitting.

Despite that "A Dog of Flanders" is nicely acted and has that typical late 50s style about it with layers of innocence and as I said with that more acceptable ending much more of a family movie. But it is one of those movies which I am sure holds a greater appeal to those who watched this version as children back in the late 50s and early 60s rather than for those who stumble across it now and find it all a bit twee.

What this all boils down to is that "A Dog of Flanders" is entertaining and certainly delivers some family friendly entertainment. But whilst the movie still has a certain charm it is a movie which works best for those who saw it as children back on its release.

Tags: Dog Movies