Lassie - Man's Best Pal
There have been many movies over the years which focus on man's best friend, some more notable than others but very few are a patch on the Lassie movies, in particular the first of them "Lassie Come Home" from 1943. Adapted from Eric Knight's novel which drew on his own experiences growing up on the Yorkshire Moors with his loyal companion Toot, "Lassie Come Home" is a sweet tale about the love between a dog and its owner as well as being a wonderful adventure movie as we follow Lassie's trek home. It is sentimental, it is at times cloying but it is also a lovely heart warming wholesome movie.
Struggling to put food on the table Sam Carraclough (Donald Crisp - The Man from Laramie) is forced to sell his and his son Joe's (Roddy McDowall - Overboard) beloved dog Lassie to the Duke of Rudling (Nigel Bruce). But Lassie loves Joe and after being taken to live on the Duke's Scottish estate where the Duke's grand daughter Priscilla (Elizabeth Taylor) lives, Lassie manages to escape and sets out on a long and dangerous journey back to his Yorkshire home.
Unlike many movies which feature dogs, "Lassie Come Home" is very simple and the storyline is basically about a dog returning home to the owner that she truly loves. There is no complexity to it as it focuses on the enduring love between Lassie and both Joe as well as his father Sam. Instead we get a doggy adventure as we will Lassie to not only escape from the kennels which her new owner keeps her in but also make the amazing journey back from Scotland to home in Yorkshire. Along the way we get the dangers of being shot at, caught by dog wardens as well as the various acquaintances that Lassie makes along the way. It sounds quite a slim story but you so quickly fall in love with Lassie that there doesn't need to be any more complexity as the close scrapes and attempts to escape both deliver drama and fun in equal measures.
Of course the real star of "Lassie Come Home" is Lassie otherwise known as the 1 year old Collie called Pal. It doesn't take long for Lassie to charm you from the opening scenes where she waits patiently for Joe outside school and knows exactly when he is due to leave through to the scenes where she tries to escape the kennels. In fact Lassie charms you through out by being cute and amazingly well trained. Scenes such as when she wakes Joe up in the morning, pulling back the bed covers through to the way she befriends a travelling sales man. There has rarely been such a well trained dog to appear in the movies especially one which through its own ability to act charms you.
Alongside Lassie there are some very good performances with both Roddy McDowall as Joe Carraclough and Donald Crisp as his father Sam really delivering convincing performances. Donald Crisp in particular delivers some very touching moments when he has to deal with not only selling Lassie but also the sadness it causes his son. It is through both of their performances that you do get to understand the bond which forms between a dog and its owners.
As well as Roddy McDowall and Donald Crisp "Lassie Come Home" is notable for the appearance of a young Elizabeth Taylor as Priscilla the grand daughter of the Duke of Rudling. In only her second movie the performance of the young Elizabeth Taylor is quite extraordinary because whilst she looks adorable and cute, as you would expect of any young child star, the way she actually acts and delivers the few lines of dialogue that she had showed talent far beyond her young years.
Although I think that "Lassie Come Home" is probably the best movie when it comes to dogs it does have some issues. The first of which is the Yorkshire accents which to me seem a little too heavy to the point that they end up feeling a little wrong nearly in the same way that "Dick Van Dyke's accent was wrong in "Mary Poppins". The other issue is that although set in Yorkshire and Scotland, "Lassie Come Home" was shot in California and Washington and frankly although a few back drops are stunning they do not make me think of either Scotland or Yorkshire. But those are minor gripes in what is a heart warming movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Lassie Come Home" is a wonderfully enjoyable movie which entertains through the adventures which Lassie goes on whilst journeying home but then also delivers a heart warming message about the love between a man and his dog. Out of all the doggy movies to have been made it still remains the best even after half a century.
Tags: Dog Movies