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Lassie Come Home is a 1943 MGM feature film starring Roddy McDowall and canine actor, Pal, in a story about the profound bond between Yorkshire boy Joe Carraclough and his rough collie, Lassie. The film was directed by Fred M. Wilcox from a screenplay by Hugo Butler based upon the 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight. The film was the first in a series of seven MGM films starring "Lassie."

The original film saw a sequel, Son of Lassie in 1945 with five other films following at intervals through the 1940s. A British remake of the 1943 movie was released in 2005 as Lassie to moderate success. The original film and its sequels continue to air on television and have been released to VHS and DVD.

Plot

Set in Depression-era Yorkshiremarker, Englandmarker, Mr. and Mrs. Carraclough are hit by hard times and forced to sell their collie, Lassie, to the rich Duke of Rudling, who has always admired her. Young Joe Carraclough grows despondent at the loss of his companion. Lassie will have nothing to do with the Duke, however, and finds ways to escape her kennels and return to Joe. The Duke finally carries Lassie to his home hundreds of miles distant in Scotland. There, his granddaughter Priscilla senses the dog's unhappiness and arranges her escape. Lassie then sets off for a long trek to her Yorkshire home and the boy who loves her. She faces many perils along the way—dog catchers and a violent storm—but also meets kind people who offer her aid and comfort. At the end, when Joe has given up hope of ever seeing his dog again, the weary Lassie returns to her favorite resting place in the schoolyard at home. There, Lassie is joyfully reunited with the boy she loves.

Cast

  • Pal as Lassie, a collie and the companion animal to the boy, Joe Carraclough. Pal was credited as "Lassie" (rather than Pal) in the film.
  • Roddy McDowall as Joe Carraclough, a Yorkshire schoolboy and Lassie's companion human and guardian.
  • Donald Crisp as Sam Carraclough, Joe's father.
  • Elsa Lanchester as Mrs. Carraclough, Joe's mother.
  • Nigel Bruce as Duke of Rudling, grandfather to Priscilla.
  • Elizabeth Taylor as Priscilla, a young girl sympathetic to Lassie's plight and the Duke of Rudling's granddaughter.
  • Dame May Whitty as Dally, an elderly woman who aids Lassie on her journey homeward, and is married to Dan'l Fadden.
  • Ben Webster as Dan'l Fadden, married to Dally.
  • Edmund Gwenn as Rowlie, a tinker who befriends Lassie during her trek.
  • J. Pat O'Malley as Hynes
  • Alan Napier as Jock
  • Arthur Shields as Andrew
  • John Rogers as Snickers
  • Alec Craig as Buckles


Production

The film was not shot in England or Scotland. Instead locations in Washingtonmarker state and Monterey, Californiamarker, were used while the rapids scene was shot on the San Joaquin River

During the film's production, MGM executives previewing the dailies were said to be so moved that they ordered more scenes to be added to "this wonderful motion picture."

Some sources say that, initially, a female collie was selected for the title role, but was replaced when the dog began to shed excessively during shooting of the film in the summer. The trainer, Rudd Weatherwax, then substituted the male collie, Pal, in the role of "Lassie". Pal had been hired to perform the rapids stunt and, being male, looked more impressive in the part. Still other accounts, such as a 1943 New York Times article written while the film was in production, say that Pal was cast by director Fred Wilcox after first being rejected, because no other dog performed satisfactorily with the "near human attributes" he sought for the canine title role.Weatherwax would later receive all rights to the Lassie name and trademark in lieu of back pay owed him by MGM.

Reception

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color and later the character of Lassie received a Star on the Walk of Fame at 6368 Hollywood Blvd. In 1993, Lassie Come Home was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Bosley Crowther in the New York Times of October 8, 1943 uniformly praised the performers and production, noting that the film "tells the story of a boy and a dog, tells it with such poignance and simple beauty that only the hardest heart can fail to be moved."

Almost 50 years after the film's release, Parade magazine discussed its lasting cultural impact, quoting the Saturday Evening Post which said the film launched Pal on "the most spectacular canine career in film history". Lassie Come Home was also cited as a cultural icon in Jane and Michael Stern's 1992 book, Encyclopedia of Pop Culture.

References

  1. "Lassie a 'Lass-he'", Parade magazine, October 18, 1992, p. 22.
  2. Collins, Ace. Lassie: A Dog's Life. Penguin Books.
  3. New York Times Review. Retrieved 26 September 2008.


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