Lassie (series)

Lassie (series)

Synopsis of Movie

In 1938, Eric Knight wrote a short story called “Lassie Come Home” for the Saturday Evening Post, based on his own collie named “Toots.” He expanded the story one year later into a short novel, and from this widely-adored book came the eponymous 1943 film, featuring juvenile up-and-comers Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor.

Set in Depression-era Yorkshire, Lassie Comes Home focuses on the poor but loving Carracloughs, who have to sell their son Joe’s beloved dog to the rich Duke of Rudling for a handful of guineas. But Lassie and Joe have a special brand of pet/owner loyalty. Lassie escapes repeatedly to try and get back home, disobedience that the frustrated Duke believes will cease when he moves up to Scotland.

Little does he know, distance is no problem for this southbound canine. She soon embarks on her longest trek yet, with help from the Duke’s winking and adorable granddaughter Priscilla, a farmer couple and a handyman (Edmund Gwenn, Kris Kringle from Miracle on 34th Street).

Our favorite collie was really a male dog named “Pal,” and Pal flexed his stunt dog muscles by pawing dirt to dig ditches, jumping fences, swimming across treacherous rivers and knocking out bad guys. But more than the stunts, this dog could really act. Watch those close-ups, study those head-just-slightly-cocked forlorn expressions, and as the film’s very dramatic score washes over you, you’ll swear she really is thinking about her beloved Joe.

Pal didn’t always play “Lassie” in his movies, either. In 1946’s Courage of Lassie he was “Bill,” in 1951’s The Painted Hills he was “Shep,” and in 1945’s Son of Lassie, the sequel to Lassie Come Home, he played Lassie’s son “Laddie.”

1945’s Son of Lassie, the war-themed second entry in the collie collection, has a definite action/adventure bent and doesn’t aim to jerk as many tears as its heartwarming predecessor. Now, Joe Carraclough and Priscilla are adults (Peter Lawford and June Lockhart in the grown-up places of Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor).

World War II is on, and Joe joins the RAF. Laddie accompanies him to Nazi-occupied Norway, and when he’s shot down behind enemy lines, this chip off his mother’s block proves that bravery runs in the family.

In all, seven Lassie films (Lassie Come Home, Son of Lassie, Courage of Lassie, Hills of Home/Master of Lassie, The Sun Comes Up, Challenge to Lassie, and The Painted Hills) were released theatrically between 1943 and 1954—all from MGM, and all in beautiful Technicolor. But the plucky collie wasn't content to stick with just features. A Lassie radio show premiered in 1947, followed by a long-running TV show in 1954.

In the middle of the TV Lassie's nearly twenty-year run, a feature was edited together from four episodes, released to theaters as Lassie’s Great Adventure in 1963. Fifteen years later, with Lassie reruns still going strong in syndication, an all-new feature hit theaters. Dubbed The Magic of Lassie, this 1978 film featured such cast members as Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney and Pat Boone, nearly all of whom (including Stewart) crooned a song or two.

To date, the final Lassie film arrived in 1994, as Paramount unveiled a new heroic pooch in the big-screen family drama Lassie. A new Lassie television series was launched three years later, but with original Lassie TV episodes still omnipresent in most areas, there simply wasn't room for another kid-saving collie.

After more than half a century, Lassie and her descendants are still the standard-bearers for "boy and his dog" stories. Whether on film or on television, the magic of Lassie is still casting its spell, still warming hearts around the world.

Movie Release History

1943 - Lassie Come Home
1945 - Son of Lassie
1946 - Courage of Lassie
1948 - Hills of Home (Master of Lassie)
1949 - The Sun Comes Up
1949 - Challenge to Lassie
1951 - The Painted Hills
1963 - Lassie's Great Adventure
1978 - The Magic of Lassie
1994 - Lassie

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Joe Carraclough  Roddy McDowall
Sam Carraclough  Donald Crisp
Dally  Dame May Whitty
Rowlie   Edmund Gwenn
Duke of Rudling  Nigel Bruce
Mrs. Carraclough  Elsa Lanchester
Priscilla  Elizabeth Taylor
Dan'l Fadden  Ben Webster
Hynes  Pat O'Malley
Jock  Alan Napier
Andrew  Arthur Shields
Snickers  John Rogers
Buckles  Alec Craig
Heavy Woman  May Beatty
Allen  George Broughton
Cobbler Howard Davies
School Teacher  Hugh Harrison
Tom  Charles Irwin
School Teacher  Nelson Leigh
Butcher Roy Parry
Miner John Power

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