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Lassie Come Home
Director: Fred M. Wilcox (Dir)
Release Date:   Dec 1943
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 7 Oct 1943
Production Date:   early Sep--late Oct 1942
Duration (in mins):   90
Duration (in feet):   8,022
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Roddy McDowall (Joe Carraclough)  
    Donald Crisp (Sam Carraclough)  
    Dame May Whitty (Dally [Fadden])  
    Edmund Gwenn (Rowlie [Palmer])  
    Nigel Bruce (Duke of Rudling)  
    Elsa Lanchester (Mrs. [Helen] Carraclough)  
    Elizabeth Taylor (Priscilla)  
    Ben Webster (Dan'l Fadden)  
    J. Patrick O'Malley (Hynes)  
    Alan Napier (Jock)  
    Arthur Shields (Andrew)  
    John Rogers (Snickers)  
    Alec Craig (Buckles)  
    Lassie (Lassie)  
    Roy Parry (Butcher)  
    George Broughton (Allen)  
    Howard Davies (Cobbler)  
    John Power (Miner)  
    Nelson Leigh (Teacher)  
    Hugh Harrison (Teacher)  
    May Beatty (Fat woman)  
    Janet Littlewood (Little girl)  
    Sherlee Collier (Little girl)  
    Charles Irwin (Tom)  

Summary: Unaware that his poor, unemployed father Sam has been forced to sell his beloved collie Lassie to the Duke of Rudling, young Joe Carraclough, of Yorkshire, England, is immediately concerned when the dog fails to meet him, as usual, after school. When Sam and his wife Helen finally break the news, Joe is inconsolable. Lassie, meanwhile, is taken to the duke's kennels, where she is locked in a pen by Hynes, the cruel, Cockney dogkeeper. The next day, however, Lassie digs her way out of her pen and shows up at Joe's school at the usual time, four o'clock. Although Joe is overjoyed to see Lassie, his parents know that they must return her to the duke and reluctantly hand her over to Hynes. Lassie soon escapes a second time by jumping over the pen's fence. This time Joe runs off and hides with Lassie, but the two are quickly found by Sam, who insists that Joe return Lassie to the duke in person. At the duke's estate, Joe is somewhat cheered by the presence of Priscilla, the duke's sympathetic young granddaughter, who promises to give Lassie special care. That evening, Sam lectures Joe on the importance of honesty and informs his son that the duke is taking Lassie hundreds of miles away to Scotland for a dog show and will be staying there indefinitely. Later, in Scotland, Priscilla notices that Hynes has chained Lassie inside her pen and complains to her grandfather. The duke soundly chastises Hynes and orders him to walk Lassie around the estate's grounds. Hynes is so rough with Lassie, however, that the dog breaks away from him and dashes to the front gate, where Priscilla and the duke are standing. Priscilla opens the gate and allows Lassie to escape, then comments to her astounded grandfather that the collie is headed south, toward England. Lassie runs and runs until a rain storm forces her to take shelter. The next day, she resumes her journey and is almost killed by two shepherds, who suspect her of killing their sheep. After traversing a swampy area, Lassie then swims a river into England. Once in England, an exhausted, hungry Lassie collapses outside a cottage owned by Dally and Dan'l Fadden. Although the elderly couple eagerly adopt the dog, Dally soon realizes that Lassie, who whines to be let outside every afternoon at four, is not happy. Sensing that Lassie is anxious to continue her trek but is too "polite" just to go, Dally orders Lassie to leave the next day at four. Lassie takes off and eventually meets up with Rowlie Palmer, a tinker who travels with his little dog Toots. Lassie is cautious around Rowlie, but accepts his food and follows his wagon. Later, as Rowlie is selling his wares in a village, Lassie performs with Toots, doing tricks that Rowlie has taught her. That night at his camp, Rowlie is attacked by two roving thieves, Buckles and Snickers. Both Toots and Lassie help Rowlie in the fight, and when Buckles mortally wounds Toots, Lassie unleashes all her fury on him. Although the crooks scamper away, Rowlie is crushed by Toots's death. Soon after, Rowlie parts with Lassie, sensing as the Faddens did, that she is on a special journey. Lassie then makes her way through a city and is pursued by two dog-catchers. To avoid capture, Lassie jumps from a warehouse window, injuring her leg. Despite exhaustion, hunger and lameness, Lassie perseveres until she arrives at the Carracloughs' cottage. Helen and the still out-of-work Sam are stunned to see Lassie, filthy and thin, but gladly welcome her home. Soon after, the duke and Priscilla drive up to the cottage, and Sam and Helen, now determined to keep Lassie, hide her. To their surprise, the duke offers Sam a job as his new dogkeeper, and Sam gratefully accepts. Lassie soon gives her presence away, but the duke and Priscilla pretend not to recognize her. Then, just before four o'clock, Lassie limps over to Joe's school for her long-awaited reunion. Upon seeing Lassie, Joe, who has never stopped yearning for his dog, runs to her side and gives her a joyous, tearful embrace. Sometime later, Joe and Priscilla enjoy a bike ride together, accompanied by Lassie and her sprawling litter of collie puppies. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Fred M. Wilcox (Dir)
  Tom Andre (Asst dir)
  Al Raboch (Asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Marx (Prod)
  Harry Rapf (Exec prod)
Writer: Hugo Butler (Scr)
Photography: Leonard Smith (Dir of photog)
  Charles Boyle (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Paul Groesse (Assoc)
Film Editor: Ben Lewis (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Mildred Griffiths (Assoc)
Music: Daniele Amfitheatrof (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Charles Hunt (Unit mgr)
  George Yohalem (Unit mgr)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col consultant)
  Henri Jaffa (Assoc)
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Lassie

Source Text: Based on the novel Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (Chicago, 1940).
Authors: Eric Knight

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 11/9/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12218 Yes

PCA NO: 8995
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Youth
  Animal
 
Subjects (Major): Children
  Collies
  England
  Family relationships
  Loyalty
 
Subjects (Minor): Aged persons
  Chases
  Cockneys
  Cruelty to animals
  Dog-catchers
  Dogs
  Escapes
  Estates
  Granddaughters
  Nobility
  Peddlers and peddling
  Poverty
  Rainstorms
  Rivers
  Scotland
  Shepherds
  Unemployment
  Warehouses

Note: The film's opening credits include the following written dedication: "The author of Lassie Come Home was a man of two countries. Born in England, he survived the First World War as a British soldier, only to die in the Second World War, killed in line of duty in the uniform of the country he had adopted...America. With reverence and pride, we dedicate this picturization of his best-loved story to the late Major Eric Knight." A brief, voice-over narration, describing "the people of Yorkshire," then accompanies the film's opening shots. Knight's novel was derived from a short story, which was published in The Saturday Evening Post on 17 Dec 1938. In the opening credits, Lassie is listed in two separate cast lists, seventh in the first list, and fourteenth in the second. Lassie, whose real name was Pal, made his screen debut in the picture and was selected for the role after M-G-M launched a nationwide talent hunt. (One HR news item claimed that the studio was searching "back alleys" for a dog that used to sit in front of Dave Chasen's or the Brown Derby and beg for pennies.) According to modern sources, after the mass casting call failed to produce a viable dog star, M-G-M called in noted dog trainer Rudd Weatherwax. Although Weatherwax showed off many mature, purebred collies, one-year-old Pal, who lacked pedigree papers, easily won the role.
       Lassie Come Home was the first entry in a six-picture series produced by M-G-M. The second, the 1945 Son of Lassie (see entry below), was a sequel to Lassie Come Home , and featured Pal in the role Lassie, as well as Lassie's son "Laddie." In the sequel, the characters played by Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor in Lassie Come Home were performed by adult actors Peter Lawford and June Lockhart. (Lawford and Lockhart also played adult versions of the McDowall and Taylor characters in M-G-M's 1944 film The White Cliffs of Dover .) Lassie is the central character in all of the films, but only Lassie Come Home and Son of Lassie feature characters from the novel. Settings and time periods also change from picture to picture. Pal's four male descendents, all of whom were billed under the name Lassie, portrayed the collie in the other pictures. (Pal retired at the age of five, according to modern sources.) Elizabeth Taylor starred in the third film in the series, Courage of Lassie , but her role was unrelated to the part she played in Lassie Come Home. Edmund Gwenn and Donald Crisp appeared in two of the non-sequel entries. The last film in the series was The Painted Hills (1951), starring Gary Gray and directed by Harold Kress. Modern sources note that in the late 1940s, the number of purebred collies registered in the U.S. increased from 3,000 to 18,400, presumably as a result of the series.
       Fred M. Wilcox, a former M-G-M publicist, script clerk, assistant director and second unit director, made his feature directing debut with this picture. Wilcox also directed two other films in the "Lassie" series, The Courage of Lassie and Hills of Home . McDowall and Donald Crisp had previously appeared together in the popular 1941 picture How Green Was My Valley (see above entry). Lassie Come Home marked the first time in which Dame May Whitty and her husband, Ben Webster, who had just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, appeared together in an American film. Reginald Owen was announced as a cast member in a Sep 1942 HR news item, but he did not appear in the completed film.
       Though not her debut film, Lassie Come Home was Taylor's first film for M-G-M, the studio at which she worked for the next seventeen years. Modern sources note that there are two versions about how Taylor (1932--2011) won the part of "Priscilla." In one version, confirmed by an Oct 1942 HR news item, Taylor was "discovered" by producer Sam Marx when she brought sandwiches to her father, Francis L. Taylor, while he was on air raid warden duty with Marx. At the time, according to modern sources, Marx was looking desperately for a young actress with a convincing English accent because the little girl he originally had cast as Priscilla had grown almost a foot and was noticeably taller than McDowall. According to the second version, the original Priscilla was let go because her eyes were too weak to withstand the bright lights on the set, and was replaced by Taylor after Marx and Wilcox contacted her agent, Sara Taylor. Taylor's dark beauty and natural acting made an immediate, strong impression on Marx and Wilcox, and many reviewers commented favorably on her performance. Taylor and McDowall were again cast opposite each other in the 1944 M-G-M picture The White Cliffs of Dover (see entry below).
       According to HR news items, in addition to Southern California locations in Laguna Beach, Malibu, Chatsworth, Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, Calabasas and Irvine Park in Santa Ana, some scenes and background shots were filmed in Santa Barbara, the San Joaquin River near Stockton and Monterey, CA, as well as Seattle and other parts of Washington State. Background shooting took place for two months, between Jul and Aug 1942. The Technicolor company experimented with a new "monopack" color process on this picture, according to an Apr 1944 HR news item. The monopack process, in which all the color emulsions were present on one base and required no special cameras, replaced Technicolor's three-strip process. Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Color). Redbook magazine named Lassie Come Home its "Picture of the Month" for Oct 1943.
       In addition to the M-G-M film series, a "Lassie" radio show was broadcast on the ABC network between 1947 and 1950, featuring the barking of the original Pal, but with other sound effects provided by a human actor. On 12 Sep 1954, the CBS network broadcast the first episode of Lassie , a television show based on Knight's characters. Set in the U.S., the television Lassie lived first with a boy named "Jeff Miller," played by Tommy Rettig, and his mother, played by Jan Clayton. From 1957 to 1964, an orphan boy named "Timmy," played by Jon Provost, became Lassie's co-star, and Cloris Leachman and June Lockhart played his adopted mother in turn. The CBS show ran until summer 1971, and in fall 1971, a syndicated series called Lassie and Timmy began its three-year run. Between Sep 1973 and Aug 1975, an animated series, Lassie's Rescue Rangers , was broadcast on CBS. A second syndicated series, starring Will Nippen and featuring Jon Provost as the grown-up Timmy, was broadcast between 1989 to 1991. In 1963, Twentieth Century-Fox released the Wrather Corp. production Lassie's Great Adventure , a feature made from a four-part episode of the CBS series called "The Journey."
       In 1953, Andrew Marton directed Donna Corcoran and Ward Bond in Gypsy Colt , M-G-M's second version of Lassie Come Home , in which the dog role was rewritten for a horse. (A television series based on Gypsy Colt , also called Gypsy Colt , aired on the ABC network in 1967.) In 1978, Don Chaffey directed Lassie, Jimmy Stewart and Mickey Rooney in the Wrather Corp.'s The Magic of Lassie . Knight's novel was adapted for the screen for a third time in 1994 as the Paramount production Lassie , directed by Donald Petrie and starring Thomas Guiry and Helen Slater. In 2006, another version of the story was released, the British-made Lassie , directed by Charles Sturridge, and starring Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton. In all versions except the 2006 films, Lassie was played by one of Pal's descendents. For more information on the "Lassie" series, consult the Series Index. On AFI's 2003 list of the top 100 Heroes and Villains in American Films, Lassie was number thirty-nine on the list of heroes.

 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Aug 1943.   
Daily Variety   18 Aug 43   pp. 3-4.
Film Daily   20 Aug 43   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   14 May 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jun 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jul 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Sep 42   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Sep 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Sep 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Oct 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Oct 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Aug 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 43   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Apr 44   p. 1, 9
Motion Picture Herald   21 Aug 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   21 Aug 43   p. 1494.
New York Times   8 Oct 43   p. 15.
Variety   18 Aug 43   p. 10.

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