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While there are many really good dog films out there, in my honest opinion, they all submit to the leader of the pack, and that leader's name is Old Yeller. I first saw this film when I was 10 years old, and have been a huge fan ever since. While the acting is superb, and the story is top notch, the real star of this film is the 170 pound Labrador/Mastiff mix named Spike who played the part of Yeller with heart and soul. If you are one of the few in the world who does not know the story of "Old Yeller", be warned that you may shed tears after seeing what many consider to be one of the most heartbreaking scenes in movie history. But that scene only makes you love this movie even more as through tragedy comes hope and learning experiences. Don't miss one of the greatest classics of all time.
Not used as a scale of masculinity anymore, but more like a joke among men, Did you cry? Hell yes I cried my ever living loving guts out. I was so upset I probably cried three hours after the movie was over. Guess I was about eight when I saw it but yes, I still cry when I watch Old Yeller. This is one of those movies that every single person in America should watch. And if you have ever had to put a pet down, you know how heart wrenching and how that animal looks back at you with those innocent eyes right before death. But life continues on and death is just one of those parts of life. But Disney knows how to pull every heart string in the world, even a man's.
I must have seen this when I was a kid (on TV), but I'd forgotten just how good a movie this is. The technical aspects are great (that color!), the acting believable and naturalistic, and the story moves along at a really nice pace. There's nothing condescending or "cutesy" here, and the plot point of the kid trying to play grown up (ie, Tommy Kirk as man of the house while his father's away) is played out without the traps that so many coming-of-age films fall into: In this boy's world, being an adult is about working and taking responsibility, not sneaking drinks and experimenting with sex. Also, the "messages" were woven nicely into the script, not tacked on and rammed over your head. It also helped that they had actors, rather than "stars". This is really what family filmmaking (a term I generally hate) should be: Something that kids and adults can appreciate.
The quintessential boy/dog movie. It does have obvious correlations with Marjorie Rawling's "The Yearling". I first saw this film on TV when I was six years old or so. Interestingly, at that time, I remember the Chuck Connors character as menacing and almost evil. On viewing as an adult, that character was a perfect gentleman, giving up the dog to the boy when he was under absolutely no obligation to do so. Also interesting to see the casual, and basically unnoticed cruelty of the Travis character toward the little girl. I don't remember even noticing that as a child. Disney knew how to make real family entertainment in those days. Now, it seems that material suitable for children is targeted directly at them, and is generally a chore for adults to sit through. OY found a way to split the difference. Truly a classic.
This film has a lot of heart, and there's not a phony performance in the
entire movie. Fess Parker and Dorothy McGuire are perfect as the down to
earth parents, and Tommy Kirk shines as the oldest son trying to become a
man. Jeff York, who played Mike Fink in "Davy Crockett and the River
Pirates", is funny as a lazy settler who doesn't do a thing. Even Chuck
Connors has a fine cameo as the real owner of Old Yeller who gives the dog
up to please a child.
Old Yeller still has the power to make me cry, and I've seen it at least 50 times. It's sentimental and pushes all the right buttons, but I still love it.
Old Yeller is one of Disney's Best. Superb performances all around, a very touching (especially for dog lovers, it might even be to painful for some i.e. my wife) with a very heart-wrenching ending. They don't make them like this any more. If you enjoyed Old Yeller, may I recommend you give The Yearling a try. Which is even better (if possible) than Old Yeller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I get the feeling that many people consider this movie "old fashioned". That's unfortunate. The story of people appreciating a dog's love and loyalty should always be considered first rate material. And in this case it was done by the master himself; Walt Disney. Who could not be captivated by Old Yeller's lovable face and smile. The well done story line took him from scoundrel to protector and companion. Granted, the scenes showing Old Yeller fighting off the animal "villains" had a somewhat unnatural look about them; but getting a herd of wild pigs, for example, to do what you want, can't be too easy. And Tommy Kirk really nailed it (the feeling of grief) in the scene where he put Old Yeller out of his misery.
One of Walt Disney's most enduring films in popularity will continue to
be Old Yeller. There's something in the saga of the Coates family and
that yellow mutt that touches the kid in all of us.
Fess Parker, wife Dorothy McGuire, and sons Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran are the Coates family scratching out a living on a small ranch on the Texas frontier. Dad has to drive their herd to market in Kansas and he leaves the other three behind. Parker though he's second billed in the cast has barely fifteen minutes of screen time in the film. He leaves before the main action starts and returns really as anti-climax. Nevertheless he was a big name back in 1957, coming fresh off his triumph as Disney's Davy Crockett. Didn't hurt him at all to come from Texas for this part.
So McGuire is left to cope with the kids, the farm, and a newly found stray yellow dog that both the boys take to. His coloring makes his name a natural and he proves quite a useful dog, earning more than his keep on the ranch.
Sad to say though that Old Yeller provides the saddest moment in any Disney film since Bambi's mother was shot by the hunters. I really can't say too much more, but the Coates boys prove to be made of stern stuff and Dad provides some sound country wisdom as he gets back from his cattle drive.
Because the setting is out in the wilds there are few human speaking parts. All the players here are well cast, but the one who's the best by far is Jeff York as the Coates neighbor Mr. Searcy. York appeared in a whole bunch Disney features and usually stole scenes in every one of them. York's a guy who's full of wisdom in his own right, he'll dispense with advice at the drop of a hat, but when there's work to be done is usually elsewhere. McGuire does remark it's no accident he's not on the cattle drive. When she needs help on the ranch, York delegates his daughter Beverly Washburn to stay behind. She's a sweet kid and a good worker and Tommy Kirk doesn't mind having her around at all.
Chuck Connors is also in this as a visiting trail boss and I wouldn't be surprised if his appearance here in this family feature led to his family television series, The Rifleman.
Fifty years after it was released Old Yeller is still good entertainment and will be making young folks dream about that idyllic boyhood the Coates kids have on those Texas plains.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OLD YELLER (1957) **** Tommy Kirk, Dorothy McGuire, Fess
Barker, Kevin Corcoran, Chuck Connors.
Disney live-action classic about Old West pioneer family's adopted stray dog, Old Yeller, who provides protection and much needed love all around. One of the most beloved family films and saddest of endings ever (to quote Bill Murray in `Stripes': `Who cried when Old Yeller died? I cried my eyes out!') landmarks this timeless classic
Of all the movies I saw as a young in the theaters in the 1950s, the
only one that haunted me or brought tears to my eyes was this one. It
made a lasting impression on everyone in our family. Not long
afterward, we bought a Golden Retriever puppy and it was a fabulous
After a long, long absence, I saw it for the third time in the late1990s on VHS. Since I never forgot the sad ending, I was prepared for that. My attitude was great going in, especially since I had become a fan of Dorothy McGuire since her magnificent performance in "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn."
Anyway - hey, I have to be honest - this time around I was disappointed. I think I expected too much since the film had such strong nostalgia value. Yes, it was still a nice old-fashioned story but the impact was so-so and McGuire looked like she had aged 20 years since "Brooklyn." She didn't look like the same person from the famous 1945 drama.
Tommy Kirk went on to be a star on television and in the movies for Walt Disney while I don't believe Kevin Corcoran, who was just as good as Kirk, did a whole lot after this....some westerns into the '60s. Good 'ole "Davy Crockett," Fess Parker, also is in this movie but has a minor role, being seen only in the beginning and at the end. Chuck Connors also had a small role.
A nice story, no doubt. Perhaps another viewing with lower expectations would make me rate this highly again. Just the name "Old Yeller" is still special to me, however.
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