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Rusty Saves a Life (1949)

Approved | | Drama | 3 February 1949 (USA)
In small town Lawtonville, Illinois, teen-aged Danny Mitchell, his German Shepard Rusty, and Danny's five similarly aged friends have been close companions with aging and wealthy Counsellor... See full summary »


Seymour Friedman


Brenda Weisberg (screenplay), Al Martin (based on characters created by)


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Complete credited cast:
Ted Donaldson ... Danny Mitchell
Gloria Henry ... Lyddy Hazard
Stephen Dunne ... Fred Gibson
John Litel ... Hugh Mitchell
Ann Doran ... Ethel Mitchell
Thurston Hall ... Counsellor Frank A. Gibson
Rudy Robles ... Gono Sandoval
Flame ... Rusty


In small town Lawtonville, Illinois, teen-aged Danny Mitchell, his German Shepard Rusty, and Danny's five similarly aged friends have been close companions with aging and wealthy Counsellor Frank Gibson for three years, the seven having dinner together every Sunday. The Counsellor, who sees the five boys as the world in miniature and who espouses an all inclusive view of the world, tells them that he is planning on changing his will to bequeath his house, land and pottery works business to them - hopefully with them collectively and responsibly being able to figure out what to do with it all - instead of his current primary beneficiary, his adult nephew and only living relative, Chicagoan Fred Gibson, who he states doesn't much like him. Despite writing out his new will, the Counsellor passes away before formally discussing his new wishes with his lawyer, Danny's father, Hugh Mitchell, who has no idea of this new written document, and who only has Danny's word as to the Counsellor's ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

dog | character name in title | See All (2) »




Approved | See all certifications »





English | French | Latin

Release Date:

3 February 1949 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


After a scene in the water with "Rusty", Stephan Dunne said he heard the director say "get him a towel'. Seconds later he realized the "him" was the dog. Dunne eventually got a towel, but only after the dog. See more »


When the boys arrive at the house, about 10 minutes into the film, a moving shadow of the boom microphone can be seen on the wall of the sunlit house behind them. See more »


Gono Sandoval: Counselor Frank once said building walls to keep people outside make people inside forget about people outside.
Fred Gibson: Never mind about the people inside, we'll build the wall.
See more »


Follows The Son of Rusty (1947) See more »

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User Reviews

Triumph of the Will
13 August 2007 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

RUSTY SAVES A LIFE (Columbia, 1949), directed by Seymour Friedman, number seven in the series, marks the return of Thurston Hall and Stephen Dunne, each having appeared in THE SON OF RUSTY (1947). While Hall reprises his original role as Lawtonville's counselor, Franklin P. Gibson, along with Rudy Robles as Gori, his Filipino chauffeur, it's Stephen Dunne who assumes a different portrayal, once again as an unlikable individual, yet not so much as mysterious as before, this time sporting a mustache looking very much like Tom Neal (best known in DETOUR (1945) for PRC Studios), and showing no concern for what people think of him and wanting very much to live the life of a loner. One wonders whatever became of Stephen Dunne, whose name is just as obscure as this film series itself.

The story opens in Gibson's mansion with the gathering of his young friends, teenager Danny Mitchell (Ted Donaldson), his dog, Rusty (Flame), Tuck (David Ackles), Nip (Dwayne Hickman), Gerald (Ronnie Ralph) and Squeaky Foley (Robert Scott, filling in for Teddy Infuhr), who have their meetings in a clubhouse located in Gibson's yard. Following dinner, Gibson announces he's going to make up a new will in favor of the boys. That very night before going to bed, Gibson makes true to his promise, and after it's set, he places the will inside a book, concludes his evening with a cigar smoke (against doctor's orders) and goes to sleep. The following morning, the boys discover from Codo that Gibson died during the night of a weak heart. Gibson's sudden death hits the boys very hard. After the funeral, Fred (Stephen Dunne), Gibson's nephew, arrives from Chicago by automobile for the reading of the will. Almost immediately, he is disliked for many reasons: for accidentally hitting Rusty with his car (the start of many growls of Rusty towards Fred); his straightforward manner; forbidding the boys on the property where he animal traps are placed and intentions of building a brick wall around the estate. Unable to locate the revised will, Danny's father, Hugh (John Litel), a city attorney, reads the original will to Fred that requests for him to live on the Gibson estate and Lawtonville for an entire year as well as carrying on his tradition by entertaining the boys as their host every Sunday afternoon. As much as Fred would rather return to Chicago, he agrees to remain so to collect his fortune. During his stay, the boys, hoping to locate the revised will, come up with solutions such as writing nasty notes and doing damage to his property to get Fred to leave. When it's Danny's turn, who shows up during the night, he ends up having to save Rusty caught in one of the traps with a blaze of fire nearby. In spite of Fred's attitude, he does show kindness towards Lyddy Hazard (Gloria Henry), an young artist and secretary. After the two get into an argument, Fred drives off in a rage, losing control of his car that lands in the river, leaving Fred to call out for help. Recalling the title of the movie, it's anyone's guess what Rusty does at this point.

A sort of story that would be commonly found in 1950s TV family shows, such as "Timmie and Lassie" for example, RUSTY SAVES A LIFE provides entertainment along with a moral lesson being "two wrongs don't make a right," a philosophy that still relevant today. With the boys purposely causing mischief to avenge to an unlikable new neighbor is never the solution to anything, as told to Danny by his conservative-minded father in the manner of Hugh Beaumont's portrayal in the "Leave It to Beaver" TV series. Of the actors who portrayed Danny's father in the past, ranging from Conrad Nagel and Tom Powers, John Litel is a logical choice for the role (having played the father to Nancy Drew and Henry Aldrich in two separate film series) due to his natural and believable manner, along with Ann Doran as his faithful wife, Ethel. Historians of classic TV shows will not only discover Ellen Corby appearing as Miss Simmons, but Gloria Henry, best known as Alice Mitchell in the "Dennis the Menace" (1959-1962) comedy series starring Jay North.

Rarely seen on television in decades, RUSTY SAVES A LIFE, which runs at 67 minutes, finally turned up on Turner Classic Movies June 23, 2007. Next and last in the series: RUSTY'S BIRTHDAY (1949). (** dog bites)

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