Monday, November 1, 2021

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR NOVEMBER ON TCM

 

Here is the oft-told tale of a young fellow of dubious background and hard-scrabble existence finding his way in a cruel and judgmental world. In fact, you might even call our hero a stray.

Wildfire is a bull terrier and we become part of his life's journey through the sassy narration of Vic Morrow. The turn of the 20th century Bowery is no place for gentlefolk or gentle dogs. Separated from his mother and only knowing the name of his grand champion father, Regent Royal, Wildfire falls in with the tough and abusive Patch McGill played by Jeff Richards (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). Patch is out for the quick buck and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way.


Eventually, Wildfire becomes part of the circle of kindly trainer Jeremiah Nolan played by Edmund Gwenn (Foreign Correspondent) and learns of a different sort of life and a different sort of human. Life is no less complicated as Nolan works for the emotionally conflicted and wealthy Wyndham played by Dean Jagger (Pursued). 

Where will this twisted road take our hero? Will he find resolution or redemption? As the cold autumn wears on, you will enjoy a familiar story told in an unfamiliar manner. Sometimes that is what we need, plus the studio sheen of MGM and some Eastmancolor.

Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916)

It's a Dog's Life is based on the 1903 novel The Bar Sinister by Richard Harding Davis. In my youth, I found a compilation of the noted foreign correspondent's journalistic endeavours at a second-hand bookstore and lived the adventures and tragedies of history through his eyes. Davis's plays and novels were no less successful and influential, forming the basis of several films, shorts, and features. This screen telling was adapted by John Michael Hayes (The Trouble with Harry) and directed by Herman Hoffman (The Invisible Boy).


The Bar Sinister was earlier adapted as the 1927 film Almost Human. One can see its influence as well in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey the 1993 remake with animal narration of The Incredible Journey the 1963 film of Sheila Burnford's 1961 novel.


TCM is screening It's a Dog's Life early on Tuesday, November 9th as part of a slate of films devoted to Man's Best Friend. Perhaps your favourite is already among the lineup and perhaps this movie will join that list.










20 comments:

  1. JOHN MICHAEL HAYES! As soon as I saw that name I remembered that he did the screenplay for PEYTON PLACE(57) starring LANA TURNER. I read that Hayes wrote for suspense shows on the radio and that is what got the attention of ALFRED HITCHCOCK. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Hayes' work for Hitchcock is top-notch. Lots of fun to be found in other works as well. Following writers around from movie to movie is eye-opening.

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  2. Well, doggone, another one I've never seen. You keep mining the rare gems.

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    1. Honestly, I really think you'll get a kick out of it.

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  3. This is SUCH a good movie!!! I first saw it because of Vic Morrow, and his voiceover remains my favorite part, but the movie is just so well done overall.

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    1. It is a special treat and I'm sure your enthusiasm will go far to convince "newbies" to give it a try.

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  4. I love a good dog movie and Edmund Gwenn is perfect for this kind of movie (he was in THREE Lassie movies!).

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    1. I hadn't thought of Gwenn that way, but it's true. Of course, he breaks my heart in Lassie Come Home. That classic is part of the lineup on the 9th. It is going to be a great day.

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  5. Paddy Lee, a good write-up of a rather good movie. I first viewed IT'S A DOG'S LIFE(1955), as a youngster, on the WREC Channel 3 Memphis, Tennessee EARLY MOVIE in 1972. After arriving home from school I would turn on the tv to see what movie was on. Let me say this, it isn't your usual dog movie, its not Disney, or a Warner Bros. Looney Tune. The setting is in a Richard Harding Davis world. This isn't a dog and his boy story, because there are no children in this story. It is a fantastical fable told to us through the viewpoint of a honorable bull terrier. This movie gives us witty humor as well as deeply strong life lessons that don't side step the darker side of life. This sounds pretty heavy for an animal-talking movie from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1955, but that is what makes its uniqueness.

    While viewing the movie for the first time, the voice of Wildfire the dog was familiar, but I couldn't quite place it at first, then it finally dawned on me that it was Sgt. Chip Saunders from tv's COMBAT(1962-67). Yes, the fine actor Vic Morrow. Morrow did a wonderful narrative voiceover, which is so essential in the success of this movie.

    IT'S A DOG'S LIFE aired on WREC Channel 3 several times during the 1970's. It was over 30 years before I saw it again on Turner Classic Movies in 2011. I finally viewed it in a nice color print. MGM's high production values always stand out. This is a fun movie, which I think is well worth viewing.

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    1. You heard it here, folks. If Walter lauds a movie, it will be worth your while.

      I enjoyed your history with It's a Dog's Life. It really is one of those movies whose uniqueness stays with you. Indeed, Vic Morrow's contribution as Wildfire's voice is immeasurable. If we didn't feel drawn to the character through his voice the premise would not work, and It's a Dog's Life works, standing the test of time.

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    2. Paddy Lee, because of your write-up, I still have IT'S A DOG'S LIFE on my mind. I ran across this item in MGM's publicity for the movie. It is probably from one of Ed Sullivan's "Little Old New York" columns in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Apparently starmaker Ed Sullivan was impressed with Wildfire's performance, "It may be the first time an Oscar is awarded to a dog." -Ed Sullivan. Wildfire did receive a PATSY(Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) award.

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    3. A well-deserved reward for our pal Wildfire. Thanks for the information that fans, old and new, will be glad to know.

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  6. DEAN JAGGER and VIC MORROW were both in KING CREOLE starring ELVIS PRESLEY! CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. I saw King Creole within the last few months. A prestigious film for Elvis, working with Michael Curtiz.

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  7. I looked up the credits to this movie. The music was by ELMER BERNSTEIN who did the music for some JOHN WAYNE movies including THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER and TRUE GRIT. He also did the music for 24 episodes of THE BIG VALLEY. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. E. Bernstein was very versatile. His compositions add a lot to the movies.

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  8. Paddy, your post is so lovely and makes me look forward to checking out this film. It sounds like a real treat. Thanks for the intro to Its A Dog's Life!

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    1. You are so welcome. I sure this surprising movie will find a place in your heart.

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  9. I want to mention that tomorrow is VETERANS DAY (Nov. 11). I thank all the veterans (living and deceased). I think it was good that some of the top movie stars put their careers on hold and joined the military during WORLD WAR II. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. I agree. In Canada we celebrate the former Armistice Day as Remembrance Day and it is a sacred observance. A few years ago some American-based retailers in Canada tried to link the day to a "sale" and there was immediate backlash which brought it to a stop.

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CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR DECEMBER ON TCM

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