“Look, there’s a great big hunk of world down there, with no fence around it. Where two dogs can find adventure and excitement.”
The Disney classics all of have one or two images, lines of dialogue or characters that make them, well, classic. The kinds of things that everyone knows, decades after the movies were released, whether or not they’ve ever actually seen the movies. Dumbo’s ears, Cinderella’s glass slippers, Bambi’s mum catching a bullet. I can’t imagine any of these things are spoilers to anyone who’s never seen these movies they occur in. And when it comes Lady and the Tramp, there’s the sharing a strand of spaghetti that ends with a kiss. The excessive, diabetes inducing sweetness of this moment is representative of everything that makes this by far the worst of the Disney classics I’ve been belatedly catching up on.
A faceless and almost torsoless husband and wife awake on Christmas morning. The husband has bought his missus a spaniel puppy. Named Lady, she quickly becomes the focus of all of their attention and affection. A year or two later, with a baby on the way, Lady drops a few places on the priority list of her owners. Once the baby is born, the parents go for a night out (or weekend maybe, I had lost a lot of interest by this stage), leaving the baby and dog in the care of a dottering old aunt, who also brings her two Siamese cats.
Some sort of shit goes down (interest almost completely drained by this stage) and Lady ends up spending a night on the street, being shown the fun side of rough trade, by the titular Tramp. A mongrel street dog, he’s also the target of local dog catchers who’ve never been able to catch and keep him long enough to take care of business. Business of a “put to sleep” variety.
Lady and the Tramp head home and there’s a rat who for some reason is determined to kill the baby. Because you know, this is an animated kids’ movie about dog pasta connoisseurs. So the threat of baby death was always going to be a major plot point, obviously.
The one thing I will say for Lady and the Tramp however is that the animation still holds up. It might be 60 odd years old, but the direction and the way it handles the blocking of scenes and capturing the action is pretty much exactly what you’d see in an animated movie today. But even then, the Disney group had this under control almost 30 years before Lady and the Tramp with the far superior Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
For some reason the predictable stories of Cinderella, Bambi, 101 Dalmatians and Dumbo never got to me. I pretty much knew their plots beat by beat before ever watching them, but they still offered enough good stuff to overcome that. That wasn’t the case with Lady and the Tramp. I don’t know how they managed to make me not give a crap about cartoon dogs, but they did it.
Lady and the Tramp
Directed By – Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written By – Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright
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