By Ken Brafman, Image from ROWHS Collection

TITLE: LASSIE COME HOME: Released in 1943 during World War II, Lassie Come Home was the first in a franchise of seven MGM films featuring the venerable collie. This heartwarming drama had some two dozen filming locations and two of them were Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. The plot originated from a short story written by Eric Knight in 1938 which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. His Lassie character was based on a real war hero collie that saved the life of a soldier that had been left for dead. This week’s image is a movie poster which gives top billing to Roddy McDowall as Joe, Lassie’s young owner. Donald Crisp and Elsa Lanchester (the former Bride of Frankenstein character) play Joe’s parents. Missing from the poster is 10-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. This was only her second film and her first for MGM. Also missing from the poster is Pal, the male dog that played Lassie. Pal’s owner got $250 a week compared to Taylor’s $100. The drama takes place during the Great Depression, and the family is poor. Joe’s father tells him, “Ye can’t feed a dog on the dole, and ye can’t feed a family either.” It’s his mother who’s forced to tell young Joe, “Oh well, ye may as well know it right off. Lassie won’t be waiting for ye at school anymore. Because she’s sold.” The father had peddled Lassie to a local kennel, and Nigel Bruce, playing a duke, and Taylor, as his granddaughter, Priscilla, buy her. Lassie escapes from the kennel before the Duke can claim her, but she is captured and returned, and goes to live on the Duke’s Scottish estate. In time Priscilla senses the dog’s unhappiness and arranges her escape. The bittersweet finale involves Lassie’s long trek back to her Yorkshire home and the perils and kindnesses she encounters along the way. The picture-perfect happy ending, naturally, is Lassie’s joyful reunion with Joe.

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