Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog (1961)


In 19th century Edinburgh, Scotland, an old shepherd dies of pneumonia and his faithful dog, a little Skye Terrier named “Bobby,” refuses to leave his master’s tomb. The government prohibits master-less dogs running loose in the city, so little Bobby’s fate rests in the hands of the Edinburgh court system.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“For many of the bairns in Greyfriars, Bobby is the only love they know.”

Walt Disney’s Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog hits all the right emotional notes, a beautifully-realized picturization of the allegedly true story of a faithful Skye Terrier who visited his master’s grave for fourteen long years.

Many books and movies have told Bobby’s incredible story, but Disney’s 1961 version is by far the most effective — Greyfriars Bobby isn’t an emotional rollercoaster like Lassie Come Home (1943) or Old Yeller (1958), but it is quite good.

Directed by Don Chaffey (Pete’s Dragon) from a script by Robert Westerby (The Three Lives of Thomasina) based on Eleanor Atkinson’s book, Greyfriars Bobby was beautifully shot in Technicolor by Paul Beeson (Candleshoe). Most of the film was filmed inside sound-stages in California, but famed artisan Albert Whitlock’s (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes) brilliant matte paintings create the proper illusion — you can tell that a lot of care went into recreating a specific time and place.

Greyfriars Bobby has no movie stars — this is Bobby’s show. But the little mutt is adorable (a very charming and photogenic bestie), and the four-legged creature is surrounded by a fantastic cast of veteran character actors.

Top-billed Donald Crisp (Jezebel) plays the cranky cemetery caretaker who eventually succumbs to Bobby’s charm. Laurence Naismith (Camelot) is a restaurateur who befriends the little dog. Alex Mackenzie (Disney’s Kidnapped) will break your heart as the dying shepherd. Gordon Jackson (Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines) plays a farmer, and Kay Walsh (Oliver Twist) plays Crisp’s wife.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Many Historians have claimed that the story of Bobby and his devotion to his master is not true. At this point, who cares? For me, at least, Bobby is a symbol of the love between master and pet. Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog wins your heart in an honest manner. The dog is pretty cute, and the fact that it is (allegedly) based on a true story only adds to the film’s overall impact. Color, 87 minutes, Rated G.

3 responses to “Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog (1961)

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