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

Synopsis:

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:

Walt Disney’s Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog hits all the right emotional notes, a beautifully-realized picturization of the legendary Skye Terrier who allegedly visited his master’s grave for 14 years.

Many books and movies have told Bobby’s 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 (Jason and the Argonauts) 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 (The Andromeda Strain and Ghost Story) 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 creature — and he 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 Crip’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 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. A perfect family film. Color, 87 minutes, Rated G.

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