Elderly Georgian farmer Sam Peek (Hume Cronyn, The Shadow of a Doubt) loses his wife (Jessica Tandy, The Birds) of 50 years to a sudden heart attack. When a mysterious white dog arrives on the farm, Sam begins to suspect that the dog is really the spirit of his wife who has returned to watch over him.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“There are no real endings on this earth, only discoveries.”
Bette Davis once said, “Accommodation to life’s inescapable realities is not surrender.” To Dance with the White Dog is about the art of accommodation in the face of the inevitable. The movie takes on added poignancy due to the fact that this is the very last pairing of the real-life husband & wife team Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (she died of cancer only 10 months after the film aired on TV).
The teleplay is by British author Susan Cooper from Terry Kay’s book, based on Kay’s personal experiences after the death of his mother. To Dance with the White Dog reunited most of the talent that made the successful play/movie Foxfire, but I found this follow-up much more satisfying than its predecessor.
Maybe because it is based on real people and situations, To Dance with the White Dog feels more authentic than Foxfire. Leisurely paced and lovingly crafted, this Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production has a sharp eye for observing all the little idiosyncrasies you find in real-life relationships. While it’s a bit whimsical, there isn’t a single moment in the entire movie that feels fabricated. The film has a lot of humor too.
Cronyn is absolutely brilliant. He won a well-deserved Emmy for his performance as the aging farmer (82-year-old Cronyn performed his own stunts!). For whatever reason, when he was young, Cronyn always seemed to be playing unlikable characters. As he got older, he was called on to play cranky old types. It was nice to see him play such a warm character for a change. Cronyn scenes with Tandy are particularly touching. Since Cronyn outlived Tandy, the film feels almost prophetic.
The wonderful cast, directed by Glenn Jordan (Sarah, Plain and Tall), includes Christine Baranski (TV’s The Good Wife and Mama Mia!), Frank Whaley (Swimming with Sharks) and Amy Wright (The Amityville Horror) as Cronyn’s children. The great Esther Rolle (TV’s Good Times and Driving Miss Daisy) manages to steal a few scenes as Neelie, an outspoken housekeeper. And the white pooch, a two-year-old Australian shepherd found at a shelter, is a photogenic beastie!
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
To Dance with a White Dog is a heartfelt movie that deals with timeless themes. Emotional without being sentimental, wise without being preachy, the film waits patiently to be rediscovered by viewers looking for something memorable, meaningful and satisfying. Highly recommended! Color, 100 minutes, Not Rated.