The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)


The year is 1912. Seven-year-old Mary (Karen Dotrice, Mary Poppins) and her veterinarian father, Dr. McDhuis (Patrick McGoohan, Braveheart), live in a tiny village in Scotland. When Mary’s beloved cat, Thomasina, is euthanized by her father after suffering an injury, Mary swears never to speak to her father again.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I am Thomasina. This story’s all about me. I’m a self-made cat.”

One of Disney’s most unusual stories adapted from Paul Gallico’s 1957 novel Thomasina, The Three Lives of Thomasina sensitively and charmingly deals with one of society’s last major taboos: death, specifically the death of a pet. The film also conveys perfectly the extraordinarily strong bond that can exist between pets and their owners.

The film mixes humor and pathos nicely. There is also a heart-warming message about the special place animals occupy in our hearts. Although it could be accused of back-pedaling on the main issue, The Three Lives of Thomasina does show in vivid detail the difficulties of coping with sudden loss. Above all, I really liked how the film proposes that knowledge, faith, and love aren’t mutually exclusive.

All performances are first-rate. Irish-British actor Patrick McGoohan’s wonderfully acerbic performance as the Scottish veterinarian who has no love for his customers prevents the film from ever becoming too maudlin. Moreover, McGoohan’s Vet is essentially the story’s villain, and it is this character’s arc that gives the film its backbone. Thomasina’s witty and mostly sardonic remarks (voice provided by British actress Elspeth March, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone) also cut through the sugar.

Karen Dotrice is fantastic as the precocious Mary, and Matthew Garber adorable as Dotrice’s mischievous friend. Apparently, “Uncle Walt” was so impressed with Dotrice and Garber that he immediately cast them as the Banks children in Mary Poppins (the youngsters appeared together for the last time in Disney’s The Gnome-Mobile). Susan Hampshire (Living Free and A Time for Loving) is wonderful as a quirky young woman who has a very unique way of treating wounded animals.

Imaginatively directed by Don Chaffey (Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog) (the kitty heaven sequence pays tribute to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1944 classic A Matter of Life and Death) and lovingly filmed by Paul Beeson (To Sir, with Love) (it was partially filmed in Inveraray, Scotland). The title song (music and Lyrics by Terry Gilkyson, sung by American vocalist Robie Lester) is very good too. Paul J. Smith’s (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) incidental music is a big plus.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

I have buried many loved ones, but nothing, I mean nothing, surpasses the deep pain I’ve experienced after the death of one of my pets — it’s like an open wound that will not heal. Walt Disney’s whimsical, but earnest The Three Lives of Thomasina is a loving paean to the unconditional love between animals and humans. Lassies and laddies, grab your tissues! Highly recommended! Color, 97 minutes, Rated G.

This is my contribution to The No True Scotsman Blogathon, hosted by Realweedgiemidget Reviews.


21 responses to “The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)

  1. Pingback: BLOGATHON… The Final Fling with Those “Scottish” Laddies and Lassies – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more·

  2. I too saw this one as a child, on the old “Wonderful World of Color,” and whenever I come across the title my mind immediately conjures up Thomasina in kitty Heaven. (At least that is my memory of it; I haven’t seen the movie in… ahem… a long time, and until just a few years ago had convinced myself that Mary was played by Haley Mills.) Thanks for reminding me of a movie I loved as a small boy and should take another look at. I wish Disney would offer it on disc in a widescreen format.

    I also very much appreciate your comment on the deaths of pets; no psychic or emotional pain I’ve experienced has cut as deeply as the loss, eight years ago, of my beagle-mix. It took months for me to be able to walk in the door of my home and not feel as if I’d been knifed in the heart. I still mist up when I drive past the house in whose yard he’s buried.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I also remember this movie–later on TV. Pretty much agree with everything you said! Beloved pet deaths must be so powerful because their love and acceptance is so steady and unchanging, unlike that of us ego-based humans, lol

    Liked by 2 people

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