In today’s guest post, Melanie Simone shares her thoughts on the timeless fun and romance of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955). Lady and the Tramp was the 15th animated film from Disney and the first animated movie to be filmed in the CinemaScope widescreen.
USA 1955, 75 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Productions, Distributed by Buena Vista. Based on Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog by Ward Greene. Voice Talents: Peggy Lee, Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucom, Verna Felton, Stan Freberg, Alan Reed.
Plot summary: One of the greatest love stories of all time, a cocker spaniel and a mutt are sharing spaghetti in the moonlight.
Review: For anyone who is not fond of dogs, this film is probably a bore. For anyone who loves canines and their world, Lady and the Tramp is a gem. Inspired by true events and loosely based on a short story by Ward Greene, Disney’s 15th animated feature tells the story of cocker spaniel Lady and her life in a posh neighborhood. As the only dog of her human owners, she is sheltered, spoiled and used to the comforts of a collar. Tramp is her direct opposite, a mixed breed, hardened and laddish. Charmer that he is, he impresses her with stories of a stray existence, of a life beyond her picket fences. It is a world she cannot get accustomed to although she slowly falls in love with the mutt who introduces her to it. When Lady suddenly runs into mischief and needs help to save her family from harm, it is Tramp who rushes to her rescue and ultimately wins her heart.
Presented in Cinemascope (the first such animated effort from the studio), Disney’s “happiest motion picture” is colorful, elegant and delightful. Told from Lady’s perspective, the plot takes place in a world shaped by humans but experienced on four paws. The main characters are all canines, beautifully brought to life by Disney’s expert staff. With a carefully executed love to detail, Lady, Tramp, and their pals Jock and Trusty move and look exactly like the breed each of them represents. With their previously demonstrated awareness of animal expressions and their idiosyncratic behavior, the Disney animators continued a tradition they had started with the production of Bambi in 1942. With a mixture of realism and fantasy, they created a world that doesn’t exist to tell a story that reflects human emotions and needs. Lady is like a child who takes her first steps in the world without parental guidance. In the beginning, she is still a little clumsy and naive, but always charming. The first lessons she learns are secondhand stories shared by her older peers. But before long, she has her own adventures.
What sets this film apart from similar stories are the combined talents and skills brought together by Walt Disney Productions. From the first glimpse of an idea in 1937 to the final sketches in the 1950s, the story was revised, improved (including adding the song “He’s a Tramp” by Peggy Lee) and edited to become the classic it now is. The film premiered on June 22, 1955 and turned into an immediate success. Making more money than any other production since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Lady and the Tramp was re-released to theaters four times before the film was made available to the public on VHS in 1987. Today, it is available on DVD and Blu-ray with many extras, including deleted scenes and a “making of” featurette. Although the film widely differs from modern productions, predominantly in language, attitude and design, Lady and the Tramp is the kind of motion picture that will never go out of style. It is a film blessed with unforgettable tidbits and scenes. From Lady’s first appearance to the famous spaghetti dinner and my personal favorite, the names of Lady’s owners, Jim Dear and Darling. It is a film from a bygone time when beauty still mattered and animated features invited us to dream. Just watch the original trailer to refresh your memories, I’m sure the music alone will bewitch you within a short few seconds.
Melanie Simone is a writer with a degree in American Studies and English. On Talking Classics, she savors her love for vintage Hollywood.