It’s one of the most familiar tropes in storytelling — the tale of a boy and his dog. One of the first films to truly capture the magic of this special bond was 1943’s Lassie Come Home, and the world has been enchanted by the collie’s magic ever since. The impact of this feature reverberated through subsequent decades, and can be found in everything from Snoopy, Come Home (which we wrote about here) to the recent A Dog’s Journey. And that’s not even getting into Lassie’s other film and TV work.
Originally portrayed by a male collie named Pal, Lassie was based on a cherished novel by Eric Knight. It’s tale (tail?) of love and action and devotion made the time seem tailor made for the big screen. So when the movie adaptation hit the big screen on October 7, 1943, audiences lapped it up like thirsty dogs drinking from water bowls on a hot August day.
The film chronicles the exploits of an impoverished Depression-era British family who are forced to sell their beloved collie to a wealthy duke so that they can try to crawl out of mounting debt. Unhappy with her new home in Scotland, Lassie embarks on a perilous journey to return home to be her best friend Joe (Roddy McDowall), who misses her as much as she does him.
Here’s the film’s trailer:
With a peerless supporting cast that includes Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester and a young Elizabeth Taylor, Lassie Come Home is a watermark moment in cinema that remains the gold standard of what animal movies should aspire to be.