Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dog Watch: Lassie Come Home (1943)

I had no burning desire to watch Lassie Come Home (1943) to see the gripping tale of a dog coming home.  But I was aware of the ascendency of Lassie in Hollywood via this movie, a career that would span into the 1990's before kind of fading, so far as I know.  I was also curious about the movie as it stars a young and precocious Elizabeth Taylor (that's Liz there on the right) and Roddy McDowell as a kid (our man there on the left).

The movie also features Edmund Gwenn of both Miracle on 34th Street and Them! fame and, Signal Watch favorite Elsa Lanchester of Bride of Frankenstein as Roddy McDowell's mother.

I don't know that I grew up with Lassie, but I watched reruns of an American show from the 1950's on Nickelodeon, and everyone knew Collies were "Lassie Dogs" back in the 80's.  In the 1990's I made my pre-Jamie girlfriend go see an American movie called Lassie that starred Helen Slater.

In my ever-expanding fascination with how much more frank kids' movies used to be back in the day versus now, this sweet movie about a dog and boy who love each other very much and are separated thanks to the economic forces of Depression-era Britain would probably, mostly, make it for kids today if you didn't have some coarse behavior and hobos beating up Edmund Gwenn and killing his own little dog (spoilers).

The movie was shot in color, and it's a beautiful look at the countryside of California doubling as England and Scotland.

It occurs to me that during this same window where Lassie was making a name for her/himself at the movies, Rin Tin Tin was literally being used as a training dog for GI's as part of the war effort.  Meanwhile, Lassie was providing a bit of escapism for the kids back home and in England, I suppose.  And, of course, the movie released during war time mentions that the author served with Britain in World War I and was just killed in WWII.  That's a hell of a thing, but I guess it was no secret America was at war.

I don't think kids of today could tolerate the measured pace of the movie, but you never know.  The story is largely episodic as Lassie meets folks along the way returning home, so it moves at a decent clip.  You could have worse introductions to the character.

In the 1990's I was working at a mall record store and whichever dog was the official Lassie at the time came through for a photo-op sort of thing, and I've always regretted not paying the $20 and getting my picture with that dog.  But, you know, it was a Lassie photo or eating, so I guess I made the right decision.


Stuart said...

$20 for a photo-op in the 90's?? Had no idea Lassie was that big a celebrity.

The League said...

Yeah. I remember thinking the price was pretty steep at the time. It may have been $20 or higher or lower, but my memory says "$20". I had nothing to gauge the cost against as I had never paid for a celebrity autograph or photo-op or any of that to that point. I remember just being shocked that you had to pay anything at all. I assumed quite wrongly that this was a mall sponsored event to get shoppers in the door.

BTW - the line was pretty considerable for a dog I wasn't sure any of the kids could actually identify.

Stuart said...

I'm actually somewhat fascinated by the economics of celebrity signings and photo-ops. When I started going to cons and such in the late 90s, they were usually free or like $5. Around the mid-2000s, $20 seemed to be the new high-end standard, and I never saw anyone charge extra for a photo-op if you bought a signature. It was just understood that that's part of the deal.

I remember the first time I saw a celebrity charging extra for a photo-op (with your own camera!) and it was Lou Ferigno. I've seen him at a few different cons, and I usually get a I-don't-really-want-to-be-here vibe off of him. So it didn't surprise me he was finding ways to discourage fan interaction.

In the last couple of years, it's just skyrocketed beyond belief. Most celebrity signings are now $40, and you can expect to be charged extra for a photo-op, sometimes as much as $20! I was at a con with Chris Sarandon, and asked if me and a friend could get in a photo with him together. Sure, no problem, but it'll be twice as much ($40)!

On the other hand, the price war has given me an opportunity to appreciate the folks do enjoy fan interaction and refuse to put up ridiculous paywalls.

For example: Don Rosa, who I try to see every year, charges NOTHING for a signature, a PERSONALIZED SKETCH, AND a photo! (He does suggest that you may want to buy one of his prints for $20, which I always do, but it's optional.) And he'll never rush you, never put on airs, and will chat you up like you're just hanging out at a bar.

The League said...

Every time I think of going to Austin's Wizard World, I run the numbers and when I realize it's going to cost me $250 for tickets and signatures from their headliners, I just don't show up. I mean, most of the rest of what they have at Cons I can find elsewhere, and its not like any actual information is released at Cons, so... it's a hard sell when I think "I might need a new roof on my house in the next few years. Maybe spending 15 seconds with Bruce Campbell isn't worth this much.".

I'm glad everyone is able to make money directly from their fans, but... man, as excited as I was to shake Erin Grey's hand (the first autograph I'd paid for as an adult), it was super creepy then handing her a $20 bill.

I did pay whatever for the Photo-Op with Cassandra Peterson and Dean Cain, and I regret not doing same with Ernie Hudson, but I was tapped out. I can't tell you how much I appreciated handing the person next to them the money.

I dunno, the whole thing is, like, 40% exciting, 50% weird, 10% laced with ennui.