Next we may be talking about the cutest Disney movie they have ever produced, 1955’s Lady and the Tramp. While I prefer Disney’s more ambitious, riskier endeavors I have a place in my heart for the sweet and sentimental pictures too.
I mean I am not a dog person but your first glimpse of Lady is pretty adorable:
In the 1940s and 50s dog pictures were very popular for families. Film series like the 3 Lassie movies (and TV show starts in 1954), and a series called Kirby Grant Chinook the Wonder Dog were very successful.
It also should be obvious to anyone who has been to Disneyland that Walt Disney had a fondness for turn of the century wholesome small town Americana. Lady and the Tramp was released a month before Disneyland opened and we can see it’s influence in the film and perhaps the films influence on Disneyland.
Joe Grant, a Disney animator, had an English Springer Spaniel and he was telling Walt about how the dog had been shoved aside a little bit when they had their first baby. He then worked on sketches of this idea for nearly 20 years from the 30s through the 40s, but Walt Disney didn’t like any of the projects presented to him because there wasn’t enough action, enough for the characters to do.
Then Walt heard of a book called Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog by Ward Green. The only dog in the book is the Tramp, but Walt liked it and combined it with Joe’s idea and began work in earnest on Lady and the Tramp.
The artistry in Lady and the Tramp isn’t abstract or different but it is beautiful in it’s own way. It looks like a Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post.
The fir also looks great on all of the dogs and they all look adorable while still looking like their obvious breeds. I say that knowing very little about dogs.
Lady and the Tramp is the first movie to be released by Disney in Cinemascope and it was a huge hit for them.
The soundtrack was also one of Disney’s most successful with songs written by Peggy Lee. She sings in He’s a Tramp, La,La,La and Siamese cats . There is a jazzy feel to the whole soundtrack that I love.
The story begins with Lady being given as a gift from the male owner (Jim Dear) to his wife (Darling) as a Christmas gift. The beginning zoom in on the window with the Christmas tree is right out of Currier and Ives scene.
Lady is petted and pampered until a baby comes into the picture and she is warned by a mongrel called The Tramp that this will lead to no good. She ignores it but starts to get nervous when she see’s some changes.
Then one Sunday the Darlings decide to go away and Aunt Sarah comes to take care of the baby. She is voiced once again by the amazing Verna Felton; although, this is a smaller role for her.
Aunt Sarah is well meaning but she does not care for Lady and brings 2 rather disagreeable cats.
The strange thing about the Siamese cats is they come in, sing their creepy song, and then you hardly see them again in the movie. The end of the movie the rat is the villain not the cats which seems strange. Why not use a villain if you’ve already got them set up with a song.
I also think it is the first time a villain actually sings a villain song. Something that would become a Disney staple later on.
Like almost anything Hollywood did in the 50s with Asian characters the song does fall prey to stereotypes and is a kind of creepy but not always in a good way.
It doesn’t bother me the way the Red Man song in Peter Pan did because it is brief and the characters are standard villain. It doesn’t try to explain the Siamese race like Red Man does.
If it bothers or offends you I totally understand but it is easy to skip over.
However, I do like the cats slithering, slimy nature. I’d be nervous if they were around me slinking around (although doesn’t take much for me to be uncomfortable around strange animals). That’s why it is such a surprise they aren’t seen again in the movie.
So Lady protects the baby from the cats and Aunt Sarah takes her to the pet store to have a muzzle put on.
She runs away and meets Tramp. He helps her remove the muzzle and they end up eating some Italian food in one of the most famous scenes in all of Disney:
However, after their romantic night (feel funny saying that about dogs!) Tramp looses Lady and she ends up going to the pound. Terrified she meets an assortment of characters that are a lot of fun.
But it starts out very sad and if this doesn’t pull at your heart strings you may want to examine yourself… 😉
She also meets Trixie who tells Lady all about The Tramp:
Now that is a great song! Peggy Lee is wonderful and what a neat way to introduce kids to the whole idea of jazz music.
Learning about all of this Lady breaks up with Tramp when she see’s him and Aunt Sarah chains her to the doghouse. There’s a cute scene where Jock and Trusty propose to Lady to keep her safe.
That night Lady see’s the rat going into the baby’s room. Sarah tells her to stop barking but The Tramp hears her and goes after the rat, upsetting the room while he does it.
When Sarah see’s it she sends The Tramp to the pound but Trusty and Jock race after the cart, saving the day. Luckily Sarah see’s the rat and Jim Dear and Darling come home and everything is made right in time for another Christmas. (This is definitely the most holiday themed Disney movie)
Lady and the Tramp is kind of a like a popsicle in the summer. It’s sweet and sticky but you love it anyway. Everything about it is so well done. The backgrounds are picturesque and pretty, voice work is great, dogs are super cute, jazz soundtrack is fun, and there is that great spaghetti scene.
It’s not the Disney which is going to challenge you or frighten younger kids. It’s just a sweet simple story told with a lovely color pallet and a lot of charming dog characters.
I do think 101 Dalmatians is a little bit better because of Cruella but it is also a lot scarier for very young kids. This is the Disney movie you can watch with kids under 5 and I’m not sure you can say that with any of the others.
So yes I know it isn’t perfect but I like it.
Overall Grade B+