Old Yeller (1957)

Old Yellerold yeller 1957 poster
Directed by Robert Stevenson
Written by Fred Gipson and William Tunberg from Gipson’s book
1957/USA
Walt Disney Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

 

Katie Coates: If that don’t beat all. I never saw such a dog.

Travis Coates: And you won’t never see another one like him.

This childhood favorite held up very well.

The Coates family lives on a farm on the Texas frontier.  As the story begins, Pa Coates (Fess Parker) goes off to sell some cattle and earn the first cash money the family will have seen since the Civil War.   Wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and two sons Travis (Tommy Kirk), around 12, and Arliss, maybe five, will be left alone for at least three months.  Travis is to be the man of the family.  He asks for a horse as a reward but his father tells him what he needs is a good dog.

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Soon enough, a big yellow dog shows up.  He gets on Travis’s bad side initially but Arliss adores and he is soon adopted.  The dog proves to be the best friend the family ever had, helping them out of one scrape after another.  With Chuck Conners as the stray’s owner.

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I read the book as a child, before I ever saw the movie, and the ending made me cry and cry.  The movie is both moving and exciting and the performances are all first-rate.  The stand-out, of course, is the multi-talented canine.  It’s a coming of age story as well as a dog movie.  Recommended.

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