Courage of Lassie


1h 32m 1946
Courage of Lassie

Brief Synopsis

A young girl tries to rehabilitate the famous collie after his return from combat service in World War II.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blue Sierra, Hold High the Torch
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Family
War
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 8, 1946
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Jul 1946
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Lake Chelan, Washington, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,323ft

Synopsis

After being separated from his mother, a newborn collie puppy roams the wilderness near a mountain lake looking for food and shelter. The puppy quickly learns to survive the many dangers inherent in nature, including the menacing threat of a mountain lion and the scenting power of a skunk. When a wolf chases him into a fast-moving river, the puppy manages to float to safety on top of a log. One day, the collie happens upon Kathie Merrick, a young girl, sunbathing on the lake shore, and runs off with her clothes. Kathie chases after the puppy and catches up to him at a watering hole. The puppy continues to run, but is stopped when two of Kathie's friends, out on a hunting expedition, accidentally shoot him. When Kathie finds the wounded puppy, she takes him to her sheep rancher friend, Harry MacBain, who dresses the dog's wounds and insures his quick recovery. Kathie tries to convince her mother to train the puppy to become a sheep herder for their ranch, but Mrs. Merrick believes that the dog is a show dog, not a work dog, and sees little value in training it. After naming the dog Bill, Kathie takes him back to Harry, who sees Bill's sheep-herding potential and agrees to train him. Time passes, and Bill grows into adulthood as an effective sheep herder and a loyal companion to Kathie. One day, during a winter snowstorm, some of the Merricks' lambs escape, and Kathie and Bill set out to find them. While walking along a dangerous precipice, Kathie stumbles and falls, but Bill pulls her back up with his teeth. The two return home with the wayward lambs, and Mrs. Merrick realizes that Bill would indeed make a fine sheep herding dog. A short time later, Bill narrowly escapes death when a truck driver accidentally hits him on a mountain road. While Bill is taken to the nearest town for help, Kathie searches for her dog in a rowboat. The boat capsizes during a windstorm, but Kathie is rescued by Harry, who had seen the boat tip over from a distance. Several days pass, and while Bill recovers at Dr. Coleman's pet hospital, Kathie loses hope of ever finding him. Coleman, unable to determine Bill's owner, sends him to the Army's War Dog Training Center, where he is renamed Duke by his new master, Sergeant Smitty, and trained to become an army dog on the combat field. When Smitty is shipped overseas to fight the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands, Bill accompanies him. Bill distinguishes himself in battle, but the sound of gunfire eventually proves too traumatic for him and he becomes shell-shocked. Smitty sends Bill home on a train, but Bill escapes into the wilderness en route. His combat experience has made Bill more aggressive, and his predatory instincts drive him to kill some chickens belonging to a rancher. The ranchers chase after Bill, who eventually makes his way back to familiar territory and into Kathie's arms. With Kathie's love, Bill eventually loses his ferocity and returns to his normal state. A court order, however, has been issued to destroy the dog, and a hearing is set to determine the dog's fate. Things look bad for Bill until his Army tattoo is discovered and he is identified as a missing war hero dog. Through Harry's impassioned pleas, the judge grants Bill's freedom and allows the dog to be returned to Kathie.

Film Details

Also Known As
Blue Sierra, Hold High the Torch
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Family
War
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Aug 8, 1946
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Jul 1946
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Lake Chelan, Washington, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,323ft

Articles

Courage of Lassie


When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios were in production for a film about a brave dog overcoming incredible odds, the project was first titled Hold High the Torch. It was then changed to the more majestic sounding Blue Sierra. Yet it was still missing the oomph the studio wanted. The film was slated to star a young Elizabeth Taylor, who a few years before received great notices for Lassie Come Home (1943). And the dog that would be her co-star? Why, none other than Pal, the collie who was the original Lassie in the first film.

In an attempt to capitalize upon the popularity of the film series - Son of Lassie was released in 1945 - the Metro producers wisely renamed the film Courage of Lassie (1946). There was one problem, however. In the movie, they named the dog Bill. MGM reasoned that viewers would soon forget the movie title that drew them into the cinema and they were right, proving that the success of the Lassie phenomenon applied even when the dog's name wasn't Lassie!

Due to the success of National Velvet (1944), Courage of Lassie would mark the first time Taylor received top billing in a film, at the ripe old age of eleven. A fanatical animal lover, Taylor convincingly relayed her affection for all creatures large and small onscreen; she was to remark later in life, "Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses." On location, the idyllic setting of Lake Chelan, in Washington State, provided the pastoral environment the producers hoped to capture. Taylor took advantage of the bounties of the countryside; during the filming of Courage, in fact, she caught twenty-five chipmunks to keep as pets. All but one would be released. The one she kept and nicknamed "Nibbles" ended up being cast in a bit part in the film. Alas, his big scene was ultimately cut. As Taylor explained in an interview, "He was too good. It didn't look real." Nibbles, however, did provide the inspiration for Taylor's book debut, Nibbles and Me, which was published in 1946, chronicling their adventures and mutual affection. Taylor also drew the illustrations for the 77-page tome and collected $1000 for her efforts. Courage of Lassie marked the last time she co-starred with an animal.

Besides Taylor, Courage of Lassie is memorable for its supporting cast which includes Frank Morgan, best remembered as the title character in The Wizard of Oz (1939), despite his Oscar® nominations for Tortilla Flat (1943) and The Affairs of Cellini (1934). Morgan, born Wuppermann, was born into wealth as one of eleven children of the co-founder of the Angostura-Wuppermann Corporation, which distributed the popular bitters condiment used in cocktails. He soon abandoned the family business, however, to follow his acting dreams - changing his name along the way. Courage of Lassie has another Oz connection: bit actor Mitchell Lewis had an uncredited role as the "Captain of the Winkie Guard". A prolific but unlucky actor, Lewis probably holds some kind of record for uncredited or deleted scenes in films - 90 or more! Courage of Lassie was, in fact, one of his few credited roles.

Our Gang graduate Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer also has a small part in the film as a young boy who accidentally shoots the dog in a hunting accident. Ironically, Switzer would become the victim of gun violence when he was shot dead during an argument over money in 1959. Switzer and Taylor had previously starred together in Taylor's film debut There's One Born Every Minute (1942). George Cleveland, who plays the elderly man in Courage of Lassie, parlayed his involvement in the film into a three-year stint as "Gramps" Miller in the television series Lassie. Director Fred Wilcox had cut his teeth on the first Lassie flick, Lassie Come Home, but he would be best remembered for his work on The Secret Garden (1949), starring child actor Margaret O'Brien.

Producer: Robert Sisk
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Screenplay: Lionel Houser
Cinematography: Leonard Smith
Film Editing: Conrad A. Nervig
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Youngblood
Music: Scott Bradley, Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Kathie Merrick), Frank Morgan (Harry McBain), Tom Drake (Sergeant Smitty), Selena Royle (Mrs. Merrick), Harry Davenport (Judge Payson), George Cleveland (Old Man).
C-93m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Eleanor Quin
Courage Of Lassie

Courage of Lassie

When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios were in production for a film about a brave dog overcoming incredible odds, the project was first titled Hold High the Torch. It was then changed to the more majestic sounding Blue Sierra. Yet it was still missing the oomph the studio wanted. The film was slated to star a young Elizabeth Taylor, who a few years before received great notices for Lassie Come Home (1943). And the dog that would be her co-star? Why, none other than Pal, the collie who was the original Lassie in the first film. In an attempt to capitalize upon the popularity of the film series - Son of Lassie was released in 1945 - the Metro producers wisely renamed the film Courage of Lassie (1946). There was one problem, however. In the movie, they named the dog Bill. MGM reasoned that viewers would soon forget the movie title that drew them into the cinema and they were right, proving that the success of the Lassie phenomenon applied even when the dog's name wasn't Lassie! Due to the success of National Velvet (1944), Courage of Lassie would mark the first time Taylor received top billing in a film, at the ripe old age of eleven. A fanatical animal lover, Taylor convincingly relayed her affection for all creatures large and small onscreen; she was to remark later in life, "Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses." On location, the idyllic setting of Lake Chelan, in Washington State, provided the pastoral environment the producers hoped to capture. Taylor took advantage of the bounties of the countryside; during the filming of Courage, in fact, she caught twenty-five chipmunks to keep as pets. All but one would be released. The one she kept and nicknamed "Nibbles" ended up being cast in a bit part in the film. Alas, his big scene was ultimately cut. As Taylor explained in an interview, "He was too good. It didn't look real." Nibbles, however, did provide the inspiration for Taylor's book debut, Nibbles and Me, which was published in 1946, chronicling their adventures and mutual affection. Taylor also drew the illustrations for the 77-page tome and collected $1000 for her efforts. Courage of Lassie marked the last time she co-starred with an animal. Besides Taylor, Courage of Lassie is memorable for its supporting cast which includes Frank Morgan, best remembered as the title character in The Wizard of Oz (1939), despite his Oscar® nominations for Tortilla Flat (1943) and The Affairs of Cellini (1934). Morgan, born Wuppermann, was born into wealth as one of eleven children of the co-founder of the Angostura-Wuppermann Corporation, which distributed the popular bitters condiment used in cocktails. He soon abandoned the family business, however, to follow his acting dreams - changing his name along the way. Courage of Lassie has another Oz connection: bit actor Mitchell Lewis had an uncredited role as the "Captain of the Winkie Guard". A prolific but unlucky actor, Lewis probably holds some kind of record for uncredited or deleted scenes in films - 90 or more! Courage of Lassie was, in fact, one of his few credited roles. Our Gang graduate Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer also has a small part in the film as a young boy who accidentally shoots the dog in a hunting accident. Ironically, Switzer would become the victim of gun violence when he was shot dead during an argument over money in 1959. Switzer and Taylor had previously starred together in Taylor's film debut There's One Born Every Minute (1942). George Cleveland, who plays the elderly man in Courage of Lassie, parlayed his involvement in the film into a three-year stint as "Gramps" Miller in the television series Lassie. Director Fred Wilcox had cut his teeth on the first Lassie flick, Lassie Come Home, but he would be best remembered for his work on The Secret Garden (1949), starring child actor Margaret O'Brien. Producer: Robert Sisk Director: Fred M. Wilcox Screenplay: Lionel Houser Cinematography: Leonard Smith Film Editing: Conrad A. Nervig Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Youngblood Music: Scott Bradley, Bronislau Kaper Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Kathie Merrick), Frank Morgan (Harry McBain), Tom Drake (Sergeant Smitty), Selena Royle (Mrs. Merrick), Harry Davenport (Judge Payson), George Cleveland (Old Man). C-93m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Eleanor Quin

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Working titles for this film were Hold High the Torch and Blue Sierra. The film was copyrighted as Blue Sierra and was reviewed as such by Variety. The onscreen credits contain the following written acknowledgment: "We tender our appreciation to the office of the Quartermaster General, Army of the United States, for cooperation in parts of this production." Despite its title, the picture contains no reference to a dog character named Lassie, although the character of "Bill" is played by Lassie. September 1944 Hollywood Reporter production charts list actor Edmund Gwenn in the cast, but he did not appear in the final film. Hollywood Reporter production charts also list actor Paul Langton in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a June 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was originally to star Margaret O'Brien and Lionel Barrymore. For additional information on other films featuring Lassie, please consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Lassie Come Home.