REVIEW REWIND: Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Continuing our viewing of the Disney animated feature films in order, we have come to Lady and the Tramp.
Lady and the Tramp starts at Christmas in a turn of the century home. Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a cocker spaniel puppy that they name Lady. Lady is the queen of her castle, beloved by both Jim Dear and Darling. But, things change when the couple have a baby. It's at this time that she meets a street dog named Tramp who tells her that babies are going to change her life in a bad way and, soon, Lady begins to notice these changes more and more.
One day, the couple ask their Aunt Sarah to watch the baby while they're out. Her cats Si and Am cause problems for Lady which ends up with her getting muzzled and escaping. Lady ends up seeing Tramp again who agrees to help her back home. On the way, Lady gets picked up by the pound where one of the dogs named Peg tells her "He's a tramp, he's a scoundrel, he's a rounder, he's a cad." Eventually, Sarah picks up Lady who ties her up in the backyard.
Tramp goes to apologize to Lady who is not having it. But, then, she sees a rat get into the nursery and urges Tramp to save the baby. Tramp rescues the baby but Sarah thinks that he's attacked the baby and has his carted off to the pound. It's up to Lady and her friends Jock and Trusty to save Tramp. It's after all this that the couple discover the rat and that Tramp was trying to save their child. They reward him and bring him into the family where he and Lady raise their own family.
Unlike the films of the first part of the decade which embraced more of Mary Blair's flatter but ethereally dreamy layouts yet dazzling color styling, Lady and the Tramp kept with a more realistic style with beautifully lush backgrounds with softer coloring. This is perhaps because it was the first Disney film to be released in Cinemascope, creating a new set of challenges, including the need for filling in vast sections of the film. While I prefer the former style, I do love the look of Lady and the Tramp.
And, the animation is absolutely beautiful. While I was impressed with the work Disney did with animals back in Bambi, since I'm a dog owner, I noticed all the subtleties in the movement of the dogs.
It's interesting to put things into historical perspective and realize that this film was released just a month before the opening of Disneyland. The box office was good for the film and that is, perhaps, because it benefited from publicity through the Disneyland television show in a special entitled "A Story of Dogs."
After a long run of Disney films, this would be the last score that composer Oliver Wallace would work on for Disney. But, the actual songs were written by the legendary Peggy Lee (think the Madonna of the day) which she co-wrote with Sonny Burke. Despite the simplicity of the soundtrack, it is well loved, especially Lee's bouncy "He's a Tramp" and, of course, the wonderfully romantic "Bella Notte."
Perhaps the only thing I don't like is, of course, Si and Am, the Siamese cats, complete with their slant eyes, buck teeth and exotic accent. Now, one could say Disney was an equal opportunity offender in this movie, making fun of every ethnicity from Italians to Mexicans to Scottish to Russians. But, at least with those, they are endearing characters whereas the cats are villainous and cruel.
That said, it's a shame Lady and the Tramp didn't receive any nominations during the Academy Awards. For those of us who are accustomed to animated films winning every year, these were times where there was no animation category. Regardless, the film is very well loved and one I really enjoyed watching again.