24 December 2019

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Walt Disney's animation classic Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955) tells the romantic tale of a pampered uptown cocker spaniel and a streetwise downtown Mutt. It was based on 'Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog,' by Ward Greene. The film offers amongst many other delights one of the most memorable kisses in Hollywood history. 

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti S.R.L., Verona, no. 108. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti S.R.L., Verona, no. 108/3. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti S.R.L., Verona, no. 108/4. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

When a baby moves in, a dog moves out


The story of Lady and the Tramp opens with a cute little American cocker spaniel puppy named Lady offered as a Christmas gift to 'Darling' by her husband Jim 'Dear'. The owners' names, besides the fact that their faces are rarely shown, accentuate the impression that we're watching the film from the dogs' perspectives.

Lady adores her a refined, upper-middle-class surroundings and receives the requited love of her owners. Six months later, that love hasn't diminished and she is a newly licensed pet. Lady has befriended two local neighbourhood dogs, a Scottish terrier named Jock, and a bloodhound named Trusty, suffering a busted sniffer.

But Lady learns that her owners are expecting a child, and suddenly Lady has been unwittingly pushed aside to make room for a new bundle of joy. The upset Lady meets up with a mongrel dog who calls himself the Tramp. He is obviously from the wrong side of the tracks, and Jock and Trusty take an immediate dislike to the stray and order him out of the yard. As Tramp leaves, he reminds Lady that "when a baby moves in, a dog moves out."

When Darling's snooty Aunt Sarah introduces Si and Am, her sneaky twin Siamese cats into the fold, Lady is certain that she's no longer welcome. The cats wreak all manner of havoc, for which Lady is blamed. After the poor dog is fitted with a muzzle, Lady escapes from the house. The Tramp saves Lady from a pack of other street dogs and helps her remove her muzzle. Then he takes her out on a night on the town, culminating in a romantic spaghetti dinner, courtesy of a pair of dog-loving Italian waiters. But her love with him will have bad consequences.

After many adventures, the film ends at Christmas. Tramp has been adopted into the family, and he and Lady have started their own family, with Lady having given birth to a litter of four puppies: three daughters who look identical to Lady and one son who looks identical to Tramp.

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Belgian postcard by Editions Corna. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Belgian postcard by Editions Corna. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
French postcard. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
French postcard. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Bow-Wow-Wow! - And - Arf! Arf! Arf!


Lady and the Tramp (1955) would be Disney Studios' 15th animated feature film and the first to be produced in wide-screen Cinema-Scope. During the early 1950s Disney made some excellent animated features such as Alice in Wonderland  (1951) and Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp followed those films and proved to be another good film from the studio.

Wikipedia writes that Lady and the Tramp was released to theatres on 22 June 1955 to box office success. "It initially received mixed to negative reviews by film critics, but critical reception for the film has been generally positive in modern times, and the film is now seen as one of the best animated films from Disney."  Dave Kehr, writing for The Chicago Tribune gave the film four stars.

Lady and the Tramp is an unpretentious little gem, told from the viewpoint of the animals and against interesting backgrounds with superb animation. The film has a soft look and uses bright colours that give the upper class housing areas a rich gleam. The Peggy Lee music is delightful, especially the 'He's A Tramp' and 'We Are Siamese' songs. Lee also voiced the Darling, Peg and Si & Am characters.

Another highlight is the 'Bella Notte' sequence, with the spaghetti, breadsticks and the drippy candle. Wikipedia notes that Walt Disney was prepared to cut it, thinking that it would not be romantic and that dogs eating spaghetti would look silly.

Animator Frank Thomas was against Walt's decision and animated the entire scene himself without any lay-outs. Walt was impressed by Thomas's work and how he romanticised the scene and kept it in. And when Lady and her Tramp finally share a spaghetti strand, it leads to an accidental kiss, one of the most memorable kisses in Hollywood history. Bow-Wow-Wow! - And - Arf! Arf! Arf!

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Belgian postcard by Edicorna / GB, no. 6/3307. Image: Walt Disney productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Italian postcard by Grafiche Biondetti S.R.L., Verona, no. 108. Image: Disney. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Lady and the Tramp (1955)
French postcard by Editions Crès, Paris, no. 202, 1964. Caption: The Reunion. Image: Walt Disney Productions. Publicity still for Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, 1955).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie),  Wikipedia and IMDb.

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