LADY AND THE TRAMP
Directed By: Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, & Wilfred Jackson
Produced By: Walt Disney
Loosely Based On: Ward Greene’s Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog (1924)
Premiered On: June 22, 1955
Distribution By: Buena Vista Distribution
Easily one of the most recognized of romantic films, animated or otherwise, the origins behind the film Lady and the Tramp are actually quite different than what one would have expected of a film that reached such iconic status. Though, as always, let us first get the basic summary of the film out of the way first.
Taking place in the early 1900’s in a quaint Midwestern town, a young man by name of Jim Dear gives his wife Darling an American cocker spaniel puppy as a Christmas gift. The puppy, named Lady, grows up and lives a happy life with the couple and becomes good friends with a pair of neighborhood dogs, Jock, a literal Scottish terrier, and Trusty, an old bloodhound who appears to have lost his sense of smell.
However, the happy times for Lady eventually start to change when Darling and Jim Dear have their baby and despite the warnings of a local mongrel by name of the Tramp, Lady does not fear that her place in the house will change. In point of fact, she becomes rather endeared with the little baby. Unfortunately, Jim Dear and Darling decide to leave for a small trip and rather than taking either the baby or Lady with them, leave them in the care of their Aunt Sarah, a woman who rather detests dogs and has a pair of troublesome Siamese cats, Si and Am.
The two cats waste no time in causing havoc in the house and while Lady initially puts up with it, the last straw is pulled when the two make for the baby’s room to steal the little one’s milk. The two put a quick turnaround on Lady though, making it appear that she was the one who caused the mess and even harmed them. Aunt Sarah takes Lady to get muzzled and the horrified Lady flees with the muzzle firmly attached.
Tramp comes upon her and with some surprising ingenuity, leads her to a local zoo where they have a beaver remove the muzzle. Tramp leads Lady on a tour of how he lives his life, ending with the romantic scene of a spaghetti dinner just behind an Italian restaurant. Though Lady has begun to fall in love with Tramp, and he with her, she decides to return home because, “who will watch over the baby” otherwise. Unfortunately, misfortune strikes Lady again as Tramp, distracted with raising some havoc with a flock of chickens, unwittingly gets her caught and brought to a pound where she learns of Tramp’s long list of past relations.
Surprisingly, Aunt Sarah arrives to spring Lady from the pound but keeps her tied up in the doghouse in the backyard. Tramp comes by to apologize for her ending up in the pound but she will have none of it or of him, telling him she doesn’t care if he gets careless, or if the dogcatcher finally manages to nab him, but to just go away and leave her alone. He does so but immediately turns right around when he hears Lady barking in distress. She tells him that a rat has crawled up and into the baby’s room and Tramp wastes no time in breaking into the house to confront the rat.
I’d spoil the climax of the film and the ending, but really frankly, it is far too sweet an ending for me to try and romanticize with mere words and honestly, I’d end up spending far too much time talking of the idiocy that is Aunt Sarah otherwise.
Now, contrary to what one might assume from the listing above, Lady and the Tramp is not in fact based on the short story published in Cosmopolitan magazine but rather the character of Tramp himself. In point of fact, the majority of the film, that being Lady and her dealing with a household radically changed with the appearance of a baby, was inspired by one of Walt Disney’s story men, Joe Grant, and his own little English Springer Spaniel named Lady.
Despite his approval and giving the go ahead, Walt Disney wasn’t pleased with any of the story concepts that were made for the then titled “Lady” as he felt that the titular dog was far too sweet and that the film was lacking in action or suspense. It wasn’t until he read the short story of Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog that Walt go the idea of falling in love with a cynical dog like the character in the story.
In point of fact, Walt Disney went so far as to hire Ward Greene and had him write a novelization of the film and have the book published two years before its premiere so that people would be familiar with the story itself. I still find that a little odd but then again, the trailers spoiled the ending already so I can’t fault his reasoning too much there.
Heck, Walt Disney even contributed his own life experience with a dog in the film via the opening scene of Lady being presented to Darling by Jim Dear via being given in a hatbox. Walt Disney, in the proverbial doghouse himself for having forgotten a dinner date with his wife, sought to give her a puppy as an apology gift. He did so by giving her what she at first guessed to be a new hat, which admittedly had her even further disappointed with him as she made it a point to pick out her own hats rather than risk her husband’s attempts at choosing them. Disappointment turned to delight and years later, we’ve got the opening scene to Lady and the Tramp.
As to the song that best describes this film as a whole, let’s be fair here, is there really any question? The song “Bella Notte” or “Beautiful Night” is easily the most recognized song in the film. Sure “We Are Siamese” and “He’s a Tramp” are fun beats to listen to but both songs only describe a particular character in the film itself, not the film as a whole. It and the scene of Tramp and Lady sharing a kiss via a strand of spaghetti are easily the most recognized moment in the film. A moment that almost was cut by Walt Disney who thought the idea as being too silly but thankfully, was talked out of it by the film crew.
Overall, I give Lady and the Tramp four out of five. It’s not that it’s not as great a film as say Alice in Wonderland or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but rather that it is a film that plays to a certain niche. Dog lovers and romantics will especially love this movie, regardless of age, but if there’s one fault in this film it’s the voice acting, which, even at the best of times, can get somewhat grating on the ears, particularly when a character is yelling.