Lady and the Tramp
Release Date: June 22nd, 1955
Inspiration: “Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog” by Ward Greene
Budget: $4 million
Domestic Gross: $93.6 million
Worldwide Gross: $187 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Lady, a golden cocker spaniel, meets up with a mongrel dog who calls himself the Tramp. He is obviously from the wrong side of town, but happenings at Lady’s home make her decide to travel with him for a while. This turns out to be a bad move, as no dog is above the law.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through the Disney film canon with a pretty interesting entry as this film was not very well-received upon its initial release, but re-evaluations of it have it listed as one of Disney’s all-time classics. This is another film that I have enjoyed watching when I was younger though I never considered it one of my favorites, and it is another one that I haven’t seen in quite a long time so we will see if it manages to hold up and if it does deserve its spot as a classic.
Voice Cast: We continue on with our canon as this film probably has the least amount of returning actors to provide voices and we have a fairly fresh group of actors in this film. While it is good to see some of the actors return from a previous film to be in a new film, it is always refreshing to hear plenty of new voices and we get a good amount here. The returning actors include Bill Thompson who voices Jock the Scottish Terrier, Joe the Chef, Bull the stray bulldog, Daschie the dachshund, and a few of the humans and kudos to him for voicing so many different characters. We also have Verna Felton returning as she voices Aunt Sarah in a good performance and finally, the Mellomen led by Thurl Ravenscroft return as well as they provide the singing voices for the dogs in the pound with Ravenscroft also providing the voice of the alligator. Now moving onto our new actors, we start with Barbara Luddy who provides the voice of Lady and she would become a fixture over the next two decades, and then we have Larry Roberts in what would be his only major film appearance ever as he provides the voice of Tramp. Next we have Bill Baucom providing the voice of Trusty in a good performance that seemed too small, and then we have George Givot providing the voice of Tony as well as singing Bella Notte in what would end up being one of his last major film credits. We then have Lee Millar who voices Jim Dear as well as the Dogcatcher as he is the latest to voice multiple characters, and speaking of voicing multiple characters we have musician Peggy Lee providing the voices of Peg the dog, Jim’s wife Darling, and the Siamese cats Si and Am though she is best remembered as Peg especially with her singing He’s a Tramp. We close with a few minor roles as Stan Freberg voices the beaver who frees Lady from her muzzle, Alan Reed plays Boris the Borzoi, and finally Dallas McKennon voices Toughy the mutt and Pedro the chihuahua. This was one of the first instances of multiple actors providing voices for multiple characters and we will see if that practice continues going forward.
Other Characters: In what I believe is the first time since the package films, we have a film where none of the characters fit in the first three categories and everyone will just end up here in this one. I went back and forth on a couple of them and you could possibly argue that a few of them belong in one of the previous categories, but I just didn’t feel that they fit though it is subject to opinion. We of course start with the two main characters of the film with the first being Lady, a domestic dog who lives with her owners though several extreme circumstances lead her to being out in the world briefly and she struggles to adapt. On the other side we have Tramp, a street-smart dog who falls in love with Lady after meeting her and after a brief dispute, he helps her kill a rat that enters the house and he joins the family at the end. Speaking of Lady’s family, we have her owners Jim Dear and Darling who shower her with love until Darling has a baby and Lady fears she’s being replaced, but instead she becomes a protector to the baby and the family grows bigger when Tramp is adopted and they have puppies. We then have Lady’s friends Jock the Scottish Terrier and Trusty the bloodhound, and they distrust Tramp at first until they save him from the dog catcher though it nearly costs Trusty his life. We then have Aunt Sarah who is asked to watch over the baby while Jim and Darling go away and she clearly does not like dogs as she has Lady muzzled and Tramp taken away when she thinks they attacked the baby. Added to this is her pet cats, a pair of Siamese cats who look to make trouble in the house only for Lady to stop them though it leads to her getting muzzled. We then have a bunch of random humans that show up throughout the film with the most memorable being Tony and Joe, the owner and chef of the restaurant that Tramp frequents and they provide Lady and Tramp with a romantic dinner while serenading them. We also get various animals that interact with Lady and Tramp at certain points, with the main ones being the dogs that Lady meets at the pound and she learns about Tramp’s previous flings which leads to brief tension between them. Finally we have the animals in the zoo that Lady and Tramp visit to try and have one of them remove Lady’s muzzle, with the beaver being the one to do so and he uses the muzzle to move logs towards his dam. It is interesting that you have what seems like a lot of characters in the film, but many of them don’t play a major role aside from a few which is fine since the focus should be on the two main characters in Lady and Tramp.
Songs: I just realized that as we come to just the 15th film in this canon, the number of songs I have collected thus far is growing at a far greater rate than I have ever imagined and making up a final list of the songs is going to be a daunting task though we will worry about that when we get there. For now, we do have a collection of songs from this film with at least two of them being very memorable and one that is on the fringe of being memorable but not up to the same level. The first song we have on tap is “Peace on Earth” which is actually just an alternate version of “Silent Night” with a few extra lyrics, and then we have Lady’s ballad “What is a Baby?” as she comes to terms with what a baby is. We then have the trio of songs that are best remembered from this film with the first being “The Siamese Cat Song” sung by the Siamese cats as they cause trouble for Lady and cause Aunt Sarah to put a muzzle on her. We then have the ballad of the film “Bella Notte” sung by Tony and Joe as Lady and Tramp enjoy their romantic dinner in perhaps one of the most iconic scenes in Disney history. Finally we have Peg’s song “He’s a Tramp” as she sings about Tramp’s previous flings much to Lady’s chagrin, and it is pretty clear that the last two songs are the ones that are the most remembered from this film and may rank up amongst the best of the Disney film songs.
Plot: This is a story that is told numerous times mostly through using real people of one who is of either middle to upper class and one that is from the lower class, and they come together and ultimately fall in love regardless of their social classes. Typically, the girl is from the upper class and the boy is from the lower class which sometimes can be a bit cliché, and I can’t think of many other times where the sexes are flipped in those roles. Now for this film, we take that same storyline and have dogs in the roles as Lady is a pampered dog and Tramp is a street dog, and they come together after Tramp overhears Lady talk about the pending baby and he tells her that she will be replaced. He then helps her remove the muzzle that is put on her and he tries to show her a world where she is not confined to a home, but she is content on returning home only for them to get separated and she is briefly impounded before being brought home though not before learning of his previous romances. She seems to reject him until he helps her catch a rat that gets into their house and then she helps him escape the dog catcher after Jim Dear and Darling find the dead rat, and Tramp is adopted by Jim Dear and Darling as he and Lady have 4 puppies by Christmas. As I have mentioned in a previous recap, sometimes the most basic storylines can work the best as long as they are executed properly, and this is one of the those storylines that always work well when done correctly and I feel that it does so here. It is funny that the film was not well-received when it came out originally and that the reception has gotten better over time, and perhaps a lot of it could be based on nostalgia which might play a factor into more recent films.
Random Watching Thoughts: Two fun facts right off the bat as this is the first film released under Buena Vista Distribution and this is the first animated film made in Cinemascope; “In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money cannot buy… to wit the wag of a dog’s tail” – Josh Billings; Only Disney could dedicate a film to dogs given his love of dogs; Isn’t it not such a good idea to keep a puppy in a box given the lack of oxygen?; Another fun fact is that the opening scene of Jim giving Darling the box with Lady in it was inspired by when Walt gave his wife a puppy as a gift; If the couple’s last name really is Dear, does that mean her name is Darling Dear?; Obviously Jim didn’t do his homework on puppies in that they want to be close to them at all times, no matter what time of day; Considering that she is just a puppy, Lady has some pretty good strength to be able to move that chair enough that she can get through the door; Jim says that Lady can sleep with them for one night only for it to become six months; At least Lady made an effort to put the flower back up even it was upside down; Of course you’ve seen less disturbing headlines because the paper tears apart when Lady brings it in through her doggie door; I don’t know any dogs that enjoy coffee and donuts; Jock has amassed himself quite the collection of bones; How could Jock take so long to realize that Lady had gotten a new collar?; It is funny that the caterpillar got all proud when Trusty said that the one he was chasing was 6’3”; If only we could actually learn what Old Reliable used to say; Darling saying that nothing could ever replace Lady, oh if she only knew what was coming in the next hour of film; Tramp must be on a diet if he’s worried about something having too much starch; Tramp must’ve been going to Tony’s for a long time if Joe knows already to toss him a bone; Are stray dogs really that much of a problem that you have to put signs up around town addressing it?; Snob Hill; Dogs must have a real sense of inhibition if they know immediately when humans are expecting children; Convenient that Tramp happened to walk past when they were talking about babies; Of all the names that Tramp could’ve come up for Lady, it is weird that he chose Pigeon; Jim clearly thinking the baby will be a boy given the toys and Darling thinking it will be a girl given all the girls names she’s writing down; Even though we are never told where this film takes place, it obviously takes place in America due to the fact that Jim is putting a Yale flag on the wall; I know that it’s late out, but Jim couldn’t think to quickly change out of his pajamas into regular clothes especially since he’s going out into a blizzard; Of all the things a pregnant woman would be craving, watermelon and chop suey; Good we get to see an early 20th century baby shower; Did they not have hospitals back then because you would think it wouldn’t be the best idea for someone to give birth in their own home?; I love Jim telling the doctor that it’s a boy like he was breaking the news to him even though the doctor literally just delivered the baby; So the early 20th century baby bottle was a chemistry beaker; They just brought a child into the world and they are already leaving him behind due to going on a trip; Slight misuse of pronouns as Darling referred to Lady as “him” only for Jim to call her a girl; Aunt Sarah must’ve had a traumatic experience with dogs if she is adamant about Lady not being near the baby; Those Siamese cats were such troublemakers and poor Lady got a bum rap, and Aunt Sarah definitely went too far with that muzzle; Outnumbered 3 to 1 and Tramp was still able to easily fend off those wild dogs; The early form of security at a public event is one officer watching the entrance; That bystander was a poor victim of circumstance to allow Tramp and Lady to get into the zoo; Of all the animals to ask to help get the muzzle off, you would ask the alligator?; Yet another fun fact, the beaver would serve as the inspiration for Gopher in Winnie-the-Pooh; Pretty ingenious to sell to the beaver that the muzzle can be used to pull logs; Tramp would only know what food is being served at the houses because he’s either been given food from them or he’s stolen it; How many dogs has Tramp brought with him to Tony’s if Tony is telling him Lady is the one to settle down with?; Tony asks for bones and then gets mad at Joe for bringing them; So Tony tells Joe to make two spaghetti specials yet he only gives them one; Are they slow at the restaurant that they are able to make time to sing for Lady and Tramp?; I think Bella Notte is probably one of the best ballads that Disney has done; We clearly have two different beliefs in a dog’s purpose as Tramp is about being wild and free while Lady is committed to her family; That farmer certainly doesn’t like his chickens messed with if he shoots trespassers on sight; Where was that dogcatcher that he happened to see Lady and grab her just like that?; Those poor dogs must’ve been there for so long that they were able to harmonize so perfectly; Boris is certainly the philosopher; Peg really makes Tramp out to be quite the womanizer in her song about him; Kind of weird that Jock and Trusty were first talking about proposing to Lady before reminding each other not to mention the pound; Why does it always seem that a storm comes in whenever there is a huge fight between the main characters of a film?; Just seconds ago she wanted nothing more to do with Tramp but now that the rat has gotten into the house, she is willing to let him go in and try to get it; Of all the things to happen, the crib had to get knocked over with the baby in it; Once again, Aunt Sarah’s dislike of dogs leads her to accuse Lady and Tramp for hurting the baby; Good on Jock and Trusty to go ahead and try to save Tramp from the dogcatcher; Jock had quite the look of shock when he realizes that Trusty still has his sense of smell; I get what Jock and Trusty were trying to do, but that would’ve been bad if the dogcatcher was seriously hurt when the cart fell over; How sad the audience must’ve been when they thought Trusty had died; Shouldn’t one of the puppies been a mix of both Lady and Tramp as opposed to 3 Lady puppies and 1 Tramp puppy?; That was a lot of smoke that Jim used to take one picture; Jock tells Trusty to be careful on the ice with his bad leg yet he’s the one that slips; I love how Jim greets Jock and Trusty like they are real people; I could imagine that Jock’s sweater cost a fair deal of money and it’s not good for the Tramp puppy to unravel it like that; Of course the puppies have never heard about Old Reliable, but of course Trusty forgets what he used to say when he tries to remember it.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, the film ended up holding up a lot better than I remember though it was still a bit of a stepdown from some of the better films released prior to it. As I mentioned earlier, it is interesting that the film was poorly received back when it first came out and reception to it has improved over the years. Again, that might be due to nostalgia and obviously re-releasing the film in theaters over time has also allowed people to gain a new appreciation for it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it also introduces a new audience to it. As mentioned previously, this was a tumultuous time for Disney as only one month after the release of this film, he was set to open Disneyland and it was going to be interesting to see how that pays off and if it will affect his ability to create films. As for Lady and the Tramp, it is a pretty good film that will rank fairly well in the Disney film canon.
Final Grade: 7/10