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With: Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Dame May Whitty, Edmund Gwenn, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester, Elizabeth Taylor, Lassie
Written by: Hugo Butler, based on the novel by Eric Knight
Directed by: Fred M. Wilcox
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 89
Date: 10/07/1943
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Lassie Come Home (1943)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Collie to Arms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lassie Come Home gives the screen's first dog star, Rin-Tin-Tin, a run for his money, mostly thanks to its rich Technicolor cinematography and its top-shelf cast. We have Roddy McDowall, fresh from his central role in John Ford's Oscar-winner How Green Was My Valley; Donald Crisp, an Oscar winner for that same film; an up-and-coming Elizabeth Taylor, already stunning at age 11; Elsa Lanchester from Bride of Frankenstein; Nigel Bruce, best known as Watson in a handful of "Sherlock Holmes" films; and Edmund Gwenn, who would go on to win an Oscar three years later as Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street. And, of course, we have Lassie. Audiences were supposed to think that it was always the same dog who appeared in all the Lassie movies and TV shows, but everyone knows by now that there were many Lassies and that they were all males. Either way, they were beautiful, well-trained dogs that stole the hearts of millions. Lassie Come Home was the first of them all and still the best.

Set in days gone by where everyone talks in "thees" and "thous," a poor Yorkshire family owns a magnificent collie, Lassie, who knows what time her boy (Roddy McDowall) gets out of school each day. Unfortunately, the boy's father (Donald Crisp) is unemployed and the family is forced to sell the dog to a wealthy Scottish dog enthusiast (Nigel Bruce) with a big-hearted granddaughter (Elizabeth Taylor). Hauled off to Scotland, Lassie finds a way to escape and travels cross-country to get back to her boy. Director Fred M. Wilcox (Forbidden Planet) put together a superior package, beautifully paced with just the right amount of laughter and tears and with a cast to drool over. The film is still an all-time family favorite, and was eventually selected for the Library of Congress' National Film Archive of important and significant American films. Unlike Rin-Tin-Tin, Lassie was not really an "actor." She looks as if she's paying attention to an off-screen trainer rather than "playing" the scene. But she followed orders well and did some amazing stunts, like hobbling back to the schoolyard on a "broken" leg to meet her boy. She also had screen personality to burn. "Lassie" was created by Eric Knight, a British soldier who fought in World War I and -- having adopted the U.S. as his home -- died in World War II as an American soldier. Released in 1943, in the thick of the war, Lassie Come Home is respectfully dedicated to him. Future "Lassie" movies pitted our canine hero against the Nazis on the front lines.

In addition to Lassie Come Home, Warner Home Video has released two other Lassie films,

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