Old Yeller (1958)

83 mins | Children's works, Drama | January 1958

Director:

Robert Stevenson

Cinematographer:

Charles P. Boyle

Editor:

Stanley Johnson

Production Designer:

Carroll Clark

Production Company:

Walt Disney Productions
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HISTORY

An opening sequence showing "Old Yeller" chasing a rabbit is mirrored by the closing sequence, which portrays the dog's pup as a worthy offspring. Although the opening credits read "and introducing Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran," both of the child stars had appeared in earlier television programs and feature films. DV reported in Jul 1956 that Walt Disney had purchased Fred Gipson's novel for live-action filming. At that point, the story had been serialized in Collier's (8 Jun--6 Jul 1956) but had not yet been published in book form. The following information was gathered from studio press materials: In 1953, Spike, the dog who played Old Yeller, was discovered in a Van Nuys, CA animal shelter by famed movie animal trainer Frank Weatherwax. He spent weeks getting acquainted with Doug, the trained bear owned by Byron Nelson, and the other animals in the movie, which were shipped in from various states. A 31 Jan 1957 HR news item states that some scenes were shot on location at Lake Sherwood, CA. Although a 4 Mar 1957 HR news item adds Slim Duncan to the cast, his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. A 20 Nov 1957 Disneyland television program, entitled "The Best Doggone Dog in the World," served as a promotion for the feature. Old Yeller received wide praise, with the HCN reviewer calling the film "the best 'family picture' I've seen in years." Modern sources report that the picture grossed $8 million in its first domestic release. ... More Less

An opening sequence showing "Old Yeller" chasing a rabbit is mirrored by the closing sequence, which portrays the dog's pup as a worthy offspring. Although the opening credits read "and introducing Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran," both of the child stars had appeared in earlier television programs and feature films. DV reported in Jul 1956 that Walt Disney had purchased Fred Gipson's novel for live-action filming. At that point, the story had been serialized in Collier's (8 Jun--6 Jul 1956) but had not yet been published in book form. The following information was gathered from studio press materials: In 1953, Spike, the dog who played Old Yeller, was discovered in a Van Nuys, CA animal shelter by famed movie animal trainer Frank Weatherwax. He spent weeks getting acquainted with Doug, the trained bear owned by Byron Nelson, and the other animals in the movie, which were shipped in from various states. A 31 Jan 1957 HR news item states that some scenes were shot on location at Lake Sherwood, CA. Although a 4 Mar 1957 HR news item adds Slim Duncan to the cast, his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. A 20 Nov 1957 Disneyland television program, entitled "The Best Doggone Dog in the World," served as a promotion for the feature. Old Yeller received wide praise, with the HCN reviewer calling the film "the best 'family picture' I've seen in years." Modern sources report that the picture grossed $8 million in its first domestic release. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Nov 1957.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jul 1956.
---
Daily Variety
14 Nov 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
14 Nov 57
p. 12.
Hollywood Citizen-News
26 Dec 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1957
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1957
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1957
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1958
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jul 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Nov 57
p. 602.
New York Times
26 Dec 57
p. 23.
Variety
20 Nov 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte artist
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Spike's trainer
American Humane Association representative
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Old Yeller by Fred Gipson (New York, 1956).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Old Yeller," music by Oliver Wallace, lyrics by Gil George, sung by Jerome Courtland.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1958
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York opening: 25 December 1957
Production Date:
28 January--mid May 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
25 September 1957
Copyright Number:
LP9422
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
83
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18570
SYNOPSIS

During 1869 in Texas, rancher Jim Coates prepares to leave his wife Katie and their two sons, teenaged Travis and young Arliss, for a four-month cattle drive. After Katie bids him a tearful goodbye, Jim tells Travis that he must now assume responsibility as man of the household, promising to reward him with a horse upon his return. The next day, Travis is working the small corn field with the family mule when a stray dog chases a rabbit into the field. The mule, spooked, rears and runs, ruining the crops and felling the fence. Travis is furious with the dog, and grows even more angry that night when the mongrel eats some of their meat. Despite Travis’ attempt to beat the dog, which he dubs “Old Yeller,” Arliss falls in love with the mutt and Katie, who hopes the dog will protect the small boy, welcomes Old Yeller into the family. The next afternoon, returning home with a deer for dinner, Travis spots Old Yeller in the drinking-water pond and throws stones at him, prompting Arliss to attack his brother and Travis to dislike the dog even more. That night, the boy hangs the venison low in an attempt to entice Old Yeller into stealing it, so he can banish the dog the next day. He is shocked when Old Yeller spends the night guarding the meat without touching it. Later, Arliss traps a bear cub, and when the mother bear charges the boy, Travis and Katie witness Old Yeller leap to his protection, fighting off the much larger animal. That night, Travis, finally impressed with the dog, allows him into the boys’s bed. Soon after, neighbor Bud ... +


During 1869 in Texas, rancher Jim Coates prepares to leave his wife Katie and their two sons, teenaged Travis and young Arliss, for a four-month cattle drive. After Katie bids him a tearful goodbye, Jim tells Travis that he must now assume responsibility as man of the household, promising to reward him with a horse upon his return. The next day, Travis is working the small corn field with the family mule when a stray dog chases a rabbit into the field. The mule, spooked, rears and runs, ruining the crops and felling the fence. Travis is furious with the dog, and grows even more angry that night when the mongrel eats some of their meat. Despite Travis’ attempt to beat the dog, which he dubs “Old Yeller,” Arliss falls in love with the mutt and Katie, who hopes the dog will protect the small boy, welcomes Old Yeller into the family. The next afternoon, returning home with a deer for dinner, Travis spots Old Yeller in the drinking-water pond and throws stones at him, prompting Arliss to attack his brother and Travis to dislike the dog even more. That night, the boy hangs the venison low in an attempt to entice Old Yeller into stealing it, so he can banish the dog the next day. He is shocked when Old Yeller spends the night guarding the meat without touching it. Later, Arliss traps a bear cub, and when the mother bear charges the boy, Travis and Katie witness Old Yeller leap to his protection, fighting off the much larger animal. That night, Travis, finally impressed with the dog, allows him into the boys’s bed. Soon after, neighbor Bud Searcy visits with his daughter Lisbeth, who has a crush on Travis. Katie tolerates Searcy despite his extreme laziness and tendency to brag, offering him dinner when he refuses to leave. While helping Travis pick corn, Lisbeth reveals that she saw Old Yeller stealing food from neighboring farms, but will never report the dog because he has impregnated her dog, Miss Priss. Pleased, Travis gives Lisbeth an arrowhead, which she treasures, and determines to keep Old Yeller with him at all times, to prevent the dog from stealing. That night, he sleeps out in the field with Old Yeller, hoping to catch the raccoons that have been eating the corn. Travis falls asleep while thinking of his father, but wakes to see Old Yeller faithfully chasing off a raccoon family. In the morning, Katie informs the boy that their cow, Rose, is missing and has probably given birth in the hills. Travis and Old Yeller set off to find the cow, but when Travis discovers the newborn calf and tries to carry it, Rose charges him, prompting Old Yeller to knock her over until she calms. At home, Travis attempts to break the cow, but cannot until Rose spots Old Yeller and becomes docile. Having proven his mettle beyond a doubt, Old Yeller becomes Travis’ constant, devoted companion. One day, cowhand Burn Sanderson arrives, revealing that Old Yeller is his runaway dog. Although Travis is devastated, Katie knows she must let Burn take the dog. As he leaves, however, Arliss explodes in anger, throwing a rock that makes Burn’s horse rear and throw him. Burn is at first angry but then takes Arliss on his knee and agrees to trade Old Yeller for one toad and a home-cooked meal, which Katie supplies with pleasure. Upon leaving, Burn informs Travis that a plague of hydrophobia, or rabies, is affecting local animals, with telltale signs that include staggering, viciousness and unprovoked attacks. Later, Travis takes Old Yeller , and they follow wild pig tracks until they find a herd. The dog ably corners the pigs, allowing Travis to climb a tree and swing a lasso down to rope one. When the pig falls, however, it pulls Travis down from the tree, where a boar bites into his leg. Old Yeller swiftly attacks the boar so Travis can run to safety, but the dog is severely wounded in the process. Travis hides the dog in a cave and limps home, where Katie dresses his wound and at first refuses to let him return to Old Yeller. When she sees her son’s distress, however, she relents, and takes Travis by horseback to find the dog, who is already being circled by buzzards. Although Old Yeller’s wounds are deep, she tends to him and brings both home to recuperate. Soon after, the Searcys visit. Lisbeth presents Travis with one of Old Yeller’s puppies, but, unimpressed, he hurts her feelings by telling her to give the dog to Arliss. Searcy then informs Katie about the rabies plague, terrifying her that Travis may have been infected and prompting her to demand that Searcy leave. He does so, but leaves Lisbeth behind “to help.” Days later, Travis is nearly recovered when Rose falls in a fit. Katie hopes it is a mere fever, but Travis recognizes the symptoms as those of rabies, and shoots the animal, after which Katie and Lisbeth burn the carcass. When a wolf attacks, their screams alert Travis, who runs outside with a gun and sees Old Yeller fighting off the wild animal. Travis is able to shoot the wolf, but not before it bites the dog, and Katie sadly informs him that the wolf, which attacked without provocation, was mad. At the boy’s pleading, she agrees to keep Old Yeller penned for a few weeks to chart his progress, hoping he will remain unaffected. At first the dog seems healthy, but one night he growls viciously at Travis, who tries to hide the affliction from the family. When Arliss attempts to release Old Yeller, however, Katie closes the pen just in time and sees that the dog is ill. She prepares to shoot him, but Travis insists on handling the terrible chore himself. His rifle shaking, he finally manages to shoot his friend, putting him out of his misery. The next day, Jim returns home. After greeting an elated Katie and Arliss, he approaches Travis, advising his son to start looking for something good to take the place of the bad turn life has dealt him. Although Travis remains despondent, when the family retires for dinner, he notices Old Yeller’s pup attempting to steal venison. Recognizing the puppy’s strong resemblance to his father, Travis admires him for the first time, and in return the puppy licks his face joyfully. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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