The Biscuit Eater (1972)

G | 90 or 92 mins | Drama | May 1972

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HISTORY

According to copyright records, when Walt Disney Productions renewed the film's copyright in 1987, the title was listed as Tomorrow's Champion . "Biscuit eater" is a rural term used for hunting dogs that will hunt only for their own food. The Biscuit Eater marked the first feature film on which Richard A. Kelley was the director of photography. Previously Kelley had worked in feature films as a camera operator and as a director of photography on numerous television programs. Director Vincent McEveety and producer Bill Anderson worked on many Disney productions, both for television and film. As stated in the pressbook, "Moreover" was discovered by noted dog trainer Henry "Hank" Cowl at the Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall. The pressbook states that the dog, which was named Rolf Van Wolfgang, had been born in Denmark and was the son of a dog popular in Scandinavian films. Modern sources add Paul Bradley and Golden Eddie to the cast.
       According to a Publishers Weekly article on 7 Nov 1966, Walt Disney purchased the rights to James Street's short story for $30,000, $15,000 of which went to Universal Pictures, the studio that had owned the film rights at that time. Street's short story was also the basis of a 1940 Paramount film entitled The Biscuit Eater , which was directed by Stuart Heisler and starred Billy Lee and Cordell Hickman (see above). The 1940 version was set in Georgia instead of Tennessee. The ending of the 1972 film was more upbeat than the 1940 version, which loosely followed the original short story, in that the title character, a dog named ...

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According to copyright records, when Walt Disney Productions renewed the film's copyright in 1987, the title was listed as Tomorrow's Champion . "Biscuit eater" is a rural term used for hunting dogs that will hunt only for their own food. The Biscuit Eater marked the first feature film on which Richard A. Kelley was the director of photography. Previously Kelley had worked in feature films as a camera operator and as a director of photography on numerous television programs. Director Vincent McEveety and producer Bill Anderson worked on many Disney productions, both for television and film. As stated in the pressbook, "Moreover" was discovered by noted dog trainer Henry "Hank" Cowl at the Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall. The pressbook states that the dog, which was named Rolf Van Wolfgang, had been born in Denmark and was the son of a dog popular in Scandinavian films. Modern sources add Paul Bradley and Golden Eddie to the cast.
       According to a Publishers Weekly article on 7 Nov 1966, Walt Disney purchased the rights to James Street's short story for $30,000, $15,000 of which went to Universal Pictures, the studio that had owned the film rights at that time. Street's short story was also the basis of a 1940 Paramount film entitled The Biscuit Eater , which was directed by Stuart Heisler and starred Billy Lee and Cordell Hickman (see above). The 1940 version was set in Georgia instead of Tennessee. The ending of the 1972 film was more upbeat than the 1940 version, which loosely followed the original short story, in that the title character, a dog named "Promise," dies but leaves behind puppies that will be cared for by "Lonnie McNeil" and his father. A radio adaptation of the story was broadcast on the series NBC Short Story on 2 May 1952.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Mar 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 612-14.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1972
View, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly
7 Nov 1966.
---
Variety
15 Mar 1972
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
"Moreover" handled by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Biscuit Eater" by James Street in The Saturday Evening Post (13 May 1939).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"Moreover and Me," written and sung by Shane Tatum.
PERFORMED BY
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Tomorrow's Champion
Release Date:
May 1972
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 22 Mar 1972
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions
15 March 1972
LP41016
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
90 or 92
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1946, in rural Tennessee, twelve-year-old Lonnie, the son of dog trainer Harve McNeil and his wife Mary Lee, hopes to teach his dog to be a hunter but has little success. The good-natured dog would rather take eggs from local henhouses and play with Shep, a dog owned by brutish neighbor Mr. Eben. Harve cannot understand Lonnie's insistence on training the dog, which he calls a "suck-egg" biscuit eater. Because Harve is worried that Lonnie's dog will be a bad influence on Silver Belle and other champion dogs he trains for his Philadelphia employer, Mr. Ames, he tells Lonnie that they must give the dog away. Although he is heartbroken, Lonnie has a plan, and after Harve gives the dog to affable gas station owner and local conman Willie Dorsey, Lonnie enlists the help of his friend, Text Tomlin. Lonnie suggests that Text convince his mother Charity to keep the dog after they make a trade with Willie. Their plan involves taking two of Charity's eggs and giving them to the dog to eat, then convincing Willie that the dog has stolen the eggs from his own hens. After Lonnie offers his pocket knife, six eggs and help with wood stacking in exchange for the dog, the boys then become partners, fifty-fifty, in the canine. Before Text and Lonnie finish stacking the wood, Eben rides by in his wagon and snarls threats at the dog because its father killed one of Eben's sheep and had to be put down. Eben then goes to the McNeil house to warn Harve that he will shoot the dog and teach Lonnie a ...

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In 1946, in rural Tennessee, twelve-year-old Lonnie, the son of dog trainer Harve McNeil and his wife Mary Lee, hopes to teach his dog to be a hunter but has little success. The good-natured dog would rather take eggs from local henhouses and play with Shep, a dog owned by brutish neighbor Mr. Eben. Harve cannot understand Lonnie's insistence on training the dog, which he calls a "suck-egg" biscuit eater. Because Harve is worried that Lonnie's dog will be a bad influence on Silver Belle and other champion dogs he trains for his Philadelphia employer, Mr. Ames, he tells Lonnie that they must give the dog away. Although he is heartbroken, Lonnie has a plan, and after Harve gives the dog to affable gas station owner and local conman Willie Dorsey, Lonnie enlists the help of his friend, Text Tomlin. Lonnie suggests that Text convince his mother Charity to keep the dog after they make a trade with Willie. Their plan involves taking two of Charity's eggs and giving them to the dog to eat, then convincing Willie that the dog has stolen the eggs from his own hens. After Lonnie offers his pocket knife, six eggs and help with wood stacking in exchange for the dog, the boys then become partners, fifty-fifty, in the canine. Before Text and Lonnie finish stacking the wood, Eben rides by in his wagon and snarls threats at the dog because its father killed one of Eben's sheep and had to be put down. Eben then goes to the McNeil house to warn Harve that he will shoot the dog and teach Lonnie a lesson if the animal comes on his property, after which Harve warns Eben never to lay a finger on his boy. Meanwhile, Text and Lonnie take the dog to Charity and decide upon "Moreover" for his name because Text likes the sound when Charity reads the word from the Bible. Weeks later, Text and Lonnie have trained Moreover to "point" whenever he finds a covey of birds, then retrieve the dead birds for them. Harve eventually softens toward Moreover, teaching the boys the proper use and care of an old shotgun Willie gave them, and letting them observe Belle's behavior when pointing and retrieving birds. The boys have dreams of Moreover winning the Grand National. One day, Moreover runs onto Eben's property looking for eggs and almost is shot by Eben before Harve and Lonnie arrive. Some time later, as Text and Lonnie lovingly bathe Moreover, Charity gives Harve the money Text has saved for his half of the entrance fee for a local bird-dog competition, then realizes that Lonnie had never told his father that he planned to enter the contest. Harve refuses to take the money and that night tells Lonnie how disappointed he is that his son had not informed him about entering Moreover in the event, then forbids him to participate in the competition. Later that night Mary Lee tells Harve that Lonnie had been worried that he could not earn enough for his half of the fee and gently coerces him into changing his mind by chiding that he might be worried that Moreover would best Belle. On the day of the competition, Harve drives Text, Lonnie and Moreover to the event and introduces them to Ames, who says he is delighted to meet "the biscuit eater,” prompting the boys to cover Moreover’s ears so his feelings will not be hurt. On the first day of the competition, Moreover performs beautifully, impressing the judges as well as Harvey and Ames. That night, while the adults are having drinks, Ames talks about the father and son rivalry and jokes that if Moreover wins, he might have to fire Harve. The comment is overheard by one of the waiters, who thinks that Ames is serious and goes into the kitchen to tell one of the cooks. Text hears what the waiter says, then informs Lonnie, who worries that Harve will lose his job. Lonnie fears that he has no other choice than to make Moreover lose, but does nothing until the next day after Text, his fifty-fifty partner, gives his approval. Moreover again performs like a champion until Lonnie, with tears in his eyes, calls his dog a "no account biscuit eater." With his feelings hurt, Moreover runs off and is disqualified. Baffled by Lonnie’s actions, Harve concludes that his son caused the disqualification because he was afraid he might lose. Moreover begins to mope and refuses to eat for two days, but Harve guesses that Text secretly has been feeding Moreover eggs. That same afternoon, Ames learns from Willie where Charity and Text live, then drives the boy to the McNeil house. Ames then tells everyone that he had been talking to the clubhouse cook and learned about the misunderstanding. He assures Lonnie that Harve will never lose his job, then says that the Grand National takes place in three weeks and he would welcome another competition between Belle and Moreover. That night, hoping to revive the depressed dog’s spirits, Text lets him sleep on his bed instead of being tied outside. In the middle of the night Moreover jumps out the window and races to Eben's place, with Text in pursuit. At Eben's, Moreover gets into the henhouse looking for eggs, but when Eben finds him there, he locks the henhouse and threatens to feed him poisoned eggs. Hearing this, a terrified Text runs to the McNeils to summon Harve. When Harve drives to Eben's place, he finds Moreover lying desperately ill in the henhouse. Harve then takes the dog home and gives him medicine, but tells Text and Lonnie that he does not know if Moreover will survive. The boys cry themselves to sleep cuddling Moreover, but the next morning are awakened by Moreover enthusiastically licking their faces. As they are having breakfast, Eben drives his wagon by and Shep jumps off, running onto the McNeil property. Harve leashes the dog and assures Eben that he will not harm him but says that anyone who tries to poison a dog does not deserve to own one. After Eben snarls that Moreover tried to commit suicide, the two men start a fight, which Harve easily wins, much to the delight of the normally placid Mary Lee and Lonnie. The boys soon break Moreover of his egg-eating habit and look forward to the Grand National, but as the day arrives, Ames tells them that it would not be right to enter Moreover, who is still recuperating, into this year's event. Disappointed, the boys say that they are through training Moreover, but Charity and Willie devise a plan to inspire them by pretending that another local dog breeder wants to buy Moreover and train him himself. The next day, when Ames, Harve and Mary Lee return from the Grand National with a loving cup for Belle, Harve suggests to Ames that they retire her and next year enter Moreover. The boys, who, as Mary Lee points out, are Moreover's owners, then happily run through the fields with their dog, looking forward to training him for next year's Grand National.

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

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