The most famous dog in the world, Lassie the collie first appeared in the 1943 movie Lassie Come Home (based on the Eric Knight novel) and – despite being a female character – was played by a male dog named Pal, who went on to appear in four more movies and made a cameo appearance in the 1954 Lassie TV series that followed.
Lassie Come Home remains the classic Lassie movie – it’s a tear-jerker for all the family to sob through as young Joe’s (Roddy McDowall) family has to sell Lassie to a wealthy duke, and the duke’s granddaughter (Elizabeth Taylor) helps the dog escape from the mean kennel master so she can be reunited with Joe. And you’ll need more tissues for the family during 1945’s Son of Lassie (grown-up Joe, played by Peter Lawford, and Laddie, son of Lassie, are trapped during World War II). 1946’s Courage of Lassie, with Elizabeth Taylor as a different character who adopts the dog, who is helping the US war effort in the Philippines, is surprisingly nasty for a family film (poor Lassie, now rechristened Bill, is hit by a truck, and shot more than once), but things get easier in 1948’s Hills of Home (also known as Master of Lassie, and set back in the peaceful Scottish countryside) and 1949’s Challenge to Lassie, which has a similar plot to 2005’s The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby.
There have been more recent additions to the Lassie legend. As well as various TV movies, the long-running series and the forgettable The Magic of Lassie (1978), there’s also 1994’s weepie Lassie and 2005’s Lassie, directed by Charles Sturridge (FairyTale: A True Story), which features a well-known cast (Peter O’Toole, John Lynch, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Robert Hardy, Edward Fox, Samantha Morton and The Station Agent’s Peter Dinklage) in a tale similar to the 1943 movie that started it all.
Is Lassie Come Home suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
As mentioned above, The Courage Of Lassie has quite a few distressing scenes. The others don’t really have any scary moments, but young viewers may be upset when Lassie is alone without a companion.