I ran into this one on TCM on Saturday quite by accident. I thought immediately of the short story “Weep No More, My Lady” and had to do a little research.
The author, James H. Street, wrote the short story, which he then expanded into the 1954 novel Good-bye, My Lady. It’s about an orphaned boy, Skeeter, living with his Uncle Jesse in the swamps along the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. He finds a Basenji, known as a “barkless dog” because it doesn’t bark like we think of dogs barking, but rather chatters. The story tells it that he names her “My Lady” so “everyone will know she’s mine.” It’s been years since I’ve read the story, but I still remember that line. The dog’s owners come looking for the dog and find Skeeter and M’Lady. I hated the ending because he had to give her up.
The 1956 movie adaptation pretty much follows this line, though the setting is changed from Mississippi to Georgia. Skeeter is played by Brandon De Wilde, a successful young actor by the time they made Good-bye, My Lady. By the age of eleven, he had already been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1953’s seminal Western Shane.
Uncle Jesse is played by Walter Brennan, whom you may know from films such as To Have and Have Not (1944) and Rio Bravo (1959), among many, many others in a prolific career (interestingly, Brennan’s Rio Bravo co-star, John Wayne, produced Goodbye, My Lady). Probably the strangest experience for me , though, was seeing Phil Harris–seeing him. He plays Cash. You know him as soon as you hear his voice–in it, I still hear Baloo the Bear, Thomas O’Malley, and other animated characters from a series of classic Disney films. I’m still not used to actually seeing him. As an added bonus, you’ll also see a young Sidney Poitier, appearing in this film only two years before he would hit it big in his Oscar-nominated role in The Defiant Ones.
The movie is pretty good, and feels real. The dog is beautiful, too. If you like Where the Red Fern Grows, for example, this is a movie for you. For me, it was a piece of nostalgia set close to home.