Serg Beret’s Best Disney Animated Films – #8 Lady and the Tramp (1955)

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Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske

Directly in the middle of the Disney company’s Golden Age, the Lady and the Tramp strayed away (no pun intended) from the average Disney film at the time. It did involve the typical talking animals a la Bambi years prior, yet it tackled another side of the animal world in Disney: the romantic side. Bambi did have that, but that was only a small portion of it’s whole. No, this story is the typical girl meets boy story, except with dogs and turns out to be one of the best romances on screen.

A cocker spaniel named Lady (Barbara Luddy) is the prized pet of her family of Darling and Jim Dear with everything given to her. One year when Darling gives birth to their new baby, she is treated lesser than she was before going from roaming around the house to having been struck, feeling out of place. She decides to hang about with her friends Jock (Bill Thompson) and Trusty (Bil Baucom) who help comfort her until Tramp (Larry Roberts) comes to deliver some hard turth and knowledge. Lady is taken aback knowing that nothing truly bad will happen until Aunt Sarah (Verna Felton) takes care of her. After being blamed for attacking her cats Si and Am, she sends to get muzzled and is made lesser once more. Fortunately, Tramp comes in to save the day and show her the free side of life that she has been missing out. With a new found bond and some spaghetti involved, the two hit it off to see if they can become more than what they are.

This is unique in the way it is presented because this is the first animated film presented in CinemaScope. Most would wonder why waste the time and effort on a film like this, but by god, is it gorgeous. This is set in the height of American in Connecticut and it shows from the Victorian houses to the streets of brick and stone. The winter layouts and the night sky sparkle throughout the film becoming a true highlight of the artistry of Disney at the time. It’s the closest one can get to Disney’s Main Street U.S.A. on the big screen before Saving Mr. Banks anyway. It takes advantage of its scope just like Sleeping Beauty will four years after the release of this film.

The overall story is simplistic and is a very nice romance. It sets the two up as unlikely if ever to get together being from opposite sides of the coin, yet even by the voice performances, the chemistry is felt. The animation adds to it covering the emotion in their faces and their happiness. It also covers the naive and serious nature of lady and the fun loose style of Tramp. I love Tramp all around from his constant expressions, his smoothness and generally not being a horrible dog. One can see why Lady would fall for him because he is the ultimate “manic pixie dream” come true.

The best moment of the film’s performances and animation is the scene every one knows and loves and that is the “Bella Notte” sequence. It’s iconic in every way with Lady and Tramp eating a bowl of spaghetti, sharing a smooch and Lady looking up at the night sky with a glimmer of hope in her eyes. It’s absolutely terrific. There’s a reason why its the featured image. Another terrific piece is the climax of the film. It is dark, ominous, filled to the brim with crackling lightning and absolute chaos. It gives a film that was joyful a chance to have tension and stakes involved. It’s a wonder why this film was panned by critics at the time (as seen in the Critic’s Quote below). Lady and the Tramp is a classic through and through and perfect for any bella notte.

Critic’s Quote: “”Lady and the Tramp,” we might mention, is not the best he has done in this line. It is a coyly romantic story, done with animals. The sentimentality is mighty, and the use of the CinemaScope size does not make for any less awareness of the thickness of the goo.”- Bosley Crowther, New York Times, June 24, 1955

(Damn, Bosley, who took a shit on your Eggs Benedict?)

Signature Moment: The “Bella Notte” sequence is the centerpiece for the classic for all the obvious reasons.

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