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Thursday, September 18, 2014

LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955)

The posh period setting of Disney’s first CinemaScope animated feature was turn-of-the-last-century New England, but the tone is pure ‘50s. The primal childhood terrors of the classic Disney legacy pics of the late-‘30s & early ‘40s have, like the country’s Depression, been tamed; even war has gone from ‘Hot’ to ‘Cold.’ No wonder dramatic crises have become domesticated. Where SNOW WHITE got a royal consort; Pinocchio a resurrection; Dumbo that star-making turn; and Bambi an ascent to Prince of the Forest; now the payoff comes in joining a nuclear family . . . as long as you follow house rules & leave any wanderlust at the door. Welcome to Eisenhower’s America. The film retains its gentle charms, though the leading voices of Lady & Tramp are disappointingly unmemorable. But the Disney artists & craftspeople take easily to the very wide screen dimensions (early ‘Scope runs about 2.55:1). And the romance & adventures are enlivened, often in the nick of time, by funny set pieces, usually with vocals either by Peggy Lee (four roles, hilarious as two devilish Siamese Cats), or a couple of paisanos in the justly celebrated dinner-for-two ‘Spaghetti and a’meat-a-ball’ scene. (After which, those love-struck dogs spend the night together. Golly!) The action sequences are on the mild side, but a big race-to-the-rescue climax over rain-soaked cobblestone streets thru foggy moonlight is one of the loveliest bits of sustained background art direction in any Disney pic.

DOUBLE-BILL: Disney’s initial try @ CinemaScope Animation was the boringly pictorial Donald Duck short GRAND CANYONSCOPE/’54. TRAMP, calling far less attention to the new format, finds a manner that’s subtler, more effective & speaks volumes to the studio’s fast learning curve. You can check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iogedcegdtA

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