Lady and the Tramp
Lady, a golden cocker spaniel, meets up with a mongrel dog who calls himself the Tramp. He is obviously from the wrong side of town, but happenings at Lady's home make her decide to travel with him for a while.
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★★★★★ review by Aaron on Letterboxd
“As my grandpappy, Ol' Reliable, used to say…I don't recollect if I've ever mentioned Ol' Reliable before?”
Of all the classic Disney animated movies, my favorite has always been Lady and the Tramp. I can’t chalk that up entirely to nostalgia—I watched (and rewatched) most of the Disney catalog repeatedly as a child, all of them sitting in fancy VHS clamshell cases on my grandparents’ shelves, jockeying with each other for my time and attention. Any of them could have claimed a share of my fondness (and many of them did).
Why Lady and the Tramp then? It’s not the most action-packed or adventurous Disney animated fare. There’s nothing to rival Pinocchio’s trip to Pleasure Island or to Monstro’s belly. It’s not the funniest of Disney’s films—no Genie constantly cracking wise. It certainly doesn’t feature Disney’s most memorable villain. Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Scar—all far more magnetic and frightening than anything on display here.
In fact, the film scarcely features a villain at all. It really only has the barest outlines of a plot. Yes, there’s a romance whose denouement closes out the story. But the Disney feature it most resembles is Bambi (perhaps not coincidentally, my second favorite). Both films take a leisurely amble through their characters’ lives for a time and then leave.
Not beholden to the outlines of a famous fairy tale, Disney’s animators have the time to gently develop Lady’s (Barbara Luddy) world as the much-loved cocker spaniel of a middle class couple in early-twentieth century America. Keeping Jim Dear (Lee Millar) and Darling’s (Peggy Lee) faces carefully hidden emphasizes the dogs’-eye-view of the film’s world, as Lady is doted on by her owners, chats with her neighbors Jock (Bill Thompson) and Trusty (Bill Baucom), and fears her world may change with the arrival of a new baby (of whom she is soon to become fond and fiercely protective). The Cinemascope frame is filled with beautiful artwork right out of a Courier & Ives print, lending a warm glow to Lady and the Darlings’ day-to-day life.
The Tramp (Larry Roberts), meanwhile is, well, he’s a scoundrel, as they say. But we adore him. Impish and juvenile, but good-hearted. A little salt to Lady’s sweetness. As he and Lady roam the streets following Aunt Sarah’s (Verna Felton) ill-advised trip to the pet store, they bond but don’t fundamentally change. Lady enjoys the Tramp’s devil-may-care lifestyle, but is devoted Jim Dear and Darling’s baby. The Tramp will never lose that mischievous glint in his eye. They’re perfectly complementary, but their romance is less interesting than the nonchalant way it is developed, with detours to the zoo and its ornery, gap-toothed beaver, the pound and its gang of ragamuffins, and, of course, Tony’s and its extra-long spaghetti.
It all adds up to a world that’s sweet but not mawkish, a world to which you want to return over and over. Perhaps that’s why Lady and the Tramp was 1955’s highest-grossing film (and remains in the top 100 all-time, adjusting for inflation). Not because of anything rip-roaring or hilarious or nerve-jangling, but because of something welcoming and winsome. A cozy tale told cozily, like one about Trusty’s grandpappy. You’ve heard it before, but you’ll gladly listen again.
★★★★ review by Matthew L. Brady on Letterboxd
Nothing can beat puppy love, it's too cute to beat.
Lady and the Tramp is about a refined, upper class spaniel and a rapscallion mutt fall in love in this classic piece of Disney animation.
Lady and the Tramp is Disney's finest work of animation. The chemistry between the two dogs are too adorable to watch which always brings a smile to my face all the time. And the dinner scene with the iconic spaghetti kiss that was so romantic it's better than most romance movies starring people.
★★★★ review by george 🎅 on Letterboxd
Disney December (6/30)
Now, this is what I'm talking about; Disney delivers with rich characterisation and a wonderfully paced animated feature! Apart from the iconic spaghetti scene (which is just as perfect as I imagined), I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this one. After a superb setup for Lady's life - which starkly reminds me of my own puppy Lexi - we're thrust into a town where dogs speak and socialise with absolute charm, regardless of their social status. What follows is a sweet story that ticks all the boxes of a romantic comedy, except.. DOGS! And honestly, despite any attempt of discussion, that's really what it comes down to: man's best friend, parading about in a world where the owners of the nearby pizza shop serve them with open arms. It's feels so much like Disney - and a good'un too!
★★★★★ review by feedingbrett on Letterboxd
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Review In A Nutshell:
Many of Disney’s films, especially throughout the time when Walt Disney was still living, supervising each feature film; dogs seems to always be the subject of virtue and warmth, while the cats possess the opposite trait, constantly being pushed to the villainous position, with their slimy and egotistic attitudes. It took me up to Lady and the Tramp to realise this familiar trademark that Disney has with their earlier films; a quality that I personally didn’t mind, because I am more of a dog than a cat-person, but I also felt sympathetic of the cat’s depiction, as not all are as wicked as they seem; many are quite loving and possess a patient and calm quality that makes them easy to live with. Save for Bambi and Dumbo, animals have been the supporting drives behind its films, finding focus more on the human beings and their own personal issues that requires to be resolved; this time Disney brings the focus back to the animals, and this time they are domestic rather than wild, an interesting take on their personal perspective of their world and finding the connections between theirs and ours, realising that the fundamental nature of their problems are not too far from our own.
We see comfortable and secure town during a beautiful Christmas night, snow falls gracefully and the town is lit with lights from individual houses. The film draws us in closer and closer, until the focus is found on a singular house with a window, from a distance, the object that stands out within the window is the Christmas tree, we move closer and peer inside, finding a neatly positioned box with a ribbon tied around it. A woman opens and finds a puppy, a beautiful gift from her husband, an addition to their family, something for the couple to offer their affections; this is a monumental night for the couple, there is not a better gift than life, a life that one could devotedly love and spoil, the missing piece that would make their current life perfect, their lives would change forever but certainly for the better; this is a perfect night for the couple and a perfect introduction for the audience, simply a perfect start to a beautiful film.
This puppy would be called Lady; all she wants from her guardians are their love and affection, wanting to always be with them, whether day or night, to be in the presence of their warmth and unconditional affection, something that every child would want from their parents. Immediately we are able to empathise with her, we connect with her desires and hope that she succeeds in getting what she wants. We eventually see her all grown up, her routine hasn’t much changed, her guardians still adore her to bits, and she finds great company from the neighbouring dogs, a Scottish terrier named Jock and an ageing bloodhound named Trusty.
Across town, we find a scruffy but charming mutt whom we know as Tramp; he survives through the generosity of others, and if in a desperate position, he may resort to theft, but he is mostly seen in a positive and admirable light. Tramp cherishes his sense of freedom, but his subtle backstory of once being under the guardianship has allowed him to be seen as sympathetic. His previous owners had a baby, which caused problems for him as attention and care were primarily shifted towards the child; he was put in a kennel, and was left with leftovers from the baby’s meal, the affectionate and luxurious life he once had was gone, hence why he left and became what he is. The writers did not depict Tramp as a character attracted to the idea of destruction and anarchy, his drive for independence was to masquerade his true feelings and scars, ergo making his ending seem reasonable. We see the character in a heroic light because he acts on the danger of his friends, remedying them from captivity. The last place any dog wants to be is in the pound.
One day, Lady finds herself saddened, as her guardians have begun to act differently around her, their prioritisation is fixated on a different matter which has created some distance between their relationship. Trusty and Jock knew the reason behind their change in behaviour and states that it is a natural evolution for human guardians; they are expecting to have a baby. This was a shock to her, and became even more concerning when the Tramp overhears and tells her all of the flaws that come with a baby’s presence, it was from here that the film introduces Tramp’s history and current motivation. It was also apparent that when the Tramp first hears Lady’s beautiful voice and laid eyes on her, a deep attraction began to build; compelling him to intervene, laying down his charismatic attitude that Lady cannot seem to get herself out of, every word that comes out of him are filled with impact, eventually creating a sense of anxiety and paranoia within her as she anticipates the birth of the child.
It was in the moment where she first sees the child that she realises how much she has love for it, a sense of envy is still present in her character but this is just an accurate representation of sibling rivalry; another emotion that could easily be identified with by the audience. The real trouble begins when hostility comes to their home in the form of an old woman, I am assuming the sister of one of the guardians, and her two Siamese cats, present to care for the baby, Lady, and the home while the original guardians are away. The cats are causing trouble for Lady due to their craving for chaos and inherent drive for curiosity, it was when the cats were aware of the baby’s presence that they want to terrorise it, which led Lady to be verbally disruptive and cause physical rumblings around the house. The old woman is more in touch with her feline side, ergo she is biased when dividing care and attention for the household pets; Lady’s antics is causing too much trouble and disturbance for her, therefore she takes Lady to a store and fit her with a muzzle. This sense of oppression frightens her, and through panic decides to flee, and along the way finds threatening figures of her own species, only to be saved by the heroic Tramp.
It was from here on that the film’s romance begins to blossom, the quality that attracted many people to the film and made it the classic that it is. Sure, the film may have executed the plot elements too fundamentally, especially when compared to the romances that are out today, but it is in its ability to draw out iconic scenery and infectious emotion that makes the film so great. We cannot help but feel attracted to the building relationship of the two characters; the Tramp showing Lady the perks of his world and how he wants her to be a part of it. The film was able to draw out themes of social class through its two characters, a film that touches on the issue lightly, but apparent enough to bring sophistication and texture in the scenes they share together.
At one point, Tramp attempts to convince her the fun and sense of freedom that could be found in his world through the harassment of lazy fat chickens, an event that would place both characters in danger; it was through this that Disney was able to instil and become apparent of the sense of danger that appear in the Tramp’s world; he finds entertainment in it because he is confident with his survival, him dragging Lady into this has made the situation worse and put a strain on their relationship. It was at the end of the film where we see the Tramp finally redeeming himself, to save the thing that caused his previous life to crash down; this is a man who has found the courage to commit with a girl and demolish his womanizing attitude of the past, a character who has begun to believe in the idea of love and is willing to sacrifice himself in order to attain it; this is subtlety that Disney was able to wonderfully achieve, one that becomes more rewarding with each revisit, eventually reaching to the core heart and magic that made Lady and the Tramp the classic that it is.
Lady and the Tramp would mark the first time that their animated features would be displayed in a widescreen ratio, utilising Cinemascope has provided the film a more cinematic quality to it; one that demands to be treated as much seriousness and respect as any of the live-action films that stands alongside it. It was also a smart attempt to perfectly capture the perspective of its grounded characters; the film’s widescreen ratio creates a restrictive view of a familiar world, one that stays within the realms of its characters and interacting with it from their own personal perspectives; humans come off as more frightening and towering when the camera views them closer to the earth. Disney always seems to take the extra step in ensuring their choices in narrative remain fresh, constantly trying different things in order to bring life to familiar elements. If there was one flaw that the film has, it would be the music. The score that was provided and the individuals songs performed throughout were no doubt pleasant, but it never reaches to a level of excellence in craftsmanship and emotional resonance as the ones found in Cinderella, Pinocchio, or even Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Nevertheless, the flaw never became large enough that enjoyment was hurt, and was constantly forgiven by the compelling story and characters, along with wonderful and elegant visuals.
Lady and the Tramp is far from being the most experimental and thematically rich of the studio’s filmography, but it is one of their most emotionally engaging, one that could easily find its audiences being lost in the romance and personalities of its characters. It stands firmly along with my favourite animated films of all time.
★★★★ review by Jared on Letterboxd
The brilliance of the infamous dinner-date scene that the legends foretold of is so very real. Genuinely sweet and impeccably staged, few things rival the purely romantic gesture of Tramp giving Lady the final meatball. Or the iconic setting; the image of two adorable dogs having a candlelit dinner under the night sky while being serenaded by two generous and *very* Italian chefs closing up for the evening. It's a magical scene, can't believe it took me so long to actually watch it. The film surrounding this segment is surprisingly mature, too. Pleasantly so. It's a diversion from the Disney norm; in that it's more interested in reality than fantasy, and a pointed look at class divisions. The storytelling is...surprisingly subtle, too. The idea that Lady is pregnant is merely hinted at in subtext. Additionally, so much more storytelling is conveyed through extended montages, lush animation and a slow-paced, laid-back look at the two extremes of the economic spectrum. Refreshingly, the film finds an empathy for characters on both sides of the tracks. Boldly, the film does not overlook the privilege associated with Lady's peril in contrast to Tramp's own (glimpsed especially when Lady is taken from the pound). The long-walk we observe in the unfortunate dog's shadow is heartbreaking.
It's interesting that this has been reduced to it's romance in the popular perception of the movie. Yes, it's a major component to the movie. But this film, as much as it is that, is also a coming-of-age tale, a subtle look at class and a movie that fundamentally raises many more questions than many of it's counterparts within the Disney canon care to. This being said, it's problematic racial content dims it's brilliance somewhat, and I don't think its as engaging on a sort-of primal level as the more beloved classics. Ultimately though, the intelligence and subtlety of Lady and the Tramp distinguish it as a lovable, quietly challenging outlier in Disney's body of works.
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