In the illustrious catalog of feature-length Disney animation, perhaps no offering is more endearing, more charming and more beloved than this simple tale of two dogs from different sides of the tracks – whose paths cross in the timeless 1955 classic, Lady and the Tramp.
Disney had built a stellar reputation for turning classic fairy tales into timeless animated films. This time out, they tried something different, borrowing from a somewhat obscure story written by Ward Green that few had ever read. Utilizing the widescreen format offered by Cinemascope, a broad canvas lie waiting for Disney animators to work their magic and they proceeded to pull out all the stops with Lady and the Tramp.
The story, which is set in 1900s New England, begins when Jim Dear presents his wife, Darling, with a new cocker spaniel puppy named Lady. The dog is soon pampered like no other and secure in her standing in the Dear household. That is, until a new baby arrives causing Lady to become jealous of her new competition. She eventually warms to the new addition but these feelings only last until Aunt Sarah and her devious duo of Siamese cats come to housesit. Soon after, Lady is blamed for the various messes caused by the sly Siamese kitties, and is fitted with (gasp!) a muzzle.
Feeling dejected and unloved in her own home, Lady ventures into the outside world, only to find that it is a rather dangerous place. Cars turn out to be a formidable foe and Lady is on her way to becoming roadkill, until a streetwise scruffy mutt saves her from impending doom. A relationship slowly forms between the two canine cohorts, and leading to a romantic dinner shared behind Tony’s Italian restaurant, in all its spaghetti sucking glory. Soon, Lady begins to have misgivings about Tramp, however, and starts giving him the cold shoulder. Tramp is forced to prove his bravery by saving the Dear baby from a chilling rat with a taste for blood.
Lady and the Tramp is one of those rare films that truly has it all – a simple touching storyline, endearing characters, beautiful songs, and simply breathtaking animation that assured Disney the reputation of being leaders in the medium. Singer, Peggy Lee would collaborate with songwriter Sonny Burke on the film’s music and also provide the voices for the Siamese cats, Si and Am, Darling and Peg, the streetwise pooch.
To this day, the film continues to enthrall fans, old and new, thanks to numerous theatrical re-releases as well as on video and DVD. “Timeless classic” may be a phrase that is often over-used but in the case of Lady in the Tramp, there really is no more fitting way to describe this Disney masterpiece. And, If you have fond memories of watching this beloved animated film in your youth, we’d love to hear all about it in our comments section.