Good-bye, My Lady
Directed by William Wellman
FILM OF THE WEEK: GOODBYE, MY LADY (1956)
You’re a 13-year-old boy living with your Uncle Jesse in the bayou country of Mississippi, when one day you hear an odd yowling coming from the woods, and what does it turn out to be but a stray she-dog, short-haired, with a curly tail and big and pointed ears – a dog that cannot bark. “I’m gonna make her into a bird-dog!” says the boy, Skeeter (Brandon de Wilde; the terrific child actor you may remember as a small boy in Shane and The Member of the Wedding), though Uncle Jesse (Walter Brennan) has his doubts.
“That dog’s a foreign dog,” says Uncle Jesse.
“Maybe it’s a Yankee dog. You know how Yankees are,” says Skeeter.
Nobody else thinks the dog will be any good. At first, the dog, whom the boy names Lady, seems good at nothing but catching rats. But Skeeter keeps it up, and instead of forcing the dog to do just what the setters do, he lets the dog do what she is good at, and it turns out that Lady can point toward a covey of quail a lot farther away than any other dog can, stunning all the hunters roundabout, so that the boy and his dog get a name for themselves. But where did that dog, a Basenji, come from?
The owner of the local general store accidentally finds out when he sees an ad in a magazine. She’s from an ancient breed, he says to Uncle Jesse, one that was bred many years before the coming “of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The owner (Phil Harris) is a proud man and an aficionado of hunting dogs, and he hasn’t always gotten along with shiftless Uncle Jesse. But he is a human being, too. This movie is of a sort we don’t see much of anymore: a classic boy-to-man story, but without fights, without blood, without cussing and hollering, without diving from an airplane or something. It didn’t take much money to make the film. It just took a lot of intelligence and heart.
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