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A Collie's Best Friend, 'Lassie Come Home' Is Loyal to Genre

July 14, 1994|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lancer who regularly writes about film for the Times Orange County Edition. and

Every now and then we'll hear about a pet that overcomes the impossible to get home.

You know, lost in the Rockies, the loyal hound fashions skis from tree branches, hot-wires a snowmobile parked near an isolated cabin, makes it to the freeway then hitches a ride back to a worried owner sitting forlornly by the water bowl. That sort of thing.

One wonders if these apocryphal tales came before or after "Lassie Come Home," the 1943 MGM flick starring a resourceful collie separated from her loving pal, a 14-year-old played by Roddy McDowall. In the movie, which continues Golden West College's "Outdoor Family Film Festival" Friday night, Lassie faces hardship upon hardship before they're reunited.

No makeshift skis are needed, but the challenges are enough to impress even the most ardent dog worshipers. Lassie displays amazing pluck and ingenuity as she growls down robbers, dogcatchers, storms and rivers to return to grieving Joe, a boy who knows a good canine when he sees one.

Yes, "Lassie Come Home" is straightforward hokum, but as pure-hearted as it is emotionally sappy. Besides, the picture--like any good family entertainment--offers all the proper morals of a child-oriented fable. Devotion, love, responsibility, bravery, gumption, they're all there, in big, sentimental strokes.

"Lassie Come Home" also puts the youthful McDowall and a remarkably appealing Elizabeth Taylor (she was 11 in this, her movie debut) in the spotlight.

They both fly over the top, but who cares? They're only kids, and both know how to work a scene better than the hammiest grown-up. McDowall had practice, starring in "My Friend Flicka" earlier in 1943. Taylor went on the next year to play the horse-infatuated heroine in "National Velvet.

Up next for the series is "Tom Thumb." The 1958 movie screens July 22 in the campus amphitheater, as do the rest of the program's films. Russ Tamblyn stars as the tiny Tom in this re-creation of the Grimm fairy tale.

On July 29, the recent release "Beethoven's 2nd" is scheduled. This film about a couple of Saint Bernards, their puppies and the family that digs them stars Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt.

"Thumbelina" is offered Aug. 5. Another recent release, this animated feature tells the story of a bite-size dancer born to normal-size parents. Celebrity voices include John Hurt and Gilbert Gottfried.

On Aug. 12, "Snowball Express" checks in. The 1972 comedy stars Dean Jones as a guy who tries to turn a dilapidated hotel into a booming ski resort.

The series ends Aug. 19 with Disney's 1964 classic "Mary Poppins," featuring Julie Andrews as the magical singing nanny.

What: "Lassie Come Home."

When: Friday, July 15, at dusk (between 8 and 8:30 p.m.)

Where: The Golden West College amphitheater, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Golden West Street and head south.

Wherewithal: $2 a person, $8 per family (up to six people; $2 each additional person).

Where to call: (714) 891-3991.


The Fugitive

(PG-13) Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, escapes on his way to prison and goes in pursuit of the real murderer, with Deputy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) hot on his trail. This 1993 film directed by Andrew Davis screens Friday, July 15, at 12:45 p.m. in the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St., Cypress. Public welcome. FREE. (714) 229-6776.

Tammy and the Bachelor

(NR) Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Nielsen star in this 1957 film about a country girl who falls in love with the pilot she has nursed back to health after a plane crash. The film, directed by Joseph Pevney, will screen Wednesday, July 20, and July 22, at 12:45 p.m. in the Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay St., Cypress. Public welcome. FREE. (714) 229-6776.

Rocks With Wings

(NR) Filmmaker Rick Derby chronicles the experiences of the Lady Chieftains, a championship woman basketball team from a Navajo reservation, in this 1993 film that screens July 23 at 1 and 3 p.m. at the Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave. Shown as part of the museum's independent film series "Been There? Done That? Rites of Passage on Video." Film included with museum admission of $1.50 to $2.50, children under 12 admitted free. (714) 738-6545.

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