Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
Release Date: June 16, 1956
‘Lady and the Tramp’ is a mild and friendly film based on story ideas by Joe Grant that went as far back as 1939. It tells the story of Lady, an upper class female Cocker Spaniel living around the turn of the century.
Lady’s life of luxury seems to be threatened by the coming of a baby, but it is the babysitter, aunt Sarah, who’s her real nemesis. The cat-loving old lady quickly has Lady muzzled, and it’s up to the tramp to rescue her. They spend a night out together, but in the morning, while they’re chasing chickens “together”, Lady gets caught and ends in the city dogpound. There she discovers that the tramp is quite a ladies man. It seems their short-lived relationship is over, but then the tramp helps her catching a rat that has sneaked into the house and into the baby’s room…
‘Lady and the Tramp’ was the first animated feature in Cinemascope. The film uses the new technique to great effects, with the action carefully laid out to the broad screen. Its backgrounds are very beautiful, and remarkably lush or, when necessary, highly dramatic. Only in the love scene they become somewhat stylized, showing a Mary Blair influence otherwise absent from the film.
The high quality animation is a delight to watch and stands out in an age of stylized and limited animation, something the 1950’s more and more became to be. Like the animals in ‘Bambi‘ (1942), the dogs have a look and feel of real animals, while, at the same time, being full characters one can relate to, with a complete range of human expressions. Even the minor characters, like the dogs in the dogpound, are perfectly animated in that respect. The voices help in this dualism, often being a combination of human and dog-like sounds.
The humans, on the other hand, are hardly seen, and only the strongly caricatured ones, Aunt Sarah, Tony and Joe, have something of a character. It is telling that the most famous and probably most romantic kiss in animation history can be seen in this movie and is a kiss between two dogs. This scene, in which Lady and the tramp share a meal of spaghetti, accompanied by romantic music by the two Italian restaurant owners, is the undisputed highlight of the film. Honorable mention goes to the very lifelike fight between the tramp and a large rat, a strongly dramatic scene animated by Wolfgang Reitherman, which can compete with the fighting scene in ‘Bambi’ in its impact.
Watch the dining scene from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ yourself and tell me what you think: