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Good-bye, My Lady

$5 Weekend Matinee Admission or Free with Cambridge Public Library Card
Directed by William Wellman.
With Walter Brennan, Brandon de Wilde, Sidney Poitier.
US, 1956, 16mm, black & white, 95 min.
Print source: HFA

[My Lady] is a Basenji dog (sometimes said to be able to “laugh and cry, but not bark”), one of the most memorable canine performers in the history of film. The title relates to the touching and real relationship between the young orphan boy and the dog… It’s the kind of relationship that most films miss or fake; here everything is concrete, emotions as well as the vision of nature, the swamp, the forest.

The film, one of the finest in Wellman’s oeuvre and the kind of pastoral masterpiece that every great American director was due to sign at some time or other, is about an old man and a boy, both excellent as played by Walter Brennan (one of the greatest roles of that actor so dear to all of us) and Brandon de Wilde, in a relationship where both change as human beings. That is the film’s beautifully-conveyed leitmotif.

It’s Americana at the root level, as basic as the purest Hemingway short stories or moments that Flaherty captured on film. Like the more famous The Yearling (Clarence Brown) but with all the Hollywood characteristics wiped away, running underneath it all is a sense of sad tenderness, the knowledge that every age, and becoming an adult and being accepted as a true member of a community, requires something and sometimes almost too much. – Peter von Bagh

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