Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di James H. Street. Scen.: Sid Fleischman. F.: William H. Clothier. M.: Fred MacDowell. Scgf.: Donald A. Peters. Mus.: Laurindo Almeida, George Field. Int.: Walter Brennan (zio Jesse), Phil Harris (‘Cash’ Evans), Brandon de Wilde (Skeeter), Sidney Poitier (Gates), William Hopper (Walden Grover), Louise Beavers (Bonnie Dew), George Chandler (reporter). Prod.: John Wayne, Robert Fellows per Batjac Productions, Inc. 35mm.
Goodbye, My Lady is a good name for a film that has almost no women in it. This 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, as well described by a contemporary reviewer in 1956 in the “Monthly Film Bulletin”: “The opening scene, when the boy stands outside the shack waiting for the one important cry among all the night sounds in the woods, effectively establishes the mood; and the mutual affection that develops between the boy and his dog is made very real”. This is the point. 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 deWilde, in a relationship where both change as human beings. That is the film’s beautifully-conveyed leit motif. 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. This time it’s the loss of Lady in a conflict between the boy and the owner of the valuable dog, or in other words, between pure human values and money.
Peter von Bagh