By Polli Hollenbaugh
Of all the Disney films that have been made over the years my favorites have always been the live action ones, especially those from the 1950’s thru the 1970’s. This era is considered the Silver Age of Disney films, a post WWll return to full length movie making for Disney.
During the years of WWll, Disney films were made with low budgets and anti-Nazi propaganda guided by the U.S. government. The post war era movies were a return to normalcy.
These were “feel good” movies like:
So Dear to my Heart(1948)
“This musical mix of live action and animation centers on a young farm boy, Jeremiah (Bobby Driscoll), who raises a rascally black lamb named Danny and works to enter the animal in a county fair contest. But to enter the contest, Jeremiah needs money. He also has to figure out how to keep his pet in line, since it’s always scampering away. Jeremiah uses his daydreams for answers to his problems, learning valuable lessons to achieve his goal of entering Danny into the contest.”
The Littlest Outlaw(1955)
“Ten-year-old Pablito (Andres Velázquez) is so attached to a horse that is treated cruelly by his stepfather that he runs off with the animal. On the run, Pablito is befriended by a priest (Joseph Calleia), who offers the boy shelter in his village. When the horse runs away, Pablito and the priest set out to find it. Eventually they track the animal to a bullfighting arena, where it is being used to goad on the bulls, and the pair attempts to rescue the horse.”
And, one of my favorites, Pollyanna(1960)
“Young orphan Pollyanna (Hayley Mills) believes life’s most difficult problems can always be surmounted by a positive attitude and pragmatism. But when she moves in with her dour aunt (Jane Wyman), she is introduced to a range of disheartened folks who challenge her upbeat outlook. Not to be discouraged, she sets to work spreading hope and good cheer. However, when an inspired doctor (Richard Egan) leads the community in a campaign in opposition to her aunt, Pollyanna’s goodwill is strained.”
Or Adventure movies like:
“In this Disney adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, young Jim Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) finds a map to the coveted treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint. Jim enlists Dr. Livesy (Denis O’Dea) and Squire Trelawney (Walter Fitzgerald) to prepare for the voyage. Along the way, the likes of infamous pirate Long John Silver (Robert Newton) and other nefarious swashbucklers join the crew, and they set sail on the Caribbean Sea aboard the Hispaniola.”
Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier(1955)(I can hear the theme song)
“This big-screen movie featuring the coonskin-capped Davy Crockett (Fess Parker) consists of the first three episodes that aired on the Disneyland TV show in 1954. Crockett and his pal George Russel (Buddy Ebsen) battle Native Americans, and Russel gets captured. Crockett does what it takes to save his friend. After the wars, Crockett runs a successful political campaign to become a congressman. But the Texas Revolution calls him back to fight, and he makes his last stand at the Alamo.”
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea(1954)
“In 1866, Professor Pierre M. Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant Conseil (Peter Lorre), stranded in San Francisco by reports of a giant sea monster attacking ships in the Pacific Ocean, are invited to join an expedition to search for the creature. During the search, they and harpooner Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) are thrown overboard during an attack, eventually discovering that the supposed monster is actually a submarine piloted by the brilliant but haunted Captain Nemo (James Mason).”
They gave you a reason to smile or cry, like Old Yeller(1957)(I could only watch it once).
“While Jim Coates (Fess Parker) is off on a cattle drive, his wife, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and sons, Travis (Tommy Kirk) and Arliss (Kevin Corcoran), are left behind on their Texas ranch. When a runaway dog named Old Yeller causes damage in one of their fields, Travis tries to drive him away. However, Travis and Katie both warm to Old Yeller when he saves Arliss from a bear attack. As Travis and the brave and faithful dog grow closer, concern grows about an outbreak of rabies.”
This era also included the death of Walt Disney a day I sadly remember.
After Walt’s death it was a time of uncertainty for Disney Studios, but they persevered and made some of their best films. There are many to choose from. Some of these can be found on Disney+, although not as many as I would like. You can also find some of them on YouTube and other online sites.
Even if you are not particularly interested in old Disney movies they are very much worth the watch. They are a snap shot into the development of Disney entertainment that culminates in what you watch today and the influence they have had on entertainment in general. How many of Disney Theme Park rides were and are based on these movies?
These films and the Silver Age era are woven into the fabric of America and I am glad I grew up on those movies.
Which Silver Age movies are your favorite? Comment and let us know.
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