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Hills of Home (MGM 1948, Edmund Gwenn, Donald Crisp)

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Angered by the eponymous Lassie’s fear of water which renders her an inefficient sheep dog, her irate owner RHYS WILLIAMS sells her to elderly Scottish country doctor EDMUND GLENN. Williams’ son TOM DRAKE wants to become a doctor but his father is against it. Gwenn trains Lassie to carry his bag and act as messenger but cannot overcome her fear of water. When Drake’s sweetheart JANET LEIGH’s mother becomes desperately ill, Gwenn telegraphs London for ALAN NAPIER, surgeon to the Queen, no less, to come and attend her. He arrives and Lassie, coming through in an emergency as always, guides his carriage through raging flood waters. The woman’s life is saved. But Drake now becomes ill and requires an operation. Gwenn needs to use chloroform but has never before employed it and Williams forbids him to go ahead.

However, after Gwenn administers the anaesthetic to Lassie and she emerges unharmed, Williams agrees, Gwenn operates, the boy is saved and Williams now allows him to go to Edinburgh to study medicine. Time passes and Gwenn’s health starts to fail. Returning home from a patient, he falls in the snow – but Lassie comes to the rescue …

The simple, happily unsophisticated story is attractively scripted and directed by MGM’s Fred M Wilcox with a highly effective directness and simplicity which makes the most of the material and of Gwenn who succeeded in stealing the show from his four-footed costar. The New York Times wrote: ‘boys and girls of all ages should be softly beguiled by it, for it’s a film in the best tradition of inspirational romance. Furthermore, it is done very nicely in its story-book-coloured Scottish sets. Sincere and simple and unhurried, it is refreshing to have it around’.

production details
USA | MGM | 97 minutes | 1948

Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Script: William Ludwig
Suggested by the sketches Doctor of the Old School by Ian MacLaren

cast
Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Milton
Donald Crisp as Drumsheugh
Tom Drake as Mr. Milton
Janet Leigh as Margit Mitchell
Rhys Williams as Mr. Milton
Alan Napier as Sir George
Reginald Owen as Hopps
Edmund Breon as Jamie Soutar
Pal as Lassie

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