Courage of Lassie (1946): Third Feature in MGM Popular Series, Starring Elizabeth Taylor

Courage of Lassie is the third of seven MGM films featuring the canine star Lassie, based on the popular fictional character created by Eric Knight. 

Shot in bright colors, Courage of Lassie is a patriotic family film about the deep and loving bond between a young girl named Kathie Merrick (played by Elizabeth Taylor) and a Collie dog named Bill (played by dog actor Pal).

When Bill is separated from Kathie after an accident, he is trained as a war dog, performing heroically, saving many soldiers’ lives.

After many obstacles and tribulations, Pal is reunited with his beloved Kathie.

 

Detailed Plot

Separated from his mother, a collie pup grows in the forest. Swept away in a torrent and then shot by a hunter, he is found by Kathie Merrick who names his Bill.  With the help of a kind shepherd, MacBain (Frank Morgan), she tends him back to health, names him Bill, and teaches him how to herd sheep.

Kathie takes risks searching for him, not knowing that he was hit by a truck and taken to an animal hospital.  After two months, Bill is sent to a War Dog Training Center, where he’s renamed “Duke.”

Having been trained, he is shipped out to the Aleutian Islands Campaign, where he performs heroically on the battlefield. However, stress and a wound have made him aggressive.  Sent back to recovery, he escapes, attacking livestock and threatening the Merricks’ neighbors, who wish to put him down.

The last reel is set in the courthouse, where MacBain acts as the lawyer of Bill, now impounded.  An Army tattoo in Bill’s ear reveals that he is a war hero, having served on the battlefield. In a patriotic speech, MacBain pleads to allow him time to adjust back to normal civilian life, just as human soldiers are granted.

MGM Lassie Series

Pal, a male Rough Collie, using the stage name Lassie, appeared as the title character in the first film, Lassie Come Home, and as Laddie in its sequel, Son of Lassie.

Despite the title, the character Lassie does not appear in Courage of Lassie; Pal (credited as Lassie) portrays “Bill” in the movie.

Commercial Hit

Made on a budget of $1.5 million, the movie touched a nerve with audiences upon release in November, earning $4.1 million in domestic box-office receipts.

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