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HILLS OF HOME (director: Fred M. Wilcox; screenwriters: William Ludwig/suggested by the Ian MacLaren sketches “Doctor of the Old School”; cinematographer: Charles Schoenbaum; editor: Ralph Winters; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Edmund Gwenn (Dr. William MacLure), Donald Crisp (Drumsheugh), Tom Drake (Tammas Milton), Janet Leigh (Margit Mitchell), Rhys Williams (Mr. Milton), Reginald Owen (Hopps), Alan Napier (Sir George), Edmond Breon (Jaimie Soutar), Pal (Lassie); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sisk; MGM; 1948)
Great Lassie pic.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Great Lassie pic, one of the best in the series thanks to the moving performance by Edmund Gwenn as the saintly doctor in the Scottish highland town of Glen Urtach, a remote glen, who selflessly cares for his rural patients. The female Lassie was played by Pal, the talented male collie who was owned and trained by Rudd Weatherwax. Director Fred M. Wilcox (“Lassie Come Home”/”The Secret Garden”/ “Forbidden Planet”), even though noted as a sub-par director, does a fine job here as a storyteller. WriterWilliam Ludwig bases the rosy screenplay on the Ian MacLaren sketches “Doctor of the Old School.”

Dr. William MacLure (Edmund Gwenn), the only doctor in the glen, is tricked into buying Lassie, a collie afraid of water, for unpaid bills by the farmer Mr. Milton (Rhys Williams). The spry elderly bachelor doctor tries to teach her to swim, and decides to bring the collie with him on his doctor calls for companionship, as a messenger and to carry his medicine supplies.

Mr. Milton is upset when he learns that his only son Tammas (Tom Drake) is apprenticed to MacLure, and drags him home to be a farmer.

When a fearful Lassie refuses to cross a river, MacLure realizes that Lassie’s water phobia is too much for him to overcome and sells him on the cheap to an animal act trainer at the local fair, only to buy him back when he sees how cruel Lassie is treated.

While traveling through a snow storm to visit a dying patient named Saunders, MacLure must cross a storm-damaged bridge and he somehow gets Lassie to cross the bridge. After treating Saunders, who was giving up for dead, MacLure shows that he’s as good doctor as the city ones, except he doesn’t have their education.

When MacLure discovers that Tammas has fallen ill with appendicitis, he treats him with chloroform he gets from a doctor in London and saves the lad’s life with an emergency operation that wouldn’t have worked if the old anesthetic of whiskey was used. He then tricks the lad’s reluctant dad to let his son go to Edinburgh to study medicine.

Making a doctor call at night, MacLure is in danger while lying unconscious in the snow. Lassie suddenly overcomes her water phobia to cross a raging river to get help.

In the end, Tammas marries hometown sweetheart Margit Mitchell (Janet Leigh) and returns in the spring after four years of medical school to become the new doctor, as MacLure died over the winter. The old doctor was lauded by all the folks in the glen, who fondly remember him for his dedication and concern for everyone in the Scottish hills. Donald Crisp has a nice part as one of MacLure‘s trusted friends.

The heart-warming pic makes for excellent family entertainment.

REVIEWED ON 10/15/2010 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”