Old Yeller [1957]

There's nothing hip about this vintage Disney film that begins and ends with a corny song about the "best doggone dog in the West." But that's the beauty of Old Yeller, originally released in 1957. The simple, heart-warming story of a boy who bonds with a feisty stray dog in 1860s Texas is full of 1950s sensibilities: A Donna Reed-style perfect "Momma" (Dorothy McGuire) who knows best, a couple of brothers who quarrel in the best sitcom tradition, and a father (Fess Parker, in a small role) who goes off to provide for his family, leaving his older boy (Tommy Kirk) in charge and his incredibly cute younger one (Kevin Corcoran) to steal as many scenes in the movie as he possibly can. With Old Yeller at his side, Kirk becomes a little man, who in the end must make a decision so heart-breaking that it's one of filmdom's most memorable moments. --Valerie J. Nelson

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