Courage of Lassie is a 1946 Technicolor MGM feature film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Morgan, and dog actor Pal in a story about a collie named Bill and his young companion, Kathie Merrick. When Bill is separated from Kathie following a vehicular accident, he is trained as a war dog, performs heroically, and, after many tribulations, is eventually reunited with his beloved Kathie.
Courage of Lassie is the third of seven MGM films featuring a canine star called Lassie, based on Eric Knight's fictional character. 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 this film's title, the character Lassie does not appear in Courage of Lassie; Pal (credited as Lassie) portrays "Bill", also referred to as "Duke" for part of the movie.
Courage of Lassie has been released to VHS and DVD.
A collie pup is separated from his mother and grows to young adulthood in the forest. After being swept away in a torrent and then shot by a young hunter, he is found by Kathie Merrick (Elizabeth Taylor) and carried to her home. With the help of a kindly shepherd, Mr. MacBain (Frank Morgan), she tends him back to health, names him Bill, and teaches him to herd sheep.
One day, unknown to Kathie, Bill is hit by a truck and taken to an animal hospital. Kathie risks her life futilely searching for him on the island where they first met. Bill remains unclaimed in the hospital for two months and is sent to a War Dog Training Center, where he is referred to as "Duke". After training, he is shipped out with the troops to the Aleutian Islands Campaign. Duke performs heroically on the battlefield, but the stress and a wound cause him to become aggressive. Sent back to the War Dog Training Center to recover, he escapes, attacking livestock and threatening people as he finds his way back to Kathie.
Merricks' neighbors insist he be put down because of his attacks, and Bill is impounded. A hearing is held and Mr. MacBain acts as Bill's lawyer. He discovers an Army tattoo in Bill's ear; a quick investigation reveals Bill is a war hero. All then realize that the dog who served on the battlefield was not himself after his war experiences, and he will need time to adjust to civilian life. Bill is freed and joyfully reunites with Kathie.
The film was shot on location at Railroad Creek by Lake Chelan near Holden, Washington.
The film was copyrighted under the working title Hold High the Torch; another working title was Blue Sierra. Margaret O'Brien and Lionel Barrymore were originally slated for the starring roles, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Courage of Lassie was fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Taylor's second "Lassie" film; she first had appeared in Lassie Come Home in the minor role of the Duke of Rudling's granddaughter, Priscilla. Taylor received the first top billing of her career with Courage of Lassie. George Cleveland, the "Old Man" in the opening scenes of Courage of Lassie would become the star of the 1954 television series Lassie.
In 2010, Film Score Monthly released the complete scores of the seven Lassie feature films released by MGM between 1943 and 1955 as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for It's a Dog's Life (1955) in the collection: Lassie Come Home: The Canine Cinema Collection, limited to 1000 copies. Due to the era when these scores were recorded, nearly half of the music masters have been lost so the scores had to be reconstructed and restored from the best available sources, mainly the Music and Effects tracks as well as monaural ¼″ tapes.
The score for Courage of Lassie was composed by Bronislau Kaper and Scott Bradley.Track listing for Courage of Lassie (Disc 3)
- "Main Title" (David Snell, Kaper, Bradley, Robert Franklyn); "The Lake" (Bradley); "Danger in the Woods" (Bradley) 4:11
- "The Lost Puppy" (Bradley) 2:16
- "The Playful Puppy" (Bradley); "The Eagle" (Bradley); "The Fishing Bear" (Bradley); "Fish Jumps" (Nathaniel Shilkret) 4:49
- "Girl on a Raft" (Bradley); "Fawn and the Raven" (Bradley); "The Puppy Gets Shot" (Franklyn–Bradley) 5:36
- "Bill Barks" (Kaper); "Hello, Mr. MacBain" (Kaper) 1:30
- "Nellie" (Kaper); "My Diary" (Kaper) 2:33
- "Sheep in the Snow" (Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco); "Rescuing the Sheep" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco) 4:46
- "It's Bill" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco) 2:15
- "At the Veterinary's" (Kaper) 1:04
- "Dog Branded" (Kaper) 1:05
- "Down, Boy" (Kaper) 1:09
- "Ship Kitchen" (Kaper); "The Change" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco) 5:10
- "Trailer Opening" (Shilkret); "Trailer Finale" (Shilkret) 1:08
- "Sunrise" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco); "Dog and Puppies" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco); "The Lost Puppy" (first version) (Castelnuovo-Tedesco); "Dog Meets Animals" (Shilkret); "Woodland Animals" (Shilkret); "Fish Jumps" (first version) (Shilkret); "The Owl and the Coyote" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco) 16:47
- "A Girl, a Dog and a Raven" (Castelnuovo-Tedesco)
Total Time: 57:83
The film was popular and earned $2,505,000 in the US and Canada and $1,595,000 elsewhere, making MGM a profit of $968,000.