Cast & Crew
In 1903, young orphan Jeremiah Kincaid lives with his pious, hard-working grandmother on their farm near Fulton Corners, Indiana. One day, Jeremiah and his friend Tildy greet an arriving train that is carrying champion trotter Dan Patch. Jeremiah watches in awe as the local blacksmith, "Uncle" Hiram Douglas, puts a new nail in one of the beautiful horse's shoes. Proudly wearing the old nail as a ring, Jeremiah tells Hiram and Granny that he wants a colt of his own to rear as a racehorse. Granny tries to discourage Jeremiah's impractical daydreams, but allows him to keep a newborn, coal black lamb that is rejected by its mother. Naming the lamb Danny, Jeremiah tends to him and hopes to make him a champion so that he will be allowed to keep him. When Jeremiah pastes a picture of Danny into his scrapbook, he imagines that the "Wise Old Owl" emblem of the Farmers Trust and Savings comes to life and advises him to do the best with what he's got, as David did when he defeated Goliath. As time passes, Danny matures but is still a rambunctious lamb, constantly in trouble. After Danny rips apart a screen door, Granny orders Jeremiah to keep him in the barn, but Danny's plaintive cries induce Jeremiah to put him on a leash and take him along to Pete Grundy's general store. At the store, Danny raises another ruckus and breaks through Grundy's screen door, but Jeremiah explains to Hiram that Danny was frightened by Grundy's mean son Fud. Hiram then tells Jeremiah about the sheep-judging contest at the Pike County Fair, and later, while Jeremiah and Tildy are playing, he tells her about the fair and she offers to help with Danny so that she can go along. On the farm, Granny complains to Hiram that Jeremiah's devotion to Danny has made him disobedient, and that she will have to sell the lamb the next time he causes trouble. Just then, Danny, who has been startled by a train whistle, rips through the new screen door, which Hiram has just installed. Fed up, Granny announces she is selling Danny in the morning, but again gives in when she finds Jeremiah asleep with Danny in the barn. Hiram builds a sturdy pen for Danny, then tries to help the children persuade Granny to allow them to take Danny to the fair. Granny refuses, however, saying that the trip would cost too much money. Discouraged, Jeremiah is about to give up when the Wise Old Owl encourages him to have some "stick-to-it-ivity," just like Christopher Columbus and Scottish king Robert the Bruce. His determination renewed, Jeremiah works hard over the next few months, but earns only two dollars and fourteen cents. Grundy offers to pay Jeremiah for wild honey, and so Jeremiah and Tildy follow a bee into the treacherous swamp, where they eventually find a huge cache of honey. Grundy pays Jeremiah twenty-two dollars, but when Jeremiah and Hiram head home, Granny tells them that Danny has run off and Tildy got lost while looking for him. Tildy returns, but the anguished Jeremiah spends hours searching for his pet. Although she is worried about Jeremiah, Granny reproves him for caring more about potential prizes than about Danny himself. The next day, Jeremiah finds Danny and then informs Granny that he promised God that if he could find Danny, he would not go to the fair. Touched by Jeremiah's resurgance of faith, Granny tells him that she promised God that they would go to the fair if Danny returned home safely. At the fair, Jeremiah walks Danny into the ring for the judging of the champion ram lamb. Danny is the only black lamb, and Jeremiah is the youngest handler, but the head judge chuckles sympathetically when Jeremiah reluctantly reveals Danny's dubious pedigree. Danny then butts the judge as he bends over, and Jeremiah is crestfallen when the blue ribbon is awarded to another lamb. The judge stops Jeremiah from leaving the ring, however, and tells him that Danny is in "a class by himself." Because he has done the best with what he has, the judge awards Jeremiah a special award of merit, and Granny tearfully applauds her grandson and his beloved lamb. Back in Fulton Corners, the townspeople welcome Jeremiah and Danny, and Grundy treats everyone, including Danny, to soda and watermelon.
Spelman B. Collins
Eva Lee Kuney
Howard A. Davis
John Tucker Battle
Robert O. Cook
Judith Ann Hackett
Winton C. Hoch
A. Kendall O'connor
Lloyd L. Richardson
C. O. Slyfield
So Dear to My Heart
At the turn of the century, young Jeremiah Kincaid (Bobby Driscoll), an orphan living with his elderly grandmother (Beulah Bondi), dreams of owning a black lamb. He finds and raises one who has been rejected by its mother, but as his pet, Danny, grows, it wreaks havoc on the family farm and the neighboring small town. Encouraged by his uncle (Burl Ives), Jeremiah tries to raise the money to enter Danny in the county fair, hoping a victory will convince his grandmother to let him keep his pet.
Disney picked up the rights to North's novel shortly after it appeared in 1943 and started working on the screenplay in 1945. Early on he imbued the film with memories of his own childhood. Although the lamb was named Midnight in the book, he renamed him Danny in tribute to his childhood fascination with the racing horse Dan Patch and even had Jeremiah share that infatuation. The barn on Granny Kincaid's farm was modeled on memories of the barn where Disney played as a child.
Originally Disney envisioned So Dear to My Heart without animation. Salesmen at RKO, which had an exclusive contract to release his feature films, argued that it would be a hard sell, and audiences who had come to associate the Disney name with animation would be disappointed were there none in the film. Further, Disney's contract with RKO stipulated that all of his films had to be at least partly animated. By 1946, scripts for the film began to include sections that would be animated later. The idea was to animate the figures in Jeremiah's scrapbook and have them teach him basic moral lessons about how to get along in life. Ultimately, those animated sequences would amount to about 12 minutes, only 15 per cent of the film's running time.
Working with live action posed another problem. Disney's Burbank Studio was primarily dedicated to animation work. He had no sound stages and little actual back lot space. Not only did the crew have to shoot exteriors on location, but they built some of the interior sets there as well. The production crew found an ideal spot in the San Joaquin Valley, about 250 miles North of Los Angeles. As shooting dragged on through the summer, however, a dry spell hit, requiring the crew to stay up all night watering the locations so they would be consistently lush and green throughout the picture.
The animated sequences were directed by Disney veteran Hamilton Luske, who had directed Pinocchio (1940) and early Disney films mixing animation and live action like The Reluctant Dragon and Saludos Amigos (both 1942). Disney and his family were very fond of 20th Century-Fox's 1943 film My Friend Flicka, so he borrowed that film's director, Harold D. Schuster, from Fox to direct the live-action footage. Schuster chose Bondi to play the grandmother and Harry Carey, Sr. to play the judge at the county fair. Carey would die after shooting his scenes, not living long enough to see the film's release.
The children in the film, Driscoll and Luana Patten, had appeared together in Song of the South, for which they had been the first actors ever signed to a long-term contract with Disney's studio. The big find of the film, however, was Burl Ives. An actor-singer who specialized in collecting American folk songs, Ives was already well known for radio and concert appearances, often referred to as "America's favorite Balladeer." He had started appearing in films in 1946, but had yet to score a major hit. He would have his first hit record with the film's "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)." Although an adaptation of an English folk song and nursery rhyme, the work was considered original enough to win songwriters Eliot Daniel and Larry Morey an Oscar® nomination for Best Song.
That wasn't enough to make the film a box-office winner, however. Although it didn't lose money, mixed reviews and lower-than-usual box office led Disney to return to full-length animation with Cinderella (1950). The film maintained a strong hold on Disney's imagination nonetheless. At the time, he thought to create a traveling attraction called Disneylandia that would tour the country on railroad cars. The traveling show would consist of miniature exhibits depicting U.S. history and culture. The farmhouse in So Dear to My Heart provided the first exhibit, which Disney built himself from the original designs used in the film. Realizing that the audience for his Disneylandia idea would be limited, he expanded his scope, eventually turning it into Disneyland. The railroad station in that attraction's Frontierland is modeled on the train station from So Dear to My Heart, while the farmhouse model can now be seen in the Disney Studios in Orlando.
Director: Harold D. Schuster, Hamilton Luke
Producer: Walt Disney
Screenplay: John Tucker Battle, Maurice Rapf, Ted Sears, Sterling North, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet
Based on the novel Midnight and Jeremiah by Sterling North
Cinematography: Winton C. Hoch
Score: Paul J. Smith
Cast: Burl Ives (Uncle Hiram Douglas), Beulah Bondi (Granny Kincaid), Bobby Driscoll (Jeremiah 'Jerry' Kincaid), Luana Patten (Tildy), Harry Carey (Head Judge at County Fair), Raymond Bond (Pete Grundy, Storekeeper), John Beal (Jeremiah as an Adult, Narrator).
So Dear to My Heart
The first Disney film with live actors ever to be shown on television, in 1954.
The working titles of this film were Midnight and Jeremiah and How Dear to My Heart. During the picture's onscreen credits, a written acknowledgment extends thanks to the Department of Conservation-State of Indiana and the Department of Animal Husbandry-California State Polytechnic College. Sterling North's book Midnight and Jeremiah, published in 1943, was a children's book, which North later incorporated into a longer adult novel entitled So Dear to My Heart, published in 1947. In order to advertise the film, a condensed version of So Dear to My Heart appeared in the December 1948 issue of Reader's Digest, which featured a special band around the magazine announcing that the story featured illustrations from the forthcoming motion picture. It was the first time that Reader's Digest had published an "abbreviated version of a book simultaneously with the release of the film version," according to a September 1948 Variety news item.
Dan Patch, the famed trotting horse portrayed in the film, raced during the early 1900s and set numerous trotting records. The horse's record of trotting a mile in under two minutes stood for thirty-three years. According to the press materials for the film, Dan Patch, who died in 1916, earned approximately $400,000 during his trotting career.
A November 21, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Arthur Johnston had been signed to write music for the film, and on March 1, 1946 Hollywood Reporter noted that Sam Coslow had "checked in" at the studio to write lyrics to accompany Johnston's music. Johnston and Coslow are not credited onscreen, however, nor by any other contemporary source. Although a June 1946 memo, contained in the Walt Disney Archives, noted that Joyce Arling had been cast as "Tildy's" mother, that character does not appear in the finished film.
According to daily production reports, located at the studio archives, the live-action sequences were shot on location at Porterville, Tulare and Hot Springs, CA. Modern sources add Sequoia National Park as a location site. According to contemporary sources, Spelman B. Collins, who plays a judge in the film, was an instructor at Cal Poly, and Fred Carter and Bill Todd (Sheep handlers), were two of his "sheep husbandry students." Sources also note that the county fair sequences were shot at Mooney Park in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley, and that many local citizens were used as extras for the fair scenes. Actor Burl Ives, director Harold Schuster and his assistant, Jasper Blystone, were borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. In a modern interview, Schuster stated that his direction of the 1943 Twentieth Century-Fox motion picture My Friend Flicka prompted Disney to hire him.
The film was previewed at the 27th National 4-H Congress in Chicago on November 29, 1948. Bobby Driscoll made a personal appearance at the 4-H convention, which was attended by over 1,200 children, and part of the event was filmed for an NBC television show. According to a December 14, 1948 Film Daily news item, the picture was to have another preview for the National Cartoonist Society on December 23, 1948. An "area world preview" was held 14 January-January 22, 1949 in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, during which Disney and cast members attended many publicity functions and several screenings of the picture. Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten and Beulah Bondi were joined at the official premiere on January 19, 1948, in Indianapolis, IN, by Clarence "Ducky" Nash, who provided the voice of Donald Duck, and Roy Acuff and His Smoky Mountain Boys.
The film, which received very positive reviews, features approximately twelve minutes of animation, primarily of the "Wise Old Owl" as he sings stories about David and Goliath, Christopher Columbus and others in order to encourage "Jeremiah" in his efforts to make his lamb a champion. It was the least amount of animation to appear in a Disney feature film until the all live-action production of Treasure Island in 1950. In a February 6, 1949 article, New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther stated that Disney had entered the field of live-action films "more from necessity than from choice," due to the shortage of cartoonists after the end of World War II and to the economic advantages of producing live action instead of feature-length animation. According to an October 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, the first Disney True-Life Adventure short, Seal Island was completed especially to run with So Dear to My Heart, thereby eliminating the need for a second movie on the traditional double bill.
So Dear to My Heart marked the last screen appearance of longtime western actor Harry Carey, who died in September 1947. Eliot Daniel and Larry Morey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song for their adaptation of the English folksong "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)." The film's popular songs were recorded by a number of well-known singers, including Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee and Mel Tormé. According to an April 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, Schuster was awarded the Blue Ribbon Plaque by the National Screen Council. Child actor Driscoll received a special Oscar as the "outstanding juvenile actor" of 1949 for his work in this film and the RKO production The Window. So Dear to My Heart has been theatrically re-issued only once, in 1964, but has been released on home video twice.