Movie Review: Greyfriars Bobby

GB Movie Poster

Picture from Wikipedia

“Greyfriars Bobby is a 1961 Walt Disney Productions feature film starring Donald Crisp and Laurence Naismith in a story about two Scottish men who compete for the affection of a Skye Terrier named Bobby. The screenplay by Robert Westerby was based upon the 1912 novel Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson which was based, in turn, upon an incident in 19th century Edinburgh involving a dog that came to be known as Greyfriars Bobby.” At least, this is what Wikipedia says. And they are right about the Disney movie, but the details of the story are more under contention.


Many of these old Disney live-action films, predominantly made in the UK to use up money the company couldn’t export from the country, are not or never will be released on disc. So the only way to see them is to find the VHS releases at a flea market, which is how I got my copy. Don’t throw out your old VHS players people if you ever want to see this movie!

Greyfriars Bobby is Volume Four of The Animal Adventure Series which included, in order, Old Yeller, The Legend of Lobo, and Big Red. So by ‘animal’ they meant ‘dog’.

Picture from Wikipedia

The contention over the story is discussed in a book by Jan Bondeson. The “book advances the view that fundamental facts about the dog and its loyalty are wrong. Bondeson states as background that in 19th-century Europe there are over 60 documented accounts of graveyard or cemetery dogs. These were stray dogs which were fed by visitors and curators to the point where the dogs made the graveyards their home, people coming to believe that they were waiting by a grave, and the result being that the dog was looked after. Bondeson claims that after an article about Bobby appeared in The Scotsman, visitor numbers to the graveyard increased, which supposedly created a commercial benefit for the local community. Bondeson also believes that in 1867 the original Bobby died and was replaced with a younger dog, and that this explains Bobby’s supposed longevity.” (Wikipedia.)

But hey, since when has Hollywood let a few mistaken details ruin a good movie?

Picture from Wikipedia

But details right or wrong, this little dog did exist, and did have an impact on one small town in Scotland. And if a few tourist dollars are spent because of him, who does it hurt really?

The movie isn’t one of Disney’s best. It moves rather slowly and doesn’t tug at that heart-string the advertising eludes to until quite late in the story, and then only briefly. The acting is good. It’s a basic feel-good story. I would give it a 2.5 stars out of 5 but a non-Disney viewer would likely rate it lower.

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