Saturday, February 04, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre

Disney has operated the historic El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard for the past couple decades, but somehow I'd never gotten around to visiting it until we made the trip today to see LADY AND THE TRAMP on a big screen.

I was charmed by the experience, which included a live organist on stage performing Disney songs as the crowd filed in, a Mickey Mouse cartoon themed to match the feature film, and a live welcome from Mickey Mouse, complete with heart-shaped confetti dropped over the audience just before the movie started.

And as for the movie? Well, it was something pretty special, with a presentation to match. I'd forgotten LADY AND THE TRAMP was in CinemaScope, and it was flawlessly projected on a huge screen. It would be hard to have a better experience enjoying a Disney classic!

Last weekend I saw what I consider the best film from Disney's Second Golden Age of Animation, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991); today's movie, LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), surely represents one of the best of Disney's earlier animated classics.

My favorite among Disney's older cartoons has always been SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959); additionally, I've always been especially fond of ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) and PETER PAN (1953), along with LADY AND THE TRAMP. All of these '50s Disney films are significant childhood memories for me, not only seeing them in theaters when they were reissued in the early '70s, but enjoying them over and over again thanks to Disney's storybook record albums. (Curiously, I never saw the 1950 film CINDERELLA as a child, nor did I have a record album.)

LADY AND THE TRAMP is, in a word, a beautiful movie. Every frame has visual appeal, and there are delightful characters and a musical score to match. Disney animators were geniuses at capturing animal behavior, and dog lovers will chuckle over countless "recognizable" moments.

The movie tells the simple tale of Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy), who lives with Jim Dear (Lee Millar) and Darling (Peggy Lee). Lady's routine is upset by the arrival of a baby in the house, but she soon accepts the little one and life settles back to normal.

Then one day Jim Dear and Darling must leave town, and Aunt Sarah (Verna Felton) arrives to babysit, bringing with her a pair of nasty Siamese cats, Si and Am (Peggy Lee again). Lady runs away after Aunt Sarah puts a muzzle on her, and she's aided by Tramp (Larry Roberts). Lady experiences a memorable spaghetti dinner with Tramp ("Bella Notte"), has an unhappy visit to the pound, and ultimately she and Tramp save the day when a huge rat threatens the baby.

One of this 76-minute film's strengths is its pacing. The story moves along briskly and just when something upsetting happens, it's promptly resolved. Disney cartoons definitely have their dark sides -- even here, there's a pound dog that takes a Walk of No Return -- but LADY AND THE TRAMP has far less angst than many other animated Disney stories.

The score by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke is marvelous. Besides cowriting the Christmas song "Peace on Earth" and the unforgettable "Belle Notte," Lee voices Peg the pound dog singing "He's a Tramp," and her "Siamese Cat Song" is sheer brilliance. Who could ever forget "We are Siamese if you please...we are Siamese if you don't please!" Those cats are naughty, naughty creatures, perfectly captured by Lee's vocals.

Additional characters were voiced by Bill Thompson (Jock), Bill Baucom (Trusty), Dallas McKennon (Toughy), Alan Reed (Boris), and Stan Freberg (Beaver).

LADY AND THE TRAMP's directors were Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson, and Clyde Geronimi.

I recommend the two-disc Platinum Edition DVD released a few years ago. The DVD can be rented from Netflix. It's also been released on VHS.

A new Blu-ray Diamond Edition was reviewed today by Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant.

Additional information on the El Capitan: Parking is across the street at the Hollywood and Highland Center. There is an automated parking validation machine in the El Capitan lobby, so be sure to take your parking ticket into the theater. Our parking cost was $2 with validation.

We bought our tickets online and printed them at home; we purchased the least expensive General Admission tickets. We were very happy with our seats, and since most of the excited children at the movie were sitting in the VIP sections in the center and balcony, we also had fewer potential distractions in our seating area.

There's a small Disney Studio Store next door to the theater which was full of LADY AND THE TRAMP merchandise. I assume the store stocks up on souvenirs appropriate to each film shown.

We were impressed with the theater staff who were very "Disney" and child-friendly. The theater was beautifully maintained, and the opening organ music and confetti caused my daughter to describe the feel of the overall experience as a "sugar-infused dream." All in all we had a terrific time, and we'd like to visit the theater again in the future.


Blogger Irene said...

I've been to this theater on a couple of occasions and it is a wonderful experience. To see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe there was amazing, especially when it "snowed". No one does it better than Disney!
My brother recently took advantage of a special backstage tour put on by the Historical Theater Conservancy Group and it only cost $12. It sold out quickly. He got to see so many things and had one of the best days of his life! By the way - he's a bigger Disney fan than I am!!!

10:23 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

What fun! I haven't seen "Lady" in probably decades. I would love to have seen it on the big screen with such cute showmanship. Thanks for taking us.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Dave Enkosky said...

I loved this movie when I was a kid. I had no idea it was filmed in cinemascope. I can't believe I've only seen the pan-and-scan version. It'd be nice to see this in the theater.

7:28 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

LADY AND THE TRAMP was the first movie I was taken to as a child and I loved it. When I saw my second movie (don't recall what it was), I was disappointed -- I thought "going to the movies" meant going to see LADY AND THE TRAMP! And I've been a big fan of El Capitan ever since taking my kids to see TOY STORY and the wonderful stage show that accompanied the film screening. Jane

6:49 PM  
Blogger Estella said...

Laura, we know Rob Richards, the organist at the El Capitan, really well. As well as being AMAZINGLY talented, he's a great guy!

7:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What fun to hear of all your varied experiences!

Irene, I'll have to watch for a similar tour in the future. It sounds terrific.

Jacqueline, I feel as though yesterday's El Capitan experience was a bit of a window on what it must have been like to see a movie at a "movie palace" in decades past, complete with pre-show entertainment and a short!

Dave, I highly recommend the experience of seeing it widescreen in a theater. I was really wowed with the visuals.

Jane, what a great memory of what "going to the movies" meant, I love that. The TOY STORY show must have been wonderful. Although we're huge Disney fans somehow we'd missed out on this experience over the years -- not sure why. We'll definitely be back.

Estella, that is completely amazing you know the organist -- if you think of it, please tell him his music filled my heart with joy, especially when he played songs from THE LITTLE MERMAID. Between his music and that confetti surprise, I didn't stop smiling for a good 10 minutes. It's the little things that make an outing extra-special, and our visit to the El Capitan made my weekend! A completely memorable afternoon in every way.

Best wishes,

9:49 PM  

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