Building Entertainment. The Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Greyfriars Bobby

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Greyfriars Bobby

Year: 1961

Source materials: 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.

Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson

Plot: A little Skye Terrier named Bobby is the pet of a Scottish farmer and his wife but the dog loves an old shepherd hired on the farm called Auld Jock. When money grows scarce on the farm, Auld Jock is fired. He travels to Edinburgh, and Bobby follows him. Auld Jock dies in poverty in an inn and is buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Bobby returns to Auld Jock’s grave every night to sleep.

greyfriars bobby 03

Against the wishes of his wife, the graveyard caretaker James Brown tries to shoo Bobby away, but Bobby always finds his way back to the grave. Bobby endears himself to all, especially the neighborhood children. Brown and a restaurant owner, Mr. Traill, compete for the affections of the dog. Brown alleges Traill should pay Bobby’s license fee, which he refuses on principle, not being Bobby’s master.

Mr. Traill is summoned to the court for a hearing, where he pleads not guilty. Mr. Brown is also present in the court, but he tells Mr. Traill he is sick, and can’t get out of bed. Mr. Traill is told to come back the next day, with Bobby as well. Bobby’s fate rests with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and, without a license and someone to take responsibility for Bobby, he may be destroyed. The children of Edinburgh contribute their pennies for Bobby’s license. Bobby is declared a Freeman of the City and adopted by the populace of Edinburgh.

Changes from the Source Material: Prior to this 1912 novel, there were many conflicting accounts of the legend, due to inconsistencies being passed down through generations of Scottish families. Eleanor Atkinson’s novel served as a standardization and popularization of the story in the United States.


Donald Crisp as James Brown. Crisp’s most memorable role was as the taciturn but loving father in How Green Was My Valley with Crisp winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1942. He appeared in Birth of a Nation,  The Little Minister, A Woman Rebels, Mutiny on the Bounty, That Certain Woman, Jezebel, Wuthering Heights, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Sea Hawk, The Valley of Decision, National Velvet, Lassie Come Home, and  The Uninvited. Laurence Naismith as Mr. Traill. He appeared in Scrooge, The Amazing Mr Blunden, A Night to Remember, Sink the Bismarck!, Jason and the Argonauts, Cleopatra, Lust For Life, Richard III, Camelot, and Diamonds Are Forever.

Gordon Jackson as Farmer. He is best remembered for his roles as the butler Angus Hudson in Upstairs, Downstairs and as George Cowley, the head of CI5, in The Professionals.  Film roles include  The Great Escape, The Bridal Path, The Ipcress File, and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Rosalie Crutchley as Farmer’s Wife. Her screen debut was as a violinist who is murdered in Take My Life. She played Madame Defarge twice in adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities, in both the 1958 film, and in the 1965 television serialisation of the same story. She appeared in The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth R, The Sword and the Rose, Hard Times, Electra, Testament of Youth, Quo Vadis, The Haunting, The Spanish Gardener, Beyond This Place, and  Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Freda Jackson as Old Woman Caretaker. Her film debut was in Mountains O’Mourne. Other films include A Canterbury Tale, Henry V, Great Expectations, The Good Die Young, Bhowani Junction, A Tale of Two Cities, The Brides of Dracula  Tom Jones,West 11, The Jokers,  Die, Monster, Die!, The Valley of Gwangi  and Clash of the Titans. Kay Walsh as Mrs. Brown. She appeared in  Oliver Twist, In Which We Serve and Great Expectations.

Critical Reception:Variety commented, “Greyfriars Bobby sets out to melt the heart and does it skillfully. Central character is a little Skye terrier, and this engaging little animal is quite irresistible…Patiently and brilliantly trained, Bobby wraps up the stellar honors for himself and the humans, knowing they don’t stand a chance, wisely are content to play chorus. Nevertheless, there are some very effective pieces of thesping, largely by Scottish actors. Laurence Naismith gives a strong, likeable performance as the kindly eating-house owner who takes Bobby under his wing…”

Legacy: Although this film has been mostly forgotten, there is a statue of Bobby in Edinburgh.


My take: Well this was cute. Shooting in Scotland resulted in great footage, especially in the beginning

Available on Disney +?: Yes