Building Entertainment: The films of the Walt Disney Studio. The Biscuit Eater

Title: The Biscuit Eater

Year: 1972

Source materials: Based on a 1939 short story of the same name by James Street.

Plot: The story revolves around a German Wirehaired Pointer named Moreover, who has a strong relationship with a red-headed boy named Lonnie despite his mishaps. Moreover, is dealt to Willie Dorsey, a gas station clerk, but Lonnie and his best friend, Text, who regain possession of the dog through somewhat deceitful bargaining, gaining the reluctant respect of Willie. They train Moreover, to be a prize-winning bird pointer, entering him in a field trial.

The dog was initially raised by Lonnie’s father, Harvey McNeil, who is an award-winning dog-trainer. Although Lonnie viewed Moreover as a personal pet and a close friend, his father considered the dog to be untrainable and a lackluster hunting dog due to his predilection to eat chicken eggs and biscuits instead of learning to train to be a bird dog. As he did not wish for Moreover to negatively influence the other hunting dogs on the farm, Harvey gifts the dog to Willie, who had previously asked Harvey for a dog to keep as a companion. Lonnie, distraught over the loss of his pet, conspires with his best friend, Text, to trick Willie, who infamously loves to engage in various trades with local individuals, to regain possession of the dog by having Willie trade them the dog for assistance with manual labor.

Text, who lives on a farm, takes several eggs from his family’s chicken coop to Willie’s gas station and gives them to Moreover. Willie, who had initially been hesitant to take possession of the dog due to its reputation of eating eggs, finds Moreover eating the eggs, which he believes to be from his personal stash of eggs, and becomes irate at the dog’s behavior. Lonnie and Text are overjoyed that their plan to deceive Willie worked and quickly offer to trade the dog in return for helping Willie carry firewood to his home. Willie agrees to the trade, and the boys decide to secretly train the dog together to become a prize-winning bird dog. Much to the chagrin of Lonnie’s father, Lonnie and Text decide to enter Moreover, in the state championship field trial. Moreover, does well, and an incident makes the boys think that Lonnie’s father will lose his dog training job if his dog, last year’s champion SilverBelle, loses to their dark horse entry.

The boys throw the event. The neighbor poisons eggs and Moreover barely survives. Harvey’s boss lets the boys know that he never intended to fire Harvey, and that he hoped to see them compete next year.

Cast:

Earl Holliman as Harve McNeil. He won a Golden Globe Award for the film The Rainmaker  and portrayed Sergeant Bill Crowley on the television police drama Police Woman. His other roles include The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Big Combo, I Died a Thousand Times, Forbidden Planet, Giant, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Last Train from Gun Hill, Visit to a Small Planet, The Sons of Katie Elder, Anzio, and Sharky’s Machine. Pat Crowley as Mary Lee McNeil. Crowley appeared in the films Forever Female, Money from Home, Hollywood or Bust, Red Garters, There’s Always Tomorrow.  The Square Jungle, Walk the Proud Land, and *61.

Lew Ayres as Mr. Ames. He is best known for starring as German soldier Paul Bäumer in the film All Quiet on the Western Front  and for playing Dr. Kildare in nine movies. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Johnny Belinda. Godfrey Cambridge as Mr. Dorsey. Godfrey’s film roles include The Last Angry Man, The President’s Analyst, Watermelon Man, Cotton Comes to Harlem,  Come Back, Charleston Blue, Bye Bye Braverman, Friday Foster, The Busy Body, The Biggest Bundle of Them All, Beware! The Blob, and Whiffs.

Beah Richards as Charity Tomlin. Richards was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her supporting role in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1968, as well as winning two Primetime Emmy Awards for her guest roles in the television series Frank’s Place in 1988 and The Practice in 2000. She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1965 production of The Amen Corner. Clifton James as Mr. Eben. He is best known for his roles as Sheriff J.W. Pepper alongside Roger Moore in the James Bond films Live and Let Die  and The Man with the Golden Gun , the sheriff in Silver Streak, a Texas tycoon in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, the owner of the scandalous 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball team in Eight Men Out, and, earlier in his acting career, a prison floorwalker in Cool Hand Luke.

Johnny Whitaker as Lonnie McNeil.Whitaker played Jody Davis on Family Affair. He also originated the role of Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital, played the lead in Hallmark’s  The Littlest Angel, and portrayed the title character in the 1973 musical version of Tom Sawyer.

Songs: “Moreover and Me” Written and Sung by Shane Tatum.

Critical Reception: A review in Variety faulted a “weak screenplay” but found that Whitaker and Spell “display confidence and surety, and delineate clear characterizations that make almost plausible the sugary events.”Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it “a fine Disney family film” with “a first-rate cast.” Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four and asked, “What we want to know is, where in the world of space and time is ‘The Biscuit Eater’ supposed to take place? My preliminary guess is just outside of Never-Never Land sometime between 1850 and 1950 … I acknowledge that the Disney people prefer to keep their films timeless to permit their perpetual release without being dated. But this time the temporal confusion is downright insulting.”

My take: This was okay. A little dated.

Available on Disney +?: Yes

Next Week: Snowball Express