Old Yeller: What You Didn't Know About This Tearjerker Film


Admit it: You used to cry when you saw Old Yeller, the 1957 live-action Disney drama about a boy and his dog, right? There's no shame in that. Old Yeller is touted as one of the most devastating films in cinematic history, but there's probably not much you know about it outside of its heart-wrenching story.

It Was Based On A Novel

Like most of his films, the people at Disney didn't come up with the story themselves. Old Yeller is the film adaptation of the 1956 novel of the same name, written by Fred Gipson, whose works—the 1947 Hound-Dog Man and the 1962 sequel to Old Yeller, Savage Sam—are particularly canine-heavy. When Disney expressed interest in turning his novel into a film, Gipson moved on to write the screenplay with William Tunberg.

In Gipson's novel, the Old Yeller is described as a Black Mouth Cur, a lesser-known hunting dog with a yellow coat and black muzzle and ears, but the breed has been compared to Robert Stevenson's vision for his movie dog. thin, and no one was available for filming anyway. Stevenson settled on Spike, the 170-lb. Yellow Labrador Retriever/English Mastiff Mix.

Movie Magic

This was not the only element of Gipson's novel that was substituted for cinematic purposes. The Old Yeller may have turned out to be a different type of dog, but the wolf in the movie was not a wolf at all, but a German Shepherd dressed to look like one for safety reasons. To be extra careful during the filming of the fights, both dogs wore muzzles, but thanks to movie magic, the audience couldn't even tell. They probably couldn't even tell that those broad backgrounds were the hills and valleys of California, not Texas. Even Old Yeller's voice was not authentic. Astute Disney fans may recognize the purr he makes during his encounter with the wolves, as heard in Lady and the Tramp.

One Of Its Child Actors Had A Dfficult Career

Although he appeared in minor TV and film roles, Old Yeller marked the Disney debut of Tommy Kirk, who played teenager Travis Coates, and Kevin Corcoran, who played his younger brother, Arliss. After Old Yeller, Kirk seemed poised for stardom, appearing in a number of other Disney films such as The Shaggy Dog and The Swiss Family Robinson, but at the age of 21, while filming 1963's The Misadventures of Marilyn Jones, he was cast as a Was found involved in a sex act with 15. -Year-old boy at a Burbank pool. Disney quietly fired Kirk, whose drug and alcohol use soon spiraled out of control until he moved away from Hollywood. He later opened a Los Angeles carpet cleaning business and died in 2021 at the age of 79.

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