19 November 2007 | lugonian
To Tell the Truth
MY DOG RUSTY (Columbia, 1948), directed by Lew Landers, the fifth in the program theatrical series featuring the Mitchell family of Lawtonville, along with their dog, Rusty, in another story revolving about family values, moral lessons, tolerance between parents and child, and the truth about lies.
The story opens with Hugh Mitchell (John Litel) playing cards with members of the Lawtonville Volunteer Fire Department. Mitchell, a city counselor, is running for town mayor against opponent Fulderwilder (Lewis L. Russell), who has already served four consecutive terms and is campaigning for a fifth. Danny (Ted Donaldson), Mitchell's teen-age son, in his spare time, places fliers around town sponsoring his father as well as having formed his very own neighborhood animal hospital catering to dogs and cats at no charge. In spite of his good intentions in helping others, such as Moreover, a little dog belonging to Joshua Michael Tucker (Whitford Kane), a blind man and scissor grinder, his father disapproves of his son's constant lying, especially when he catches him climbing up the ladder into his bedroom window shortly before midnight and lying about it when confronted by his father. Because he didn't tell him the truth, father punishes son by using his strap on his bottom. After Danny obtains a part-time job assisting Antonia "Tony" Cordell (Mona Barrie), a new doctor in town, and former sweetheart of Mr. Mitchell, problems soon arise when several of Danny's pals become seriously ill from contaminated water. Tony collects water samples and places the labeled bottles in her laboratory. When Rusty accidentally breaks the bottles, Danny covers up by switching the labels on the other water samples, leading the doctor to face the public with the results after Fulderwilder's nephew, Rodney (Jimmy Lloyd) obtains the samples and proving Tony's warnings about the water to be false. In spite of witnessing Tony being ridiculed and Mr. Tucker speaking on her behalf, causing his good name to be disgraced, Danny continues to be in full denial even after he's confronted by his father to tell the truth. Further lies from Danny cause his dad to lose the election, leading Danny to leave home, afraid to face the consequences and the possibility of being sent away to military school. While camping out in the woods miles away from home, accompanied by Rusty, Rusty saves Danny's life from a poisonous rattle snake by getting bitten himself. Danny rushes home to his father for help, who at this point is so mad at him that he refuses to believe anything he tells him again.
A predictable scenario commonly found in television shows and family films such as this, with the relationship between father and son jeopardized with mother, Ethel (Ann Doran) acting as the peacemaker. While much of the story does ring true at times, only the final results aren't as believable as one would like it to be. One of the best moments occur during the father and son talk in which Hugh explaining his reason for disciplining him so much is because he loves him and wants him to grow into a decent citizen. These words are a constant reminder for both parents and children that should never go out of style. This is a well handled moment captured on film that would have any sentimentalist become teary-eyed. Another scene worth noting is how a father can be wrong for his actions and learning why his son is afraid to tell the truth.
For followers of the series from its humble beginning, MY DOG RUSTY mentions wife Ethel married to Hugh for 16 years, indicating Ethel to be Danny's natural mother, forgetting in the initial entry, ADVENTURES OF RUSTY (1945), the wife/mother has died, leaving father to remarry, a friend of the family named Ann. Contradictions in series films are quite common, indicating viewers wouldn't remember or know the difference from one film to the other. MY DOG RUSTY isn't exactly a full-fledged Rusty movie, regardless of the title, but the German shepherd does get to have some interesting moments towards the end minutes of the story most worthy of a dog biscuit or two.
Series regulars include David Ackles (Tuck Worden); Dwayne Hickman (Nip WOrden); Mickey McGuire (Gerald Hebble); and Teddy Infuhr ("Squeaky" Foley), among others.
Rarely seen on television since the 1960s, it took a cable station such as Turner Classic Movies to bring this and other "Rusty" movies back to full view in 2007. MY DOG RUSTY may not be the best in the series, but does get by as fine family film viewing typical from the 1940s. Next in the series, RUSTY LEADS THE WAY (1948). (** lie detectors)