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  • **SPOILERS** Knowing that he doesn't have long to live Lewtownville's Counselor Gibson, Thorson Hall, sets himself down one evening to write, or rewrite, his last will and testament only to pass away just before he had time to sign it. The Counselor has become very friendly with Danny Mitchell, Ted Donaldson, and his friends as well as Danny's dog Rusty after he wrote out his first will leaving everything to his nephew Fred Gibson, Stephen Dunne.

    The movie "Rusty Saves a Life" has Danny and his friends find out the hard way that prejudging people is as bad as having people prejudge them. Resenting Fred in him getting his uncles, Old Man Gibson, house and business, a pottery plant, Danny and his friends, Nip & Tuck together with Gerald and Squeaky, attempt to run Fred out of town by making his life in Lawtownville miserable.

    Fred himself is anything but friendly to Danny and his friends, and especially Danny's dog Rusty, but he's in fact only reacting to what their doing to him and his property. Old Man Gibson was about to leave his house to Danny & Co. but the fact that he died before he could write his intention into his new will made everything in his will moot.

    The movie has the boys, Danny & Co. go so far as to even committing crimes, like breaking his house windows, in order to drive Fred out of town. The final straw is when Danny, together with his dog Rusty, tried to fill Fred's new swimming pool with dirt. Rusty getting his paw caught in a bear-trap that Fred left around his property has Danny almost burn the entire house down, with Fred's cigarette lighter, in order to save his injured dog Rusty. It's only when Fred now completely turned off with the people of Lawtownville, who sided with Danny & Co. no matter how much trouble they cause him, and about to leave town that he gets a sudden change of heart when he ends, with Fred's car driving off the road, up almost at the bottom of the river.

    Unlike in the other "Rusty" movies Danny is anything but the sweet and likable young boy that we got to know over the years. You can understand Danny's feeling toward Fred in him getting everything that Old Man Gibson wanted to leave to Danny and his friends. It's wasn't Fred's fault that his uncle died before he could finalize his second will but the way Danny and his friend treated Fred you would think that he somehow murdered his ailing uncle to get his money and property!

    The bitterness directed against Fred by Danny and his friends even spilled over among the grown ups of Lawtonville who, no matter how much Fred wanted to be friends with them, treated the man like an outcast. Fred himself wasn't exactly "Mr. Wonderful" but at least he tried to get along with everybody in town which may have been why he became so embittered with them, the townspeople, in not really accepting him as one of their own.

    The happy, but a bit convoluted, ending has Rusty come to Fred's rescue saving him from drowning. Rusty who almost lost his paw, in a bear-trap, because of Fred didn't hold that against him when he risked his life jumping into the river, injured paw and all, to save Fred from going under.

    In the end Fred forgave everyone who made a mess out of his stay in Lawtownville allowing Danny and his friends to stay at Old Man Gibson's place, regardless of what his uncles first will said, whenever they wanted too. But it was Rusty in saving Fred's life who forgave him who, more then anyone else in the movie, showed so much disdain and outward resentment toward the friendly and lovable German Shepard that Rusty was about the only one in the movie that really had a good reason not to like him!
  • It's the adults who have the best roles in this Rusty flick. JOHN LITEL is authoritative and dependable as the father who has to lecture his son (TED DONALDSON) on taking the law into his own hands. ANN DORAN does a nice job as Litel's wife and STEPHEN DUNNE is sturdy and believable as the heir to a wealthy man's estate who wants kids and dogs to stay off his private property.

    And most importantly, THURSTON HALL as the friendly counsellor who's been a friend to the boys and wants his nephew to resume the relationship he has had when he passes away. It's a relationship that gets off to a bad start when Dunne almost runs over Rusty when he first arrives at the house. GLORIA HENRY is the attractive female who despises Dunne until she gets to know him better.

    As is the case in all of these "Rusty" stories, all the loose ends are neatly tied up in the last eight minutes in time for a happy ending. Rusty's big moment comes when he rescues Dunne from drowning.

    Trivia note: What strikes me is that TED DONALDSON is shooting up fast, towering over most of his playmates.
  • lugonian13 August 2007
    RUSTY SAVES A LIFE (Columbia, 1949), directed by Seymour Friedman, number seven in the series, marks the return of Thurston Hall and Stephen Dunne, each having appeared in THE SON OF RUSTY (1947). While Hall reprises his original role as Lawtonville's counselor, Franklin P. Gibson, along with Rudy Robles as Gori, his Filipino chauffeur, it's Stephen Dunne who assumes a different portrayal, once again as an unlikable individual, yet not so much as mysterious as before, this time sporting a mustache looking very much like Tom Neal (best known in DETOUR (1945) for PRC Studios), and showing no concern for what people think of him and wanting very much to live the life of a loner. One wonders whatever became of Stephen Dunne, whose name is just as obscure as this film series itself.

    The story opens in Gibson's mansion with the gathering of his young friends, teenager Danny Mitchell (Ted Donaldson), his dog, Rusty (Flame), Tuck (David Ackles), Nip (Dwayne Hickman), Gerald (Ronnie Ralph) and Squeaky Foley (Robert Scott, filling in for Teddy Infuhr), who have their meetings in a clubhouse located in Gibson's yard. Following dinner, Gibson announces he's going to make up a new will in favor of the boys. That very night before going to bed, Gibson makes true to his promise, and after it's set, he places the will inside a book, concludes his evening with a cigar smoke (against doctor's orders) and goes to sleep. The following morning, the boys discover from Codo that Gibson died during the night of a weak heart. Gibson's sudden death hits the boys very hard. After the funeral, Fred (Stephen Dunne), Gibson's nephew, arrives from Chicago by automobile for the reading of the will. Almost immediately, he is disliked for many reasons: for accidentally hitting Rusty with his car (the start of many growls of Rusty towards Fred); his straightforward manner; forbidding the boys on the property where he animal traps are placed and intentions of building a brick wall around the estate. Unable to locate the revised will, Danny's father, Hugh (John Litel), a city attorney, reads the original will to Fred that requests for him to live on the Gibson estate and Lawtonville for an entire year as well as carrying on his tradition by entertaining the boys as their host every Sunday afternoon. As much as Fred would rather return to Chicago, he agrees to remain so to collect his fortune. During his stay, the boys, hoping to locate the revised will, come up with solutions such as writing nasty notes and doing damage to his property to get Fred to leave. When it's Danny's turn, who shows up during the night, he ends up having to save Rusty caught in one of the traps with a blaze of fire nearby. In spite of Fred's attitude, he does show kindness towards Lyddy Hazard (Gloria Henry), an young artist and secretary. After the two get into an argument, Fred drives off in a rage, losing control of his car that lands in the river, leaving Fred to call out for help. Recalling the title of the movie, it's anyone's guess what Rusty does at this point.

    A sort of story that would be commonly found in 1950s TV family shows, such as "Timmie and Lassie" for example, RUSTY SAVES A LIFE provides entertainment along with a moral lesson being "two wrongs don't make a right," a philosophy that still relevant today. With the boys purposely causing mischief to avenge to an unlikable new neighbor is never the solution to anything, as told to Danny by his conservative-minded father in the manner of Hugh Beaumont's portrayal in the "Leave It to Beaver" TV series. Of the actors who portrayed Danny's father in the past, ranging from Conrad Nagel and Tom Powers, John Litel is a logical choice for the role (having played the father to Nancy Drew and Henry Aldrich in two separate film series) due to his natural and believable manner, along with Ann Doran as his faithful wife, Ethel. Historians of classic TV shows will not only discover Ellen Corby appearing as Miss Simmons, but Gloria Henry, best known as Alice Mitchell in the "Dennis the Menace" (1959-1962) comedy series starring Jay North.

    Rarely seen on television in decades, RUSTY SAVES A LIFE, which runs at 67 minutes, finally turned up on Turner Classic Movies June 23, 2007. Next and last in the series: RUSTY'S BIRTHDAY (1949). (** dog bites)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The film opens with Frank Gibson having dinner with Danny and his friends at his mansion. He tells them that he plans to rewrite his will and leave his house, grounds, and pottery to the boys, and that the current heir is his nephew Fred Gibson. He also mentions that he had always hoped the two would get close but his nephew always ignored him. At the same time Frank Gibson mentions that because of his heart his doctor has banned him from all coffee and cigars, strictly enforced by his servant Kono.

    That night after the boys have left is an eventful one. Kono breaks down and gives Frank half a cigar and two halves of a cup of coffee having been persuaded by Frank that he is not breaking the letter of the doctor's orders by giving him half of anything. Frank in this one case has been a tragically good arguer - he has managed to argue in favor of the instrument of his own death which comes peacefully in the night via a heart attack. Unfortunately he has not signed the will which he has rewritten that evening. He has also placed the handwritten will inside a book he had been reading, thus nobody even knows where the will is, if it exists in the first place.

    The boys have lost a true and trusted friend in Frank Gibson. This is probably the first time these youngsters have had to face the death of someone dear to them. What makes it worse is Frank's nephew, who comes to town to collect his inheritance, is at first blush a big city cold fish and seems to lack every virtue that his uncle had. For the boys, this is what really deepens their sense of loss, not so much that they didn't get their promised inheritance, although at first this is what they rail against.

    Things aren't all sunshine for nephew Fred either, though, because his uncle's will states he must live on the property for a year in order to inherit it. Otherwise the property goes to a charity. So the boys set out to make life as unpleasant and unfriendly for Fred as possible, hoping to drive him away before his year is out. The funny thing is, they know they won't get the property if Fred leaves. It's not a matter of them winning, they just want Fred to lose. At some point Ted does put into words what I said earlier - that Fred is just a reminder of what they have lost - the true friendship of a great man in the death of Frank Gibson. What makes matters worse for Fred is that the whole town dislikes him, with the story of the unfinished will circulating so fast in the small town. So Fred's feeling is, if he has the name he might as well play the game. He no longer lets the boys cut across the estate to get to their clubhouse, plus he puts large dangerous animal traps all around his yard. Things just escalate from there.

    How will all of this work out? Watch and find out. I will say that Columbia did a little too good of a job of casting nephew Fred. He truly has such an unlikeable air about him that it is hard to empathize with him at any point in the film, even if he had been helping little old ladies across the street for the entire 68 min. running time.

    This is a good entry in the Rusty series about loss and denial and the unpleasant effects it has on people until they come to terms with their grief, and how there are two sides to everything. We even get to hear Fred's surprising side of his relationship with his uncle. I wonder who was right and wrong? Probably both men were a little bit of both since this series seldom paints things black and white.

    I'd recommend it if you are a fan of the Rusty series.
  • Small-town Lawtonville, Illinois teenager Ted Donaldson (as Daniel "Danny" Mitchell) is surprised to learn grandfatherly counselor Thurston Hall (as Franklyn "Frank" A. Gibson) plans altering his will to include young Donaldson and his club-house gang. The old gentleman, who appeared in "The Son of Rusty" (1947), expires before filing his last will and testament with Donaldson's attorney dad John Litel (as Hugh Mitchell), however. Now, Mr. Hall's only living relative arrives from Chicago and wants to throw the boys off the property. Even worse, snobbish Stephen Dunne (as Fred Gibson) doesn't like dogs...

    Everyone is in for a surprise when Hall's surviving will is read. The beloved benefactor requires Mr. Dunne to live in Lawtonville for a year and continue Sunday dinner meetings with Donaldson, brother pals Dwayne Hickman and David Ackles (as David "Nip" and Roger Tuck" Worden), patriotic Ronnie Ralph (as Jerome Hebble) and sniffling Robert Scott (as Albert "Squeaky" Foley). Dunne barks up the wrong tree by kicking "Rusty" out of the house and treating the boys badly. Hall's brief appearance is memorable, his servant Rudy Robles (as Gono) does well, and Gloria Henry is a beautiful love interest.

    ****** Rusty Saves a Life (2/3/49) Seymour Friedman ~ Ted Donaldson, Stephen Dunne, John Litel, Rudy Robles
  • Rusty Saves a Life (1949)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    The seventh and next to last in the series has the friendly counselor (Thurston Hall) who gave the local kids a clubhouse on his land dying and soon his nephew (Stephen Dunne) arrives in town as the will left everything to him. He soon gets into it with the kids who plan to take justice in their own hands and this gets both Danny (Ted Donaldson) and Rusty into trouble. RUSTY SAVES A LIFE is without question very routine and way too preachy but I thought it was a pleasant entry in the series as long as you don't take it overly serious. Once again the real benefit are the performances, all of which are pretty good. Donaldson, who was growing at a very rapid pace, is very good in the role of Danny and you can see how well his acting has grown in this part over just a couple years. Hall only appears in a few scenes but he's very touching and it was great seeing him again. John Litel and Ann Doran are back as Danny's father and mother and they too are in good form. The story itself really isn't anything overly special but the actors really bring the material to life and if you've enjoyed the series up to this point then I don't see any reason why you won't like this one. Sure, a better screenplay probably would have helped things but most series are DOA by the seventh picture.