The Magic of Lassie is a 1978 American musical drama film directed by Don Chaffey, starring Lassie, James Stewart, Stephanie Zimbalist, Pernell Roberts, and Michael Sharrett, with cameo appearances by Mickey Rooney and Alice Faye (in her final film appearance). James Stewart is featured in one of only three musical film roles that he played: the first was Born to Dance (1936) in which he introduced the Cole Porter standard "Easy To Love" and the second was Pot O' Gold (1941). This was also his final onscreen appearance in a live-action film. The screenplay and song score are supplied by the prolific Sherman Brothers of Mary Poppins fame. Their song "When You're Loved" was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Original Song" and was sung by Debby Boone. It is also the only musical film featuring Lassie.
Released in the wake of Star Wars, the film was panned as old-fashioned, and flopped at the box office. Critics expressed dismay at Stewart singing unmemorable songs as the grandfather. Following the film's failure, he semiretired from acting.
The Mitchell Vineyard, in the rolling hills of Northern California, is the very blood of Clovis Mitchell (Stewart), a spare and dignified grandfather and guardian to Kelly (Stephanie Zimbalist) and her brother Chris (Michael Sharrett). The heart of the household, though, is Lassie, a handsome young collie, affectionate, obedient, sensitive, and very wise. A threat is in the air one night when Jamison (Roberts) and his associate Finch (Robert Lussier) appear at the winery and offer to buy the land from Clovis. They get a flat refusal from the old man, while Lassie growls in the background. Jamison promises to return, and does, to claim Lassie, one of a litter he says escaped during a fire. She has a tattoo mark in her right ear to prove it. Clovis has no alternative but to give up the dog, and tells his heart-broken grandchildren. Lassie has an alternative; taken by private plane to Jamison's home in Colorado Springs, fitted with a handsome green collar with gold studs, Lassie makes her escape. Chased by helicopter and kennel men through the rocks and hills of Colorado, Lassie manages to elude them and out-stare a cougar before she joins up with new friends – Gus (Rooney), a down-at-heel wrestling manager and Apollo (Mike Mazurki), a kindly mountain of a man and Gus's so-called star.
About the time they are binding up Lassie's sores, giving her food and water, and moving along in their van, young Chris bolts on his first day of the school term and sets off alone in search of Lassie. With his distraught grandfather setting out to find the boy, and Kelly and her sweetheart, attorney Allan Fogerty (Lane Davies), checking with the police, Chris takes a car conveyor in the direction of Colorado Springs. Soon after the truck takes off, a hungry and frightened Chris leaves the vehicle, buys food in a restaurant from a sympathetic waitress (Faye), then goes out to look for another truck, and finally dives into the back of a cattle truck. The restaurant waitress, hearing reports of Chris's disappearance, calls his home and tells his sister where the boy has been, but Chris is on the move again, and so is Lassie. He in an empty cattle truck, she in the doorway of a freight car. Lassie leaps from the freight car and continues her journey. Clovis and the police officer who is aiding in the search for Chris, hear his cries as he is about to be crushed by a herd of Longhorns being loaded into his hiding place. Everybody is home – everybody but Lassie, whose ownership by Clovis has been clarified by Allan, the young attorney, who is about to join the family as an in-law.
Lassie continues her long, painful journey. Wet, sore-footed, and limping, she stumbles upon the Mike Curb Congregation, who are rehearsing. The group takes Lassie along to their engagement, where a flare is knocked over, causing a fire. Panic ensues. Lassie is trying to save the life of a kitten from a burning dressing room and is presumed dead, but she is not, and the next day – Thanksgiving – Lassie, tired and filthy, comes wagging over the hill to Chris, Clover, Kelly, and home.
|The Magic of Lassie:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
|Released||November 23, 1978|
|Label||Peter Pan Records|
|Singles from The Magic of Lassie|
The Magic of Lassie soundtrack album was released in the United States by Peter Pan Records on November 23, 1978. It was the first soundtrack LP to be issued on the Peter Pan Records label under its Orange Blossom logo. The songs were composed by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, and all music was supervised, arranged, and conducted by Irwin Kostal.
|The Magic of Lassie:
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
A slightly different version of The Magic of Lassie soundtrack with a new cover was issued in the United Kingdom by Pickwick Records in February 1979. The running order of the tracks on this version differ from that of the original soundtrack and three soundtrack songs not featured on the US release are included on the UK release – an instrumental version of "Nobody's Property" conducted by Irwin Kostal, a new recording of "A Rose Is Not a Rose" by Alice Faye and a reprise of "When You're Loved" by Debby Boone.
The film was shot from September 19 to late November 1977 on location in Sonoma County, California at Hop Kiln Winery, Griffin Vineyard on Westside Road, Healdsburg, California. Other locations included Boomtown in Reno, Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah.
On July 27, 1978, the world premiere of The Magic of Lassie was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and broke a box-office record, grossing $40,673.75 on its opening day. It was released in New York on August 2 and nationwide on August 18. It opened in Los Angeles on December 8, 1978.