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Film / Greyfriars Bobby

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Greyfriars Bobby is a 1961 live-action Disney film, directed by Don Chaffey and starring Donald Crisp and Laurence Naismith. It's adapted from the 1912 novel of the same name by Eleanor Atkinson, which in turn was (loosely) based on real events in Edinburgh in the 1860s.

Auld Jock (Alex Mackenzie), a shepherd, has lost his job at a farm and gone to Edinburgh to find a new job. He is followed by a Skye Terrier named Bobby, who belongs to his former employer but thinks he belongs to Auld Jock. Jock takes sick and dies of pneumonia, and is buried in Greyfriars Churchyard. Bobby tries to stand guard over his grave, but there's one problem: dogs are strictly forbidden from the grounds, and the caretaker, James Brown (Crisp), puts him out.

John Traill (Naismith), who owns a dining room where Jock used to take his meals and blames himself for Jock's death, feeds Bobby and finds ways to smuggle him into the churchyard, much to the annoyance of Mr. Brown. And then a law is passed that requires all dogs to be licensed, a policeman notices that Bobby has no collar, and Mr. Traill finds himself in court on charges of owning or harbouring a dog on which he has not paid the license tax.


Greyfriars Bobby provides examples of:

  • Courtroom Antics: Both trials. In the first one, Mr. Traill spends most of his time making smart remarks. In the second one, Mr. Traill and Mr. Brown start to turn the whole thing into a personal argument, and the judge (who is really the Lord Provost) had reached his decision before the trial even started.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Traill and the Lord Provost. Even Mr. Brown has his moments.
    Mr. Brown: And we all know that the law of Scotland couldn't last another day without you, Sergeant MacLaine.
  • Demoted to Extra: Geordie Ross, a relatively main character in the book, has only two scenes in the film. Sandy McGregor, another main character, doesn't appear at all.
  • Never Learned to Read: Auld Jock.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The second judge, otherwise known as the Lord Provost.
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  • Take That!: Mr. Traill gives Sergeant MacLaine one during the first trial:
    Mr. Traill: Davy, the next time you're near my dining rooms, come in, and let the wee dog you've persecuting give you a lesson in manners and morals. Bobby at least has never bit the hand that feeds him.
  • The Smart Guy: Mr. Traill. Tammy is a younger version.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Mr. Brown and Mr. Traill may be this by the end.