Monday, 9 March 2015

1905: Rescued by Rover


Rescued by Rover

Here's the prolific Cecil Hepworth again with one of the iconic films of the age, "Rescued by Rover". A simple story but impressively executed - ingeniously so in fact.
It's very much a family production. A nanny, out walking the baby (played by Hepworth's son), gets distracted by a handsome soldier, while an old beggar woman, bitter about being turned away a moment earlier, steals the baby from the pram and takes it back to her hovel ( a run-down terraced house in Walton-on-Thames that probably last sold for about half a million if it's still there).
The nanny gets home and tearfully confesses to the mother (Mrs Hepworth). The dog (Hepworth's dog, Blair) eavesdrops, runs off to track down the baby, and having done that reports back to the distraught father (Hepworth) and somehow gets the message across to him. Father chases dog back to the hovel, father retrieves baby, happy reunion scene.
It's obvious enough to us that the dog would have been carefully trained to do each shot in turn, but a contemporary audience - even fully aware that they were watching a fiction - would probably have been hugely impressed by the dog apparently racing right across town and checking a whole row of cottages till he found the baby. Apparently, in reality, sausages helped.
The film was so popular the negative wore out from repeated reprinting, and it had to be re-filmed twice. One of the versions on YouTube seems to be one of the remakes. In that version, the dog seems to be momentarily confused about which scene he's playing when, reaching the river, instead of immediately swimming across, he sits for a moment in the boat as he's supposed to do later when leading the father to the baby.
Of course this is the prototype for all the clever-animal series that were popular throughout the 20th Century - Lassie, Champion the Wonder Horse, and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.