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Saturday, December 14, 2013

On The Day Before Disney Left ...

The Carolina Theatre's 12/14/66 Ad for Follow Me, Boys

Walt's "Last Movie" For Christmas 1966

Success in Charlotte, with a Run Into January
The above was published in the Winston-Salem Journal on December 14, 1966. On the following day, Walt Disney died. I went to fish that newspaper out of the trash and clipped  this "last" Disney film for my scrapbook (and do pardon the scotch tape applied in corners at age twelve). My impression at the time was that Walt had filmed an intro for Follow Me, Boys to be shown in theatres, thus "An Evening With Walt Disney." That did not seem unnatural, since he was Sunday night host to NBC's Wonderful World Of Color. There had evidently been December 13 previews for Follow Me, Boys in a number of situations (including Los Angeles, as I have this same-style ad from the LA Times dated 12/14/66). Most anyone alive in 1966 can remember where/how they got news of Disney's passing. For me, it came via Channel 9's Joey The Clown, a story told at Greenbriar in 2006. Follow Me, Boys opened in Winston-Salem on Christmas Day, part of a nationwide saturation. I wondered then if any Disney intro they might have planned got taken out. His presence was dropped from the Sunday night program after 12/15, as I recall. Brick Davis was by yesterday, and I asked him if he remembered seeing Follow Me, Boys at the Liberty. He said yes, that it was something about Fred MacMurray as a scoutmaster, with funny business at a summer camp. Brick recalled the picture as My Three Sons, only with more sons, and fairly tepid (don't know why I skipped that early-'67 local date, after having caught virtually all the Disneys since '59). There's a DVD of Follow Me, Boys, but it's full-frame and looks lousy. Till something better is available, I'll not be watching.

3 Comments:

Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

I remember it well...

For me, on a frosty and wintry morning in New Jersey, news of Walt's death arrived in my driveway on the front page of the New York Times. After walking the dog, I picked up the paper on the way back to the house...and saw the unfathomable news of Walt's passing in a relatively non-splashy headline and article in the middle section of the front page. A small picture of Walt was included. I hadn't known he'd been sick so this news came as a big shock. I ran inside with the paper and my mom could tell I was shaken. Walt was my hero.

2:43 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson remembers "Follow Me, Boys":


I vaguely recall negative reviews of "Follow Me Boys" -- perhaps the reason for quoting "your friends and neighbors" (almost always a bad sign: Commercials showing "regular folks" raving about a film). The film itself I remember as no better or worse than a lot of current Disney.


It was basically "A Wonderful Life" made sunny and untroubling, or a Mouseketeer version of "Goodbye Mr. Chips." Mostly it was a long soothing bask in an idealized middle America. At the time, there was certainly a market for well made and unironic comfort food.


During the 1920s a sax player impulsively gets off the band bus in a small town, takes a job in the general store and spends decades leading a local scout troop. There's the winning of the town beauty (also courted by the mean banker); campground hijinks; a subplot about the son of the town drunk (the closest the film came to actual drama); kids blundering into WWII war games; a few tears but mostly comfortable comedy; and finally a public celebration of a life nobly and happily spent. No brink to be pulled back from, no crisis of faith needing a miracle.


In an odd way it reminds me of Steve Martin's "Roxanne." While smart and entertaining, that one also went out of its way to stay cheerful and untroubled. Unlike its inspiration "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Roxanne" shields its characters from any risk or unpleasantness in their idyllic tourist town; the fire department never even faces a real fire. That leaves the central romantic dilemma, which is settled happily and quickly with no death scenes or even hurt feelings. Aside from the sex, Uncle Walt might have gone for that one.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Joe Thompson said...

I think my mother gave me the news when I got home after school, if it was a school day. The next day the San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial cartoon showing Mickey Mouse sitting on a curb in front of the Disneyland castle, crying. I cut it out of the paper and pasted it in my scrapbook.

12:18 AM  

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