A Cinematic Toast to America's Dog, the Scottish Deerhound

 |  Feb 16th 2011  |   0 Contributions


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Lastnight, the Westminster Kennel Club decided which breedwill beAmerica's Dog for the coming year. As everyone knows by now, the Best in Show ribbon went to beautiful Hickory the Scottish Deerhound, left, she of the long legs, patrician profile, gentle eyes, and elegant gait. Fans of big dogs couldn't be happier.

After this, the 85-pound, 5-year-old Virginian - whose full champion title is GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Wind -will retire from the show ring. But first, America's Dog will enjoy unprecedented celebrity, made sweeter by the fact thatHickory's winmarks the first in Westminster history for this noble Scots breed.

As a hardcore movie hound, I can't think of a better way to celebrate thishappy event in K9 history than by watching a vintage dog movie. I'm not proposing you Netflix just any old dog movie. The one to watch is the 1945Criterion Collection title"I Know Where I'm Going," which features lanky Scottish Deerhounds as part of itsunforgettable scenery.

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Incidentally, that scenery will get under your skin. It was describedby no lessa critic than Raymond Chandlerlike this: "I've never seen a picture which smelled of the wind and rain in quite this way nor one which so beautifully exploited the kind of scenery people actually live with, rather than the kind which is commercialized as a show place."

The heroine ofthis foggy fairy tale, fiercely independent Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) has always known where she's going - and she's headed to Scotland to marry one of England's wealthiest men, Lord Bellinger, who has proposed to her, complete with a Cartier ring, and arrangedtheir wedding trip to a remote island in the Hebrides. But on her solo prenuptial journey, which begins on a train and involves a long drive and a sea crossing, Joan encounters bad weather that prevents safe passage to the (fictitious) Isle of Kiloran, detaining her on the nearby (actual) island of Mull.

There, she meets a handsome prince: dashing naval officerTorquil MacNeil, played by Roger Livesey (who sure knew how to wear a kilt). And quite against Joan's will, her resolve about becoming Lady Bellinger begins to evaporate with the mist.

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This movie is a fantasy, to be sure - it even boasts some surrealist imagery worthy of Man Ray - yet it stays magically real, in part thanks to the Scottish Deerhounds.The dogs burst on the scene with beautiful actress Pamela Brown, left, as Torquil's friend Catriona Potts, then the triocomes in from therain and the dogs curl right up on the furniture (this breedloves a nice comfy chair). In the ensuingscene,pictured below, you'll feel like you're right at home with real-life Dogsters: The soaking-wet Deerhounds complete thisspot-on screen portrayal of Scots atmosphere.

There's plenty in thefilm for fans of other breeds too.In passing we also meet an Old English Sheepdog, companion to one of the sailors, as well as a pair of Cocker Spaniels(they're played by director Michael Powell's own Cockers,Erik and Spangle).

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Still more treats are in store in the DVD's extras, which include Powell's "Home Movies" (narrated by his widow, Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker). Through them, we learn that Powell adored dogs and had several in his lifetime,notably hisfavorite hiking companion, a handsome Border Collienamed Sweep. It's worth several re-viewings to hear Schoonmaker lovingly read the excerpt from Powell's autobiography describing this K9 heartthrob.

Know of any other artworks featuring Scottish Deerhounds? Please tell all in the comments!

Thanks toLaura Clayton Baker for the still images from her favoritemovie; check out her blog here.

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