The Rusty Films

For the Love of Rusty (John Sturges, Columbia)
Son of Rusty (Lew Landers, Columbia)

The Rusty films were a series of B films (at least I'm guessing by their production values and 65m running times) that Columbia put out in the latter part of the 1940s. Generically, they're perhaps best summed up as Lassie + Andy Hardy. Rusty is a trusty German Shephard whose owner Danny is often getting in trouble with his judge father. What's remarkable is how Rusty's suffering body is the catalyst for narrative resolution. Rather than simply make the dog an agent in a melodrama about humans, the dog is the melodramatic hero(ine).

Perhaps even more remarkably, Son of Rusty is a social problem film in disguise as sentimental family drama. A shellshocked veteran (shocked by love rather than bombs, it turns out) returns and moves to the small town of the story, only to have the townspeople to immediately suspect him. The final court scene becomes a "case" against intolerance, in much the same way the investigation in Crossfire becomes an investigation of hate. Meanwhile, the no-count rabble rouser espouses reactionary rhetoric about taxation and elites. The sudden shift to topicality and social didacticism in the third of this series, for me, begs closer inspection.

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