Rescued By Rover

1905 is known as a 'miracle year' for physics, when Einstein published papers that changed views on space, time, mass, and energy. That year, the international blockbuster hit movie was of a dog performing tricks for the camera. That this nonetheless appears as a coherent story of a character moving through space and time, has to mark 1905 as also a 'miracle year' for motion pictures.

If a story of a dog that saves the day sounds like the Lassie franchise, perhaps they share a common root. The Lassie character originated in an 1859 short story by British writer Elizabeth Gaskell, where Lassie attempts to rescue two half-brothers who are lost and dying in the snow. It certainly seems plausible that this short story may have also inspired Rescued By Rover.

Granted, Rover has a nasty vigilante streak: when he learns of the kidnapping, he heads straight for the ghetto (confident that the perp skulks among the lower class), and kicks down every door.

Yet, despite that, Hollywood film fans awaiting the arrest (or lynching) of the perp will be disappointed. This is more of a melodrama than a crime film, with people and feelings highlighted. The beggar is clearly not portrayed as an evil villain (as we all know, villains are VERY easy to spot in early films!), but as someone to be pitied:

  • She is shown begging.
  • Her pleas for help were rejected by someone whose aggressive public display of passion was considered utterly licentious in that era. Kidnapping the baby while the nanny "misbehaved" shows the beggar as more concerned for the child than the nanny was.
  • She is shown nurturing the child, and protecting it from the dog.
  • After the child is taken away, she is shown clutching the child's things, then sinking into alcoholic stupor. Retribution is shown not as arrest, but a deepening of despair.

This film was released in the year the nickelodeon was introduced, and became a nickelodeon smash. Customers plunking down their hard-earned nickel were often closer in status to the beggar than to this upper-class family, therefore were unlikely to see the arrest of an impoverished sad old lady as a happy ending.