This post is part of The Alan Ladd Blogathon taking place at Hamlette’s Soliloquy. You can read the rest of the blogathon posts here.
Confederate veteran John Chandler (Alan Ladd) returns from defeat in war to find his home razed, his wife dead and his young son, David (David Ladd), traumatized and rendered mute. Desperate to cure the boy, Chandler takes David to a small town in Illinois where he hopes to find a doctor. But, soon after the pair arrives, Chandler finds himself framed for assault — and forced to choose between serving hard time and working for struggling local farmer Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland).
I remember watching ‘The Proud Rebel’ at my grandparents’ house and not taking much away from it except a couple of hazily remembered scenes (mainly one in the courtroom where Linnett talks to the judge and also some bits regarding the dog). I mostly forgot about it except to sometimes wonder “What was that movie with the dog and the deaf boy?” (I mistakenly thought that David was deaf.) Then I got rather interested in Alan Ladd and found an old DVD of ‘The Proud Rebel’ in our collection, so I popped it in to watch and when I hit the courtroom scene I was like “Ohhhhhh…I remember you!”. Very cool feeling.
Alan Ladd plays John Chandler and his real-life son, David Ladd, plays his in-the-movie son, David Chandler. Alan Ladd puts in a fine performance as John Chandler, a man looking to move forward from his past as a Confederate soldier as well as trying to find help for his mute son. I really love the relationship between John and David – the boy is mute, so he has to depend on his father to help him communicate with people. Their interaction is made even more heartwarming by the fact that they’re father and son IRL. John and David’s father-son relationship is a huge part of ‘The Proud Rebel’, since John wanting to find a workable treatment for David is what drives pretty much all the action.
Linnett, portrayed by Olivia de Havilland, is one of the best female characters I’ve ever seen in a western. She’s run her ranch (or is it a farm?) singlehandedly ever since her father (and brother, I think) died. She’s kind and compassionate, particularly towards David (he steals her heart much sooner than his father does), but she’s also strong and capable and gives John plenty of good advice throughout the film. Linnett’s farm is threatened by the villain of the piece, Harry Burleigh, and he’s a pretty formidable villain, played quite well by Dean Jagger (who I know best as the great General Waverley in ‘White Christmas’ – still not used to him in a villainous role).
I don’t care for dogs, but I still enjoyed every moment of ‘The Proud Rebel’, even the last twenty minutes or so which are centered almost entirely around David’s dog. And no spoilers, but the ending is predictable without being any the less emotional for all that.
Overall, ‘The Proud Rebel’ is a good, solid film. I’ve watched it twice, enjoyed it twice, and I wouldn’t be the least opposed to seeing it a third time. The cinematography, story, and dialogue all flow together well and the plot is interesting. Recommended to fans of westerns, dogs, Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland…just about anyone.
(My six-year-old brother liked it, so it’s good for children as well.)
(And you can watch it for free on Youtube. Just so you know.)