on January 15, 2004
Follow Me Boys
A Disney classic, Follow Me, Boys! is much more than a scouting primer. Wonderful performances by some Hollywood greats include Fred MacMurray as Lemuel Siddons, the band member and would-be lawyer turned shopkeeper and scoutmaster, Vera Miles as Vida Downey, the bank secretary turned McMurray supporter, love interest and wife, Kurt Russell in one of his first films as Whitey, the small time boy thug who, losing his drunkard dad, is adopted by Lem and Vida, becomes a stalwart in the troop and goes on to become responsible soldier and MD. Finally there's a wonderful cameo by a screen legend, Lillian Gish as the aged business magnate and McMurray benefactor Hetty Seibert.
The film includes wonderful scenes from the boys building a ramshackle troop clubhouse out of odds and ends to a later troop taking a war-games tank with flour-bag explosives in what the boys think is an all-out war.
If you're looking for deep statements about teen angst (though Russell's character does tackle some pretty difficult stuff), tough kids struggling to beat a drug habit or premarital sex you won't find it here. And thank goodness! Every once in a while it's good to watch a movie that's as squeaky clean as Fred McMurray's white shirts. Want blatant hardcore reality? Watch the six o'clock news. Follow Me, Boys! depicts what can happen when adults care, is just good clean fun, and well-acted and scripted. A great addition to any film library.
on July 12, 2004
I remember the tune from when I saw it as a kid in the late 60s, and have hoped to see it again ever since. What a breath of fresh air compared to the tripe that Disney puts out today. Films like these remind us of America's Golden Age. Wonderful performances by all, uplifting singing on the trail, and a heart-rending, happy ending make this film a MUST HAVE in the libraries of parents who want wholesome entertainment for their kids. I wonder why more of the 1960's Disney movies have not come out on DVD. As a parent, I dont have to be woried about foul language ,sexual inuendos, or even "attitudes" that my kids will see glorified when we watch films like these. I gave my copy to a newly-minted Eagle Scout, and will order another for my family...
This nostalgic tale is one of my favorite Disney live-action offerings. It begins in 1930, when Lem Siddons (Fred MacMurray), "out of South Chicago" and a veteran of the battlefields of France, is travelling with a low-end jazz dance band, Melody Murphy's Collegians ("We're not collegians any more," he observes wryly), that takes a pit stop in Hickory, a classic small town probably somewhere in southern Illinois (they hope to get Chicago before night, and there's a "Clark County" right next door). Lem has been nicknamed "Counsellor" by his bandmates for the set of law books in his luggage and the correspondence legal course he's always studying; now in his 30's (MacMurray was 58 when he made the film but doesn't look it), he's beginning to feel a need of "roots." When he spots Vida Downey (Vera Miles), secretary and sometime girlfriend of bank president Ralph Hastings (Elliot Reed), and has his attention called to a "clerk wanted" sign at John Hughes's (Charlie Ruggles) mercantile, he decides Hickory is the place to put them down. Within a few weeks, partly in hopes of impressing Vida, he volunteers to serve as scoutmaster if Hickory will form a Boy Scout troop. Starting out with 15 boys in very much improvised kit, he reaches out (as he was once reached out to) to the town's "tough kid," Whitey (Kurt Russell), whose father (Sean McClory), once a respected plumber, has fallen into drink since the death of his wife, and when Ed's heart gives out from all the bootleg whiskey he's consumed, Lem and Vida, by now married but aware they can't have children of their own, take his son in. Through a crisis of leadership brought on by Whitey's appointment as patrol leader, an opportunity to shine in court when the troop's patron, town grand dame Hetty Seibert (Lillian Gish), fights nephew Ralph's attempt to have her declared mentally incompetent, and a delightful interlude in which his 1944 troop gets inadvertantly caught in the middle of a wargaming exercise and ends up capturing a tank, he finds not only the roots he sought but rich fulfillment and--without seeking it--a role as a town hero. When overwork forces him to retire from scoutmastering, he learns just how much Hickory has come to love him and how much influence he has really had (one of his original boys, Hoodoo, has become Governor of the State, while Whitey, after a stint in the Army Medical Corps, is now a town doctor, and Leo an attorney).
Lem's character shows us just how possible it is for even an ordinary American to make a difference, and its image of contented, self-sufficient small town life (including some of its warts, as when Mrs. Seibert declares, "Gossip! That's all anybody does around here--gossip!"), while perhaps a bit idealized, gives a strong sense of the kind of environment in which Disney himself must have grown up, and which didn't really begin to change until the booming economy and the Interstate Highway construction of the 1950's. I personally think the movie would have been better if it had been extended to 1960 (which would certainly have been possible) rather than ending 10 years earlier, but it's definitely highly enjoyable even as it stands, and the closing act, when Hickory proclaims Lem Siddons Day and honors its home-town hero, can bring tears to your eyes. The title (the original source was "God and My Country," a slender novel by "Andersonville" author MacKinlay Kantor) comes from the jaunty marching song, formerly sung by "our outfit over in France," that Lem adopts for his first troop. Families can enjoy this movie over and over, and kids can pick up some important lessons from it.
on June 26, 2004
This is an excellent movie showing the proper relationship between an adult Scout leader and his Scouts. This is a better version than the previously released video, because the DVD adds back 13 minutes removed by the video. The added-back minutes greatly enhance the quality of the story and bring additional valuable insights to the story. If I were in charge of any adults that work with Boy Scouts, I would require them to see this movie.
Likely a lot of kids will not relate to this film, because this sort of family film is rarely made these days. Fred MacMurry (My Three Sons) decides three sons is not enough and takes on a whole troop of them - other peoples as he becomes a reluctant scoutmaster. Slowly he throws himself into the idea. As I say, kids my not warm to this Baden-Powell wholesomeness, but who knows, they might surprise you. A very young Kurt Russell plays tough boy that MacMurry wins over.
Interesting point: at the end when you see his "boys" all grown up, take note of William Reynolds as Hoodoo Henderson as a Man (FBI, The Thing That Couldn't Die). He played MacMurray's son in There's Always Tomorrow (1956).
on February 11, 2004
A Disney favorite finally comes to DVD with some interesting and worthwhile "extras." Unfortunately, the film is presented in the "pan-and-scan" version, not its original theatrical ratios. These older films, created by Walt himself, appeal to Disney students and collectors, people who truly care about film preservation. A note to Walt Disney Home Video: please release films in widescreen as well as pan-and-scan on the same disc. That way, viewers have the option.
on September 25, 2005
The story of the formation of a 1930s Boy Scout troop and how it affected the lives of its members. A fascinating trip through the years as the Scouts (and leaders) age and find their place in life. I had this video in VHS format and made a point of showing it to our local Scout troop at least once a year, because it illustrates all the positive things that the Scout Law stands for. I'm very glad it's available in DVD format now, because we wore the tape out.
This was one of the few films I saw in the theater as a small child, and it is one I remembered fondly all my life.
In watching the DVD, it was even better from my adult viewpoint. I've whistled the "Follow Me Boys" tune off and on all my life.
The story is told in a series of set pieces, much like the style of "It's a Wonderful Life". They hang together so well that you get a true sense of the passage of time within a recognizable framework of the town, and the characters and their lives.
Lem Siddons leaves a band as they pass through a small town. Little does he suspect that when he takes a job in the hardware store it will lead to spending the rest of his life there. He soon becomes involved in the local Boy Scouts as a Scoutmaster, and the focus of the movie is on the lives of his Scouts as they grow and his interaction with them.
You'll end the movie wishing you had grown up in that town, and wishing that Fred MacMurray (or his character Lem Siddons), had been your friend and neighbor.
If you don't shed a tear or two at the end, you're not human.
on January 20, 2013
Whether you are a Boy Scout or not, you will love this movie. It is what America and Boy Scouting should be! Disney at his BEST!
I also, after years of loving this movie, tracked down and read the book, upon which the story is based, by MacKinlay Kantor. It is available under two names, the movie title, and its original title, "God and My Country." I found this a wonderful read which enriched the movie experience for me.
on May 8, 2004
Disney, Disney, Disney. "Follow Me, Boys" is a flat-out wonderful film. When first saw it during its mid-'70's re-release, I was absolutely riveted by the story and performances and moved by the Capra-esque ending. I would recommend this film to everyone. But I cannot recommend this version of one of your most beloved films. You see, the pan-and-scan version you have presented on DVD is horrible. The picture is muddy, the picture is cut-off, and the whole picture suffers because of it. The only reason I give it two stars is because you did include a wonderful documentary with reminiscences from "Lem's boys," while your other fullscreen DVDs have not had any special features whatsoever. And contrary to what Disney apologists like some of these reviewers like to think, it DOES matter whether or not a film is in widescreen. It's called ARTISTIC INTEGRITY, something Walt Disney had but the current Eisner-led idiots do not. The actors, technicians, writer and director all deserve better, to say nothing of Walt himself, who happened to produce the darn thing and would have loved widescreen format. Let's face it: there's a reason all of today's top directors--Eastwood, Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Stone, Lucas, Jackson,etc.--insist on widescreen transfers of their films. It's the only format that truly respects their work as filmmakers.
I bought this DVD in spite of the format because I love the film so much but I'm sorry I did. In fact, I will no longer buy any video from any company unless it is widescreen. I encourage everyone who loves movies to do likewise.