Lassie Come Home

Lassie Come Home (1943), the first film in the Lassie franchise, is set during the “dark, pre-war days” in Yorkshire, England. Sam Carraclough (Donald Crisp) is out of work and must sell the beloved collie (Lassie) belonging to his son Joe (Roddy McDowall) to the Duke of Rudling (Nigel Bruce) to put food on the table. Lassie is miserable at the Duke’s and escapes twice, running back to Joe. The Duke finally takes Lassie to his permanent home in Scotland to be part of his stable of show dogs. In Scotland, Lassie escapes once again and sets out on a journey to walk back to Yorkshire. She travels over mountains and rivers, meeting violent shepherds (Alan Napier and Arthur Shields), a kindly old couple (real-life husband and wife Ben Webster and Dame May Whitty) and a traveling salesman (Edmund Gwenn).

Back in Yorkshire, Lassie is injured while evading capture by a couple of dogcatchers and limps home to the Carracloughs. The Duke arrives to offer Sam a job as his dog handler, and finds Lassie hiding in the other room. Sensing that after what she has endured, Lassie really belongs with the Carracloughs, he and his granddaughter Priscilla (Elizabeth Taylor) act as if they have never seen her before. The bedraggled dog limps once more to go meet Joe at school. Seeing her waiting for him under the tree, Joe realizes that Lassie has really come home for good and the boy and his dog are joyously reunited.

With beautiful Technicolor scenery and a star that only barked, Lassie Come Home provided Daniele Amfitheatrof (1901–1983) a stellar opportunity to score extended musical sequences—a formula that would continue through the rest of the series. Although numerous themes permeate the score, the main theme rightfully belongs to Lassie. Amfitheatrof also extrapolates a motive from the five-note scale at the beginning of Lassie’s theme to serve as an aural reminder of the dog on her travels. Lassie’s theme, first heard in the “Main Title,” would appear once again in the final film in the series, The Painted Hills (1951), the only other Lassie picture scored by Amfitheatrof. (Herbert Stothart would also quote the melody in the second film, Son of Lassie.)

Below, asterisks (*) designate those cues taken from the music-and-effects track that contain sound effects, while a dagger (†) denotes the lone bonus track containing dialogue.

1. Main Title*
The main title sequence plays over a painting of Lassie next to a winding stream. Following a brief opening fanfare under the roar of Leo the Lion, French horns and then strings play the first statement of Lassie’s theme. Lively variations follow on flute and bassoon. When a text scroll announces the death of Major Eric Knight (the author of Lassie Come-Home, the novel upon which the film is based), Amfitheatrof interpolates brief quotes of “Rule Britannia” on French horn and “America” in the strings to signify his birthplace in England and the adopted country for which he died. The segment closes with a brief allusion to “Taps” on muted trumpet.
The Story of a Dog*
A voiceover sets the stage for the story of Lassie and the people of Yorkshire as Sam Carraclough (Donald Crisp) and Lassie hike over the Yorkshire moors. The finished film did not use the dark music heard here, but instead substituted Sam’s theme on English horn.
2. Time Sense—Second Version*
At five minutes to 4:00 every afternoon, Lassie’s internal clock goes off and she begins to whine in anticipation of going to meet Joe (Roddy McDowall) at school. Harp and piano plunk out the passing time over mysteriously shimmering strings. Woodwind solos play an up-tempo variation of Lassie’s theme over pizzicato strings and harp arpeggios as Lassie runs off to meet Joe. The French horns play a brief quote of Lassie’s theme when Joe rushes to her, and the tempo picks up again as the two of them run home accompanied by the variation music.
Have a Good Time
Back at home, Mrs. Carraclough (Elsa Lanchester) sends Joe and Lassie out to play. The music turns darker as Sam tells her that the Duke has agreed to purchase the dog.
Waking Up Joe*
A celesta signals the arrival of morning as Lassie opens Joe’s bedroom door to wake him. Amfitheatrof extrapolates the first five notes of the scale that begins Lassie’s theme to serve as a brief motive throughout the score. A muted French horn comments sadly as Sam watches the scene, knowing what must take place. The winds and strings gallop and cavort as Joe and Lassie run to school. A lonely clarinet underscores the scene as Joe says goodbye and Lassie scratches at the school door.
Lassie Is Sold
Running sixteenth notes in the harp underscore Lassie’s theme in the bassoon as the dog runs home and is greeted by the sight of a carriage belonging to the Duke of Rudling.
3. Lassie Is Sold, Part 2
Harp arpeggios and sorrowful string solos accompany Lassie as she is walked away behind the Duke’s carriage. The scene shifts to the school and the strings scamper as Joe runs down the stairs only to find out that Lassie is not waiting under a tree. As his fear mounts, Joe runs home with falling minor seconds and rising string scales ascending higher and higher.
4. Joe Is Heartbroken*
While Mrs. Carraclough explains to Joe that they can no longer afford to keep Lassie, the music and effects track “borrows” an unused passage from “Meeting Palmer” (see track 13), featuring sustained chords and sorrowful string harmonics (tracked in twice to meet the necessary length). The finished film, however, features a subdued but more melodic lament scored primarily for strings.
Priscilla Meets Lassie
The Duke brings his precocious granddaughter Priscilla (Elizabeth Taylor) to meet Lassie, who is penned up in an outdoor kennel. A bouncing clarinet line echoes Priscilla’s bubbly nature. Amfitheatrof introduces a wistful three-note motive in the cellos and strings as Priscilla makes the dog’s acquaintance.
5. Time Sense—Second Version*
The “time sense” signals that Lassie knows it is time to go meet Joe; a solo cello emphasizes the dog’s agitation as she paces in the kennel.
First Escape (beginning)*
Lassie digs a hole under the gate and crawls out, marked by a bright major chord and the Lassie motive on French horns. The up-tempo Lassie variation accompanies her jump over the school gate and her run home with Joe. The film continues with a scene at the Carracloughs’, but that part of the cue was not included in the music-and-effects tracks; the scene with dialogue can be found on disc 4, track 36.
6. Hynes Arrives
This brief cue begins with a short, scampering string theme as Mrs. Carraclough feeds Lassie, followed by sustained string chords building to the arrival of the Duke’s dog handler, Hynes (J. Patrick O’Malley), who has come to reclaim Lassie for the Duke.
Time Sense—Second Version*
Lassie tries to dig under the gate again, but Hynes has reinforced the gate so that she cannot dig out. The “time sense” music and the solo cello once again signal her anxiety.
Second Escape
Lassie climbs up the fence and jumps over the top. The music churns in the strings, ascending and descending along with her failed attempts, until a brass fanfare announces that she has escaped once again.
7. Day Dreaming
The gentle three-note string motive from “Priscilla Meets Lassie” accompanies Joe, who has run away with Lassie and dreams of living out on the moors. Sam finds them and makes Joe deliver the dog back to the Duke, with muted brass signaling the boy’s sadness. The three-note motive returns as the scene changes to the Duke’s terrace, where Priscilla gives her grandfather a carnation for his lapel. Sam and Joe arrive with Lassie and present her to the Duke, who was unaware she had run away a first time, much less a second.
8. Bid Her Stay*
Sam leads Lassie back into her kennel, where Joe bids her to stay and tells her she cannot come home anymore. A sad violin solo cries a minor-key statement of Sam’s theme (first heard in “The Story of a Dog” in the film). Priscilla assures the heartbroken Joe that she will take care of Lassie, underscored by tentative statements of the three-note string motive.
Honest Is Honest
Sam’s theme on clarinet accompanies his explanation to Joe that, without any work coming in, they cannot afford to keep the dog. He also tells Joe that the Duke has taken Lassie off to Scotland along with a group of show dogs and that she will not be coming back to Yorkshire anymore.
Lassie Goes to Scotland*
English horn plays a Scottish theme atop a drone in the lower strings to underscore a brief shot of a Scottish manor high atop a rocky cliff.
Lassie in Scotland
The film transitions to a montage of the Duke’s various show dogs in their kennels. Amfitheatrof changes the musical style every couple of bars to reflect each of the breeds.
9. Lassie Is Chained*
Priscilla returns to get her riding crop and finds Lassie chained in her kennel. The three-note theme now clearly associated with her weaves its way around a minor-key version of Lassie’s five-note motive.
10. Hynes Walks Lassie
After being reprimanded by the Duke for keeping Lassie chained up, Hynes has to walk her so she gets exercise. String triplets play against growling brass as Hynes yanks on the leash until Lassie fights back and pulls out of her collar.
11. Time Sense—Second Version*
A brief reprise of the “time sense” music serves as a springboard to Lassie’s escape.
Lassie Runs Away*
Scampering triplets in the winds, strings and muted trumpet accompany Hynes chasing after Lassie. When Priscilla opens the gate, trumpets crescendo and cymbals crash as Lassie runs south to return to Yorkshire. As Lassie climbs over the rocks, the brass play a majestic, elongated version of her theme over sustained strings, swirling winds, cymbal rolls and harp glissandi as waves crash below. An oscillating cello slows the music down as Lassie leaves bloody pawprints on the rocks. Tremolo strings close the cue, signaling a coming storm.
The Storm
The storm crashes in a musical cacophony in the brass as Lassie walks through the torrential downpour and hides in a cave. This dramatic cue, composed by Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco, does not appear in the film.
Over the Mountains*
As dawn breaks after the storm, Amfitheatrof channels his inner Ravel (more precisely, Daphnis et Chloë), scoring the rushing waterfalls and Lassie’s climb up the mountain to the accompaniment of an ascending wordless chorus. When she reaches the top, cymbals crash and a full orchestral statement of Lassie’s theme accompanies her as she crosses a bridge over the raging waters.
The Lake & Time Sense #3*
Lassie stops to get a drink of water in a lake, accompanied by a new version of the “time sense” music in the harps. Tremolo strings and a malevolent bassoon theme signal danger ahead as Lassie encounters a fence and a warning sign that offers a reward for the head and feet of any dog caught killing the sheep.
Lassie vs. Satan*
Two shepherds, Jock (Alan Napier) and Andrew (Arthur Shields), see Lassie crossing through their flock of sheep. At Andrew’s behest, Jock shoots and wounds the dog. The strings churn out sixteenth notes under escalating woodwinds and brass as their black German shepherd, Satan, runs after her.
The Dog Fight*
Descending string scales and staccato trumpets underscore the fight between Lassie and Satan. (Although the scene looks brutal in the film, it was actually just the two dogs playing.)
Lassie vs. Satan, Part 2*
Defeated, Satan cries in pain and runs off. Solo trumpet announces a variant of Lassie’s triumphant theme, completed by the strings in a minor key as she limps away. Her five-note motive underscores Jock’s having “forgotten” to reload his gun, allowing the dog to escape.
A Surprise for Joe*
A clarinet duet brings the scene back to the Carracloughs’ for Joe’s birthday. Dramatic music accompanies Joe’s frantic search of the house, thinking Lassie is his birthday surprise. Instead, disappointed with his gift of a pencil set, he runs upstairs to his room.
Crossing the River*
Flutes, tremolo strings, harp glissandi, celesta and wordless chorus accompany Lassie’s swim across a river. She is carried along on the current with her five-note motive until the music crescendos (more echoes of Ravel) and brings Lassie safely to the other side. The trumpets play Lassie’s triumphant theme once again, but the orchestra struggles with her as she climbs the riverbank; the music settles ominously as the wounded, bedraggled dog comes to rest and the scene transitions to a country cottage battered by a storm.
12. Dan and Dolly*
Dolly (Dame May Whitty) sends Dan (Ben Webster) outside to check on a disturbance with their chickens. A high solo violin finds Lassie collapsed in the middle of their field during the rainstorm. Gently tentative music in the strings and sustained clarinet notes accompany the old couple’s attempts to feed her. The strings swirl down, a muted trumpet calls, and the bassoon plays Lassie’s minor-key motive as the elderly couple realizes Lassie swam the river to get from Scotland to England.
Lassie Recovers
Oboe plays Lassie’s theme again in a major key to signal her full recovery. When Dan returns, saying that no one has claimed Lassie, a lovely new string theme accompanies Dolly’s pronouncement: “She’s ours now!”
Joe Can’t Sleep*
A solo violin plays a minor-key variation of Lassie’s theme as the scene shifts to Joe’s bedroom, where he stares out the window into the night.
Time Sense—Second Version*
At five minutes to 4:00, Lassie whines and paces, scratching at the door to get out. The cue features an extended version of the “time sense” music and cello solo.
13. Lassie Is Not Happy
Violins play a lovely rendition of Lassie’s theme as Dolly realizes that Lassie is “going somewhere” and has just stopped there on her way.
Time Sense—Second Version*
The “time sense” music once again accompanies Lassie’s panting and whining.
Goodbye, Girl*
Realizing she must let her go, Dolly opens the gate. Lassie trots out, turns around for one last look, and runs on. Snippets of Dan and Dolly’s theme accompany their goodbye.
Meeting Palmer
Bassoon plays a brief rendition of Lassie’s theme as she walks through a forest, where she encounters traveling salesman Rowland Palmer (Edmund Gwenn) and his dog Toots. The string harmonics (which can also be heard in “Joe Is Heartbroken”) were not included in the film, but they fit neatly under the melody of the song Palmer sings (“I Dreamt that I Dwelt in Marble Halls” from the opera The Bohemian Girl by Irish composer Michael Balfe) while shaving. When the music resumes for Palmer’s jocular banter with Toots, the film uses an edited version of “Pump and Chicken House,” a cue originally written by Lennie Hayton for I’ll Wait for You (1941) and re-recorded for Lassie Come Home (see track 18). The music-and-effects track, heard here (3:46–4:23), substitutes a couple of short passages tracked in from elsewhere in the film.
Lassie Refuses Food*
Palmer tries to get Lassie to come closer by offering her some sausage. Gentle strings and woodwinds provide soothing developments of a jig-like theme for Palmer as he coaxes her, initially without success, to come forward.
Lassie Follows Palmer
Palmer packs up his cart and Lassie follows. The cue features Palmer’s jaunty theme on clarinet and a brief reprise of Dan and Dolly’s theme in the violins.
14. Lassie Wants to Go That Way
As the cart veers off in the wrong direction, Lassie barks that she wants to “take to the road.” When Palmer turns the cart around and follows her, the cue features his theme in the strings.
Lassie Is a Lady
A solo cello plays a plaintive version of Palmer’s theme against a hint of Lassie’s theme on oboe as Palmer, Lassie and Toots stop by the side of a stream to eat.
Next Morning
Flutes and tremolo strings signal the morning, and strings play a full-bodied version of Palmer’s theme as the carriage continues on its way.
15. Toots Gives a Performance*
To entice people to buy his pots and pans, Palmer gets Toots to perform tricks, accompanied by a waltz variation of Palmer’s theme on flute.
The Dogs Play*
The strings play Palmer’s theme once again as the carriage leaves town. Fast-running strings and Palmer’s theme on bassoon accompany Toots and Lassie as they play. Mysterious woodwinds then create a more somber mood as Palmer relaxes by his campfire.
Thousand Kronen*
Two strangers approach, and tremolo strings signal danger when Palmer realizes they are thieves who intend to steal his money. This cue from Bronislau Kaper’s score for A Woman’s Face (1941) was re-recorded for Lassie Come Home.
Last Fight*
Palmer and Toots fight off the thieves, accompanied by furious music. When Toots is killed, Lassie joins the fight and chases them away.
Toots Is Dead
Cellos descend as Lassie approaches Toots’s lifeless body, and a solo violin cries out in pain when Palmer picks up his dead dog.
It’s Goodbye, Then*
Strings play Palmer’s theme, followed by Lassie’s theme on bassoon, as they come to another fork in the road. Realizing that she must follow her own path, Palmer says goodbye, underscored by Lassie’s theme on bassoon and strings.
The Dog Catchers*
A pair of dogcatchers spot Lassie and brass signal danger as they approach and begin to chase her through the town. String triplets swirl as Lassie runs through a building, jumps out a window, and falls to the ground. Although it appears to the dogcatchers that she has not survived the fall, she slowly gets up and limps away, accompanied by a mournful solo cello.
Out of Work
A clarinet duet transitions the scene back to the Carracloughs’ cottage, where Sam is still out of work. Among sad cellos and violins, oboe plays a brief reprise of Sam’s theme.
Lassie Comes Home*
Filthy and still limping on three legs, Lassie appears whining at the cottage and goes to lay down by the fire, to a sorrowful development of her theme. Sam and Mrs. Carraclough try to get her to eat something, accompanied by a brief reprise of Dan and Dolly’s theme.
Duke Arrives* & This Is No Dog of Mine*
The Duke shows up and offers Sam a job as his dog handler. Strings soar, in a happy rendition of Sam’s theme alternating with Priscilla’s theme as she looks on happily. Hearing a whine, the Duke opens a door and Lassie limps back into the room. Priscilla’s theme in the strings competes with Lassie’s theme in the winds as the Duke and Priscilla say they have never seen the dog before.
Time Sense—Second Version*
An extended version of the “time sense” music signals that it is time for Lassie to go meet Joe at school. Sam puts Lassie’s collar on the dog “so he’ll know.”
Lassie Finds Joe* & End Title
Lassie limps slowly through the town square, accompanied by tender high strings and gentle harp. Seeing Lassie under the tree, Joe calls her to him. The music crescendos and crashes dramatically as Lassie limps into his arms—the boy and his dog are reunited once more. A brief musical tag consisting of Lassie’s up-tempo variation brings the film to a close, as Joe and Priscilla ride bicycles, followed by Lassie and her litter of puppies.

Bonus Tracks

16. Dog Fight
In this shorter version of the dog fight music found in track 11, Amfitheatrof included some of the motives from the version used in the finished film.
17. The Accident
This alternate track for Lassie’s accident while trying to escape the clutches of the dogcatchers was re-recorded from Amfitheatrof’s score for And One Was Beautiful (1940).
18. Pump and Chicken House
This extended version of music found in film version of the “Lassie Meets Palmer” segment was composed by Lennie Hayton for I’ll Wait for You (1941) and re-recorded for Lassie Come Home.  — 

Disc Four

36. First Escape (complete)*†
After Lassie escapes from the Duke’s kennel, she scampers off to meet Joe at school (see disc 1, track 5). When he brings her home, quiet woodwinds and pleading strings lend a domestic air as Joe’s mother dashes his hopes of keeping her. Perkier woodwinds intervene as he runs to get Lassie’s brush; warmer, sympathetic strings conclude the cue while Sam shows Joe the proper grooming technique.