For its first CinemaScope animated feature, Disney turned away from the usual fairy tales to Ward Greene’s little-known story of two star-crossed canines from different sides of the tracks. The widescreen format gave the Disney animators a broad canvas, and the result was a charming classic.
In a New England suburb in the early 1900’s, Darling and Jim Dear welcome a new addition to their home, a cocker spaniel named Lady. Over time, the dog becomes a pampered member of the family, which grows by one when a new baby is born. At first jealous of losing attention, Lady comes to love the small child, but her happiness is threatened when Aunt Sarah and her crafty twin Siamese cats come to housesit. The felines, Si and Am, thrash the place and blame it on Lady, compelling Aunt Sarah to muzzle the pooch.
Lady escapes to the outside, where she is chased by a pack of street curs. At the last minute, a scruffy mutt named Tramp comes to her defense. Lady and the Tramp start to enjoy one another’s company, sharing a memorable candlelit dinner at the back door of Tony’s Italian restaurant. But when Lady learns of her new companion’s shady past, she shuns him, forcing Tramp to prove himself in a daring battle to save the family’s baby from a bloodthirsty rat.
The animation was groundbreaking, the story was simple and moving, and the scene in which Lady and the Tramp nibble on a shared strand of spaghetti has become one of the most famous screen kisses in cinema history. Peggy Lee, who provided the voice of Si, Am, Darling and the streetwise pooch Peg, co-wrote the film’s songs with Sonny Burke. Released to immediate success, Lady and the Tramp has stood the test of time, winning new generations of fans over decades of theatrical and video reissues.