I wrote in my first post that I was one of those dog show junkies that could identify the real dog show people who inspired the characters in the movie, BEST IN SHOW. Hollywood has often looked to less mainstream sports to break the tedium of action flicks, slasher films, and date movies. Here are three films that every dog show junkie should see.
BEST IN SHOW, released in 2000, is another “mockumentary” by the wonderfully sly Christopher Guest, the man who gave us THIS IS SPINAL TAP. BIS follows the owners of five dogs as they prepare for a Westminster-like show. Christopher Guest not only directed and wrote this gem, he plays the role of a country boy Bloodhound owner, who is also a ventriloquist. As funny as Mr. Guest is, my favorite characters are the duo of Jim Piddock and Fred Willard, as the dog show expert and the clueless color commentator. Anyone who remembers the urbane James Edward Clark and the rough around the edges Joe Garagiola from the early Westminster broadcasts will appreciate the parody. My only criticism of the movie is that there is only one professional handler in the final seven. Now that’s a Hollywood ending.
Now for a memorable portrayal of a pro handler, you can’t beat Harry Dean Stanton as Philo Skinner, a desperate man who dognaps a top winner to pay his gambling debts. Happily, I’ve known no real life inspiration for this character in Joseph Wambaugh’s 1980 film, THE BLACK MARBLE. Wambaugh is a former Los Angeles cop who has written several successful novels based on seriously jaded police officers. After being unhappy with the first movies made from his books, Wambaugh penned his first screenplay for THE BLACK MARBLE which resulted in several extremely memorable characters.
If you are a fan of film classics, then look for a copy of 1933’s THE KENNEL MURDER CASE, the precursor to William Powell‘s THIN MAN films. Like all in that series, this one has deliciously decadent rich people, lightening quick dialogue, and dogs who steal every scene they’re in. If you know the THIN MAN movies, you will remember the mischievous WIRE FOX TERRIER, Asta. In this film, Powell’s canine companion is an equally clever, SCOTTISH TERRIER. There’s also a DOBERMAN PINSCHER , who gets to play a near death scene followed by a miraculous recovery, and a heroic capture of the villain. I’m sure all the actors were jealous as hell.
Now every movie visit should end with a cartoon.Try the wonderful 1939 Disney offering, SOCIETY DOG SHOW, starring Mickey Mouse and Pluto, It just doesn’t get any better than this.