Last week, Dean Jones passed away at age 85. For 10 years he was a mainstay in Disney movies. Now that he has passed away, it is time to look back at his Disney Legacy.
That Darn Cat – 1965
This is an interesting movie in how it ends and begins eras of Disney films…it was the last Disney film of Hayley Mills and the start of Dean Jones’ Disney films. They had a very odd chemistry together, but it surprisingly works. There is a certain difference in style in the films Mills and Jones did for Disney, so this film makes for an interesting intersection.
Anyways, the film is about a lady who is kidnapped by two bank robbers, and desperately uses her watch to try to get help by placing it on a roaming tomcat, who is owned by Mills’ character. Mills goes to the FBI over her concerns, and meets Dean Jones character, and the two try to use the cat to find the kidnap victim. It is a screwball comedy in classic Disney style…if you like that kind of thing, you should find this a fine movie to chill out on.
The Ugly Dachshund – 1966
Isn’t that like saying the cute penguin? All dachshunds are ugly, after all.
(Awaiting the angry message from Danny after he gets harangued by Dachshund lovers.)
I’ve only watched this movie once or twice, so I don’t have much to say. Jones’ character has a wife who raises dachshunds for dog shows, and somehow a Great Dane puppy comes into their possession, who thinks he is a dachshund as well, and hilarity endues. It’s another screwball comedy, and not one of the better ones unless you love dachshunds or Great Danes.
(Oh well, at least due to writing this and having to use a lot of spellchecker that I now know how to spell dachshund.)
Monkeys Go Home – 1967
Oh wow, I thought I had watched all of Jones’ Disney films, but compiling this list I see that I managed to skip one…probably because the Disney Channel failed to show it in the 1980s (back when the channel was a premium channel and actually worth watching). If I can find it online I’ll have to “potshot” it.
Apparently the movie involves olive farms and monkeys in France. What Gaul.
Blackbeard’s Ghost – 1968
If someone was making GURPS stats for me, and came to the “quirks” section, many of my quirks would come to mind. Love of penguins and puns would almost always be mentioned, and my politics or online style have a good chance to be put down on the character sheet. However, one quirk of mine is fairly unknown, and I think it may be unknown even to my mother and maybe my little brother as well…I cringe when I see someone in a movie or TV show embarrass themselves. I will fast forward if possible, and usually walk out of the room if I can’t. I bring this up because this film really triggers this quirk of mine, in sympathy to Jones’ character.
Anyways, Jones plays a new track coach to a local college set on the coast, where he inadvertently summons the ghost of Blackbeard. The two quickly find themselves having to save a hotel owned by the descendants of Blackbeard’s crew from the mafia. However, only Jones character can see Blackbeard, which leads to him being constantly embarrassed.
I happened to acquire the novel this movie was based on, and except for maybe the town there was very little in common between the two stories. Even Blackbeard had a different personality.
The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit – 1968
Like Dachshund here is another film I saw only once or twice. Jones goes back to animal movies as he tries to kill two birds with one stone as he acquires a horse not only for his daughter to love and ride, but to use to advertise a new product.
The Love Bug – 1968
Wow, he did three movies in one year for Disney, and then not do anymore until 1971. Odd.
If there is the definitive Dean Jones Disney movie, this is it. A sentient VW Bug that becomes a race car should be a silly premise, but everything works as Jones plays at out-of-luck race car driver that accidentally winds up owning Herbie, the VW in question. David Tomlinson, the antagonist, is wonderfully hammy in this fun action screwball comedy.
This is the first of 5 Herbie movies, althro Jones only starred in another one and cameo-ed in the last. This is definitely the best, as the future Herbie movies kept declining in value. I can still recommend the second film, Herbie Rides Again, however.
The Million Dollar Duck – 1971
This movie has the odd trivia that it is one of three movies that noted film critic Gene Siskel walked out of. This movie may not be Spielberg but it isn’t a bad film. My personal trivia for this film is that on the last day of school when I was in elementary school, they showed this film to the entire student body in the gym.
Anyways, Jones’ character is a scientist that brings home as a pet a duck that has been irradiated, and somehow lays golden eggs. Hijinks ensue as the Feds try to steal the duck from the family. When you think about it, it is a good lesson against the horrors of big, greedy government.
Snowball Express – 1972
This is one of only 2 or 3 films I have seen from the year of my birth. Also, looking at this list, it is the only Dean Jones Disney film where he is the true star of the film, and not some animal, ghost, or car.
Anyways, Jones’ character inherits a ski lodge and tries his best to renovate it, althro he knows little about running a resort and even less about skiing. Except for the Love Bug, it is the best movie on this list, with quality acting, fun comedy, and beautiful snowy landscapes, althro admittedly we penguins are suckers for such geography. The best scene is definitely when Jones goes skiing for the first time, and does a total fail.
The Shaggy D.A. – 1976
Another four years went bye before Jones came back for two more movies, and they are rather forgettable. That being said, the Shaggy Dog has a certain charm. Maybe because when I hit the big 4-0 I came a dog person/penguin, aided by a very lovable beagle/basset mix next door that has since ran away and I keep missing the doggie even 18 months after it escaped away. 🙁
Anyways, this is a sequel to the movie The Shaggy Dog which came out 17 years previously, althro no actors from either movie were in the other. Jones plays the role that Tommy Kirk had previously, althro now grown up with a wife and kid. The town has a crime wave going on and, after having his own burglarized twice, once while he was still sleeping in his bed, he decides to run as the District Attorney, to replace the corrupt one that is letting the crime wave happen. However, the cursed ring that caused Jones’ character to transform into a shaggy dog once before has been lost again by the museum, and he ends up transforming at inopportune times into a dog again. It’s a fun family movie.
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo – 1977
Remember how I said earlier that I cringe when I see characters seriously embarrass themselves. Here it comes again big time. It is also the first movie I ever taped onto a VCR tape (which is what we old-timers used to record on before the advent of DVRs…I’m old.)
This is the third movie of the series, and it is only tolerable to me now. Jones’ character decides to make a comeback with his new partner (played by Don Knotts), racing Herbie in a race from Paris, France to Monte Carlo. Both Jones and Herbie gain a love interest…no, I am not kidding about a love interest for a damn car. There is some nice scenery involved, but not that much to recommend. It is not as good as the first two movies in the series, but has a better plot than the following film Herbie Goes Bananas.
Disney movies made by Dean Jones really exhibit what Disney films truly were in the late 1960s and 1970s…goofy, family fun. I don’t know how well most would hold up, althro the better ones have some nostalgic value to me. They are movies you watch when you just want to chill out…not necessariy a bad thing.
Quoth the penguin…evermore.
My pop culture specialties are Star Wars, Transformers, Wizards of the Coast games, and the 1980s.My scholarly specialties are history, geography, and travel.
Join me every Friday for the Pop Culture Curmudguin.
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