The opening credits, on the backdrop of picturesque quilted country scenes, inform us that it is called Walt Disney Presents. What? We didn’t realize it was that kind of a movie. Uhh… Oh, it’s So Dear to My Heart. Whew.
A charming, down-home, feel-good flick set in small town Indiana in 1903, the film follows a boy named Jeremiah. It is narratedWonder Years-style by adult Jeremiah and begins with some rhetoric about man and wisdom. pfft. The narrator then begins self-indulgently singing. Not really sure why.
Narrator: At Grundy’s General Store you could get most anything, from jack knives, to fishhooks, to candy; that is if you had the money.
Aaaaaaand guess who’s back…
Oh, shit. These kids again. Yep, it’s the dynamic duo Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten slightly older than they were in Song of the South, but still kind of annoying.
Burl Ives appears in SDMH as Uncle Hiram. During our viewing of this film, we came to the conclusion that “Burl Ives is the shit.” They say that Burl Ives is a bad mother- Shut yo mouth! I’m only talkin’ ’bout, Burl Ives.
BURL! Damn right.
In an early scene, we see Jeremiah and some other town folk gathered near the railroad station to greet the coming train. Black laborers (just like in Dumbo!) unload Dan Patch, the greatest racehorse in the world. Jeremiah offers his partially eaten apple to Dan Patch, but the handler stops him and checks to make sure it isn’t wormy. Jeremiah tells him, “yes sir, I’m an imbecile and I like to eat rotten, wormy food. I also like to paint with my feces.” Guess it’s only concerning for the famous Dan Patch to be eating a wormy apple, not you, ya filthy urchin.
Uncle Hiram works on one of DP’s shoes, then they pack him up and bugger off to some other town. Jeremiah is completely obsessed with Dan Patch. He’s got a scrapbook with pictures of Dan Patch and futilely tries to get his grandmother to trade in their mule, General Jackson, for a colt.
Jeremiah has a scrapbook with all his super cool secret boy stuff pasted in it. He also likes knitting, Kenny G, and wine coolers.
Granny and Jeremiah go to the barn to check if the lambs have been born yet. One of the ewes, Jezebel, has just had twins, one white and one black. Jezebel makes several runs at Jeremiah when he tries to get her to suckle the black lamb. Granny explains this as being what happens sometimes with twins, especially when one of them’s black. See kids? Even sheeps are racist, and since God made them that way, there’s nothing wrong with sheep, or humans, recoiling at the sight of and ostracizing the black among them. And now you know one of the facts of life.
George Clooney was in The Facts of Life?! I bet Granny has a kipper for him! (This will soon make sense. Wait. . . probably not.)
Granny suggests that what the lamb needs is to be wrapped in a warm blanket, to protect it from the cold – or perhaps the cold cold Facts of Life! White privilege is a bitch…or a ewe or something.
Granny’s Religious Teachin’ #1:
God wants the cute little lamby to die. He made them that way.
Upon Jeremiah expressing concern for the newborn lamb being neglected by its mother, and possibly dying as a result, Granny says, “That’s in the hands of the Lord. They’re His critters and their ways are the ways he give them [except humans domesticated them] and there’s nothing we can do about it. The ways of nature seem cruel sometimes and hard, but there’s a plan behind it all. He knoweth every sparrow that falleth.”
Granny is displeased when she finds that Jeremiah has been looking after the lamb in the house. Granny tells him he can warm it up by the fire.
Granny begins ranting and muttering to herself about how the lamb will grow up being a pet, and how she doesn’t like [nappy] black wool, and that it’s the character of black rams to cause a ruckus.
So Jeremiah takes Dan Patch out of his book and replaces him with Danny the black sheep, keeping the title “Champion of Champions”. The narrator states that Granny wouldn’t be ok with keeping a black sheep unless he was some sort of champion. You know, the same way white people liked Jesse Owens in the 1930s.
Then Disney takes us either into the mind of an imaginative child or someone doped up on LSD, as we begin to see his scrapbook characters coming to life. Basically, what ensues is a musical pep-talk from the owl from Bambi, recycled as some sort of symbol of wisdom (or demented old coots who likes to ramble). “It’s What You Do with What You’ve Got” that pays offs in the end. The owl uses the story of David and Goliath to explain how Danny, too, could manage, with a lot of work, to kill a large human. Yeah!
Then the owl says, “Look how Joshua busted that wall down with a little old measly horn,” and then once in control of the city,slaughtered all of the men, women, children and livestock inside. No joke, it’s in the Bible (Joshua 6:20-21). You too can kill whole cities of people little lamb! Vent your adolescent lamby angst! This song acts as a passage of time, as at the end of it, Danny emerges (breaks through a screen door) as a late teen.
Danny gets into lots of trouble, we’re not really sure why, but we suspect it’s because he’s black, and the white people don’t like him. It could also be because Jeremiah’s kind of stupid and does insipid things like taking Danny into the general store. Cue chaos.
Jeremiah occasionally visits with Uncle Hiram who puts ideas into his head about Danny winning the blue ribbon and the cash prize at the County Fair.
Granny, miffed about all the crap Danny does, goes in search of Jeremiah to tell him that Danny has to go. Granny goes upstairs to see if Jeremiah is in his room. The music builds to the point where you think he’s either going to kill her, or his bloodied corpse is just about to be discovered.
But that doesn’t happen. Instead, Granny finds Jeremiah sleeping next to Danny in the stable and decides to give him yet another chance. Uncle Hiram also sings disturbing songs threatening violence against Danny if he doesn’t behave.
One family home evening, while the kids are doing the dishes and Granny is rocking in her chair, Uncle Hiram is playing the guitar while singing “Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly” which won a Grammy in 1948. No, but seriously, it was pretty popular.
On a production note, it seems that they either re-recorded the singing in this scene, or slowed the movie down enough so that the D chord that Burl Ives was playing would sound like a C. More likely it was the former, seeing as there was no slow motion dilly-dillying going on – at least none we could detect.
He and the kids had a devious plot to butter Granny up enough so that she’d slip and slide into saying ‘yes’ to them going to the County Fair, and into a Grannies Gone Wild video. *shudder*
Random Quote: Granny says, “I ain’t a traipsin’ woman in the first place and I don’t make my kippers for the sake of blue ribbons and cash awards. I make ‘em ‘cause they pleasure me.”
Jeremiah’s cousin, little Tildy, is all sad at the prospect of not going and vocalizes her distress by telling Granny that her mother has already sent away for the pattern for her new dress to wear to the fair. To this, Granny replies, “Honey, it’s time you learn not to go settin’ your heart on the daydreams of menfolks.” Granny, shut up.
Uncle Hiram then says, “Well, it was just an idea. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place…” Ya think?
They try and almost get Granny to say yes, but she out foxes ‘em. Well, for one thing, they’ll need money to get to the fair and for an entrance fee. Jeremiah suggests that they could pray for the money. Granny replies with:
Granny’s Religious Teachin’ #2:
In this house, we don’t pray for cash money, only for things of the spirit. Spoken like a person who’s never gone hungry, or had student loans.
Jeremiah, totally bummed out, turns to his trippy scrapbook for comfort and communes with the crazy animated owl, et al.
This time the owl teaches about “Stick-to-it-ivity,” using that amazing role model: Christopher Columbus.
Christopher Columbus, livin’ in Spain
Showed capacity for usin’ his brain
Studied his geography, had it down pat
Said I’m gonna prove that the world ain’t flat
Ok, wait a minute, wait a minute. Firstly, people have known the world isn’t flat since humans have realized that there’s something called a horizon, and that the only logical reason for it is that the world isn’t flat. But you know, Columbus was apparently a big giant brain who knew better than everybody.
Because she thought he was right, Queen Isabella one night
Gave him three small boats: one, two, three
Now uh, the boats were kinda leaky, started to sail
Came a hurricane, a furious gale
Waves were a-lashin’, Future looked black
Sailors started yellin’, “Chris, turn back”
On that eventful day, what did Columbus say
Why I said, Stick-to-it-ivity
If you got that stuff
You’re gonna do all right
They conveniently left out the part where Columbus finds some islands in the Carribean and declares that he has arrived in India. That’s really usin’ your brain, Chris!
Oh, they also left out the part where upon arriving on the island of Hispaniola they immediately proceed to enslave, rape and hunt the native population for sport, instituting an incredibly cruel form of slavery that through overwork, undernourishment and plain old murder, would wipe them out within decades. What a hero.
But that’s not all.
According to the song, Robert Bruce got his stick-to-it-ivity when he was on a field trip with his high school and got bitten on his hand by a radioactive spider.
YEAH WAR!!! Crossbows, axes, swords, lava, and nobody got hurt. See! War isn’t bad!
Jeremiah, spurred on by “Stu-pid-spi-di-tivity,” decides he’s going to raise enough money to go to the fair. While at Grundy’s General Store, Mr. Grundy asks Jeremiah, what he’s saving for, “college?” Smart, Grundy. Grundy then inspires Jeremiah to go look for wild honey, telling him he can make lots of money if he finds some. What he doesn’t tell him is that it’s really hard to find.
So off Jeremiah and Tildy go, following bees in an attempt to find some wild honey. The bees lead them to the edge of the swamp.
Tildy: We can’t go in there!
Jeremiah: Why not?
Tildy: ‘Cause, nobody ever goes in there. It’s scary as shit!
Jeremiah: It’s got to be in there. So is impending death.
They then come upon a cow skeleton.
Tildy: Look! What’s that?
Jeremiah: Aw, just some old bones.
Tildy: Who’s bones?
Jeremiah: Just an old cow or something.
Tildy: What killed it?
Jeremiah: Nothing, it just died.
Tildy: How do you know?
Jeremiah: I just know, that’s all. Alternatively, what killed it is the thing that’s going to kill you.
Look! There’s an Owl.
Jeremiah fancies himself the bogmaster. Well, he does look a bit like Bindi. There are jungle sounds; an audio cue that the kids are going to die. The mood becomes like in those movies where they begin talking about cannibalism. “There’s a redbird!” It’s a cardinal, you ingrates. Neither of the kids know what an effing cardinal is! Is this movie anti-catholic?
They found the hive. Now you can go into anaphalactic shock! Bonus: Cannibalism averted! Apparently they somehow managed to get it out without being covered in bees. Jeremiah sells the honey to Grundy for $22. Shit, that kid is rich!
How does he invest it? Not on saving for college, but by taking Danny to the County Fair.
One day, Danny gets loose and runs off. Jeremiah, who values a sheep nobody likes over his own education, runs off into a dark scary storm. After failing to find Danny, Jeremiah returns home where Granny dries him off and puts him to bed. It being bed-time, Granny asks:
Granny: Said your prayers?
Jeremiah: [Shakes head]. Little shithead. Deal with it.
Granny tries to cheer him by offering options like maybe he found a hollowed log during the storm, but that he should also prepare for the worst.
Granny’s Religious Teachin’ #3:
Granny: The Lord giveth and the lord taketh away.
Jeremiah: Well he can’t take Danny. Jeremiah believes he outranks God.
Granny: You’re not telling the Lord what He can or can’t do. The Lord’ll do the tellin’. Oh, this is all my fault. I’ve seen it coming. I’ve seen it coming all along. You’ve turned your heart away from the things I’ve taught you ever since you were a little baby.
At this point, Jeremiah is lying on his back in bed, arms crooked and raised on his pillow, his hands in fists of rage, jaw clinched, chest heaving.
Granny: No Jeremiah, you can’t do this. It’s one thing blaming poor little Tildy for letting your lamb get away when all she was trying to do was help you feed him. And it’s one thing to blame me, but it’s another thing when you start blaming your maker. Started out by loving the lamb and that’s why I let you keep him. True love ain’t a harmful thing, true love’s a good thing, it’s good for the spirit. But you don’t love that lamb anymore, what you love is blue ribbons and cash awards that’s all you’re thinking about; things that are vain, things of this world, until you forgot all about things of the spirit. And when you can’t have your own way, you start burdenin’ the Lord. You ain’t thinking about that lamb, you’re just thinking about yourself. You know what’s right, Jeremiah, but you’ll have to find it in your own heart to do what’s right.
Dramatic music builds to the point that it seems like he’s going to throw himself out a window. He just turns over.
Jeremiah: Granny, you’re a bitch, but you’re right. Ugh!
Come morning, Jeremiah has buggered off again. Tildy gets Granny and Uncle Hiram’s attention by squeaking that she and Jeremiah found Danny. Jeremiah says he found him hiding in a hollow log, “just awaitin’ for me”. Hey! That’s exactly what Granny said had probably happened, and you were a little dick to her.
Then all of a sudden, Tildy runs out of the house crying and into Uncle Hiram’s arms saying they’re not going to the County Fair. Turns out Jeremiah promised God that if he found Danny, he wouldn’t take him to the fair. Granny is very pleased, but also dismayed because she made the opposite promise. Now one of you is going to break your promise. Granny is happy for Jeremiah to break his covenant with God – probably the first he had ever made. Now the little boy is going to hell – but at least he gets to go to the County Fair first.
At the County Fair, Jeremiah is all pimped out in dressier clothes with a red bow tie. Jeremiah is overconfident and delusional. This will hurt his chances. The kid also doesn’t know who Danny’s father was. Seeing as this is kind of a big deal in judging livestock, this will also hurt his chances. As a result of his incompetence, the crowd laughs at him. Bastards.
And in the end, Jeremiah loses.
TAKE THAT YOU LITTLE SHIT. DEAL. WITH. IT.
Jeremiah: It’s alright Danny, it’s alright boy. The sheep doesn’t care, as long as it can bust through screens and eat all the grass it wants.
The head judge says that Danny is in a class of his own. The crowd laughs at the little kid again. The judge schools them and says things like, “It’s what you do with what you’ve got.” Says that Danny is “a champion in every sense of the word. Shows what care can do.”
They award Jeremiah the special award, one they haven’t awarded in four years. It was pink. And special.
The town greets the special kid and his lamb at the train station. Yay, the kid’s splecial! Grundy offers people soda pop and a party. The end.
P.S. To be fair, the award said:
Pike County Fair
but the ‘for Merit’ part was never mentioned.
-What is the prize money for Special? The kid just squandered a great start to a college fund on a trip to the fair, banking on winning the grand prize, and instead wins “special”.
-Perhaps the religious piety of SDMH is the antidote to the wild hedonism of Fantasia.
-Author, Douglas Brode, describes So Dear to My Heart as Disney’s Heart of Darkness. That’s very understandable. It very much resembles Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Heart of Darkness.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.