January 28, 1965 – The Live-Action Feature Film Those Calloways is Released to Theaters
“You ask me, those Calloways don’t hold to anything – they’re crazy, the whole lot of ‘em.”
On January 28, 1965, the live-action feature film Those Calloways was released to theaters. The film was based on the book Swiftwater by Paul Annixter. The film is set in Vermont, but was filmed at the Walt Disney Studios. To match the fall foliage of Vermont, 280,000 hand-painted leaves were created to imitate Vermont fall foliage. The two songs in the film were written by the songwriting team the Sherman Brothers, and the score was composed by legendary composer Max Steiner, known for his scoring of Gone With the Wind. The screenplay was written by Louis Pelletier, with the film directed by Norman Tokar. It stars Brian Keith as Cam Calloway, Vera Miles as Liddy Calloway, Brandon de Wilde as Bucky Calloway, Walter Brennan as Alf Simes, Ed Wynn as Ed Parker, Philip Abbot as Dell Fraser, Tom Skerritt as Whit Turner, John Larkin as Jim Mellott, and Linda Evans as Bridie Mellott.
The film begins with Liddy Calloway scaring a bear away from her garbage, when she looks up to see the geese flying high in the sky. Meanwhile, her husband Cam is packing up his traps, when he also spots the geese flying by. In town, everyone is entranced by the geese flying by, with some members of the town already beginning to shoot. Bucky Calloway, angered about the shooting, goes to pull away one of the shotguns, and ends up in a fight with Whit, one of the shooters, while the town watches. Bridie Mellott, Bucky’s friend, tries to stop this, but her father tells her that the boys need to settle this on their own, one way or another. Poor Bucky loses the fight, and Whit walks away as the victor as the townsfolk disburse. A small group of men discuss the Calloways: a small family that lives in the backwoods and think it’s cruel to shoot wild geese. Cam Calloway was raised by Indians, with some of the townspeople think the whole family shouldn’t be around “respectable people.”
Bucky finds his father near the lake as he walks home, watching the geese land in the water. The two sit to talk, and Cam tells Bucky of his plan to buy the land and lake for $1100, hoping to turn it into a sanctuary for the geese. He plans to attract the geese by planting corn, which is an old Indian trick for attracting geese. As Bucky and Cam find their way home, the bear from the morning comes back, and Bucky recognizes him as his friend Keg, and the two wrestle while Cam and Liddy talk. That night, Cam tells Liddy that he has plans to take Bucky with him on the trapping lines. Liddy is not fond of the idea, especially when Cam can’t make enough to pay back the money for their land, but she eventually goes along with the idea.
Later, Bridie stops by to drop off some packages, and tells Bucky that they should make better use of the land. The two tease each other playfully, although neither will admit the growing attraction between the childhood friends. The book Bucky orders is The Manly Art of Self Defense, and takes to practicing in the shed, while his father watches. Cam then offers to help Bucky learn how to spar. Bucky’s moves are rather technical, but effective, as he manages to give Cam a good punch in the jaw, followed by another one. However, the two begin some lighthearted roughhousing, and quickly finish up the chores to start on the line the next morning. Cam tells Bucky that they’re heading to Jack Pine Valley, an area that’s never been tracked before, as it’s considered a place full of bad spirits. As they travel, they run into Cam’s old friend Nigosh, who warns them to be careful of Jack Pine Valley. As they reach the valley, Bucky nearly falls off a cliff, and Cam breaks his leg after he falls off a log.
Back in town, everyone discusses the Calloway’s situation, as it will be rather hard for the family this winter with Cam laid up. Dell Fraser, a traveling salesman, tells the other men in town of his idea to turn the town into a place for goose hunters, being rather relentless with his idea. Winter arrives, and Bucky decides to head back to the valley to trap. Cam warns Bucky not to go to the valley, convinced that it is a bad luck place, but Bucky is determined to provide for his family. He looks at his lines, and notices they’ve been tampered with by a wolverine. Angered, he decides to hunt down the wolverine instead of heading home. Bucky ties up his dog Sounder as he searches for the wolverine, but Sounder breaks free and fights the wild animal. Bucky tries to save his dog by pushing down some branches, but loses his shotgun in the process and is attacked himself while Sounder is caught under a heavy branch. Bucky is finally able to kill the wolverine and save his dog.
After Bucky’s first hunting experience, he is able to keep bringing home several pelts for his family. Alf, the town gossip, stops by to visit the Calloways, informing them of the new plans to turn the town into a hunters paradise. Liddy informs Alf of Cam’s idea of bringing the geese to town every year, and Alf suggests they petition the government to create a sanctuary for the geese. Bucky comes home with some new pelts, and come Christmas time, Bucky has caught enough ermine to create a cape for his mother. Bridie helps Bucky to create the cape for his mother, although the two of them still tease each other, with Bridie frustrated that Bucky doesn’t see her as grown-up. On Christmas Eve, Bucky and Cam ask Liddy to open her package, and she begins to cry with joy upon seeing the cape. The Mellotts arrive for the Christmas celebrations, and the men decide to have a glass of spiked cider before Bridie appears in a beautiful new dress. Bucky is shocked to see Bridie looking so grown up, and as they sing Christmas carols, he reaches for her hand, while the two exchange nervous glances.
A week later, Bucky is still singing the Christmas carol he sang with Bridie, and decides to stop by the Mellotts to see her. Liddy and Cam talk about when they first started courting twenty-one years prior, leading to another sweet moment between the couple, where Cam promises never to leave Liddy. As Bucky stops by the Mellotts, he finds that Bridie is being courted by Whit, and leaves before anyone notices. As spring approaches, Bucky and Cam bring the pelts to Mellott’s trading post to sell the pelts; unfortunately, the market for furs bottomed out, and the $1800 they’d been hoping for was only $450. When Liddy claims that at least they have enough money for their house, Cam informs her that he used the $400 to buy the land for the geese sanctuary. Furious, she storms away and shuts herself in the bedroom. When spring arrives, their landlord, Doane Shattuck, arrives, and without the money to pay him, he has no choice but to evict them. Although Cam offers the land he’s already bought, Doane refuses to accept. Cam informs him they’ll be out first thing in the morning, and further insults him by saying that Doane’s only friends were the coins jingling around in his pocket. Liddy then gets the idea that they should just build their house on the land he now owns, and Cam agrees.
When Cam begins the building of the cabin, Dell Fraser stops by, trying to trick Cam into turning the sanctuary into a hunter’s paradise, offering a few hundred dollars from his boss, E.J. Fletcher. The Calloways set their plan of bringing the geese to the land by planting corn into action, and are surprised to see the members of the town arriving to help build the cabin for the family. With everyone working diligently, the house is quickly finished and everyone celebrates with a party. Bucky and Bridie are set up by the members of the town and sent outside to talk. As they go for a walk, Bucky is still sore over seeing her with Whit, although she is unaware that he saw her. She asks him what she did wrong and why he won’t speak to her, but he won’t give her a straight answer. Finally, during a heated argument, he kisses her, and she walks away horrified, informing him that she isn’t interested in anyone but him, but after this incident, she isn’t quite sure, and runs away crying.
The corn is seen growing well in the marsh a while later. In town, Fraser and his boss Fletcher head to the marsh with their hunting equipment, hoping to convince Cam to sell. Bucky heads to the trading post, where he and Bridie have a tense conversation. Whit starts to goad Bucky, and Bucky finds that Cam has been swindled by Fraser. As Whit continues to goad Bucky, Bucky starts another fight, but is able to beat Whit this time as the whole town watches. Bridie sits with Bucky after the fight and offers to drive him home in the rig. At the marsh, Fraser and Fletcher run into Cam, who is furious that they’re on his land hoping to create a hunter’s paradise. Cam warns them that the geese will not come down this year, and later that night, he burns up the entire crop of corn. Liddy and Bucky try and stop him, but are unable to. Meanwhile, a town meeting is being held about the hunters coming in, with Alf saying that the government should buy the land and turn it into a sanctuary for the geese. Fraser argues that his way means that the money will keep rolling in for everyone, and the meeting turns into a fight. The next morning, as the geese fly overhead, Cam wakes up to hear the sounds of gunshots. He angrily finds the businessmen in his marsh and pulls away their guns, accidentally getting shot in the process. That evening, everyone sits tensely in the house, hoping that Cam will make it through this ordeal. Bridie stays with Bucky, while her parents head into town for another meeting about this matter. Everyone is rather rattled at the news of Cam’s shooting, and spend a moment at the meeting in prayer.
Liddy keeps vigil at Cam’s bedside, and the doctor takes off for the night, telling Cam that he’s not sure if Cam will go one way or the other. The next morning, hundreds of geese are seen flying in the sky and landing in the lake, eating whatever’s left of the corn. Cam wakes to the sound of the geese, and reaches for Liddy’s hand. Everyone is relieved that Cam has made it through, and as Bucky and Bridie go to check on the geese, Alf arrives to inform him that the entire town has signed a petition to make the land a sanctuary for the geese.