Film: Has Anybody Seen My Gal?
Director: Douglas Sirk
Performers: Charles Coburn, Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson, Gigi Perreau
Breeds featured: Soft-coated Terrier mix, French Poodle (standard)
Production information: Universal Studios, 1952 (USA)
The Blaisdell family is bestowed a small fortune of $100,000 by a mysterious benefactor who has disguised himself as a boarder in their home. This is all part of a wacky plot by millionaire Samuel Fulton to test the mettle of the family to whom he intends to bequeath his fortune. Unfortunately, the money seems to change this formerly humble family for the worse. Mrs. Blaisdell gets the notion that wealth means superiority, and so all traces of their past life, including their “purebred mongrel” Penny, needs to be discarded.
Roberta Blaisdell: Oh Penny, we’re rich! We’re rich! From now on you’re going to eat nothing but steak.
Mom: He will not. You’re going to get rid of that mongrel. We’re going to get two pedigreed French poodles.
Roberta: But I can’t speak French. I don’t want French poodles. I don’t like French poodles.
Mom: Nonsense, Roberta, all the best people have French poodles.
Roberta: But I want Penny!!! *bursts out of the room in tears*
They do get the canine upgrade — two staid, boring-looking standard poodles named Mimi and Fifi. Luckily, Penny the mutt manages to find a home with the mysterious boarder, who is now renting elsewhere as he continues to observe the Blaisdell family. This allows Roberta, the youngest daughter, to continue visiting her beloved pet as she maintains her friendship with the eccentric old man who started this all.
It’s a pretty straightforward use of dog as class symbol and domestic value. Is your social worth measured by the unruly, unkempt, unrestrained mongrel or the high-priced, high maintenance purebred dogs you keep in your home? In the end, however, the dogs are more attached to a lifestyle than the family, since the new poodles are left behind when the Blaisdell family fortunes change again. And though we presume that they get Penny back just as everything else returns to normal, we’re never actually shown what happens to any of the dogs… In short, they weren’t important enough characters to be included in the film’s resolution.
Maybe the film should’ve been titled Has Anybody Seen My dog?