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Directed by Disney veteran, Vincent McEveety, The Biscuit Eater was the last of Disney’s “One Boy and his Animal”-themed films. A remake of a 1940 film, the source material was a short story by James Street. Should this film be more well-known or is it totally fine remaining in obscurity? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the film begins, we see a young boy named Lonnie, played by Johnny Whitaker, playing with a dog. It’s easy to see the bond that the two share and the love that Lonnie has for the dog. Lonnie’s father, Harve McNeil, played by Earl Holliman, trains dogs as hunting or bird dogs to participate in national trials with. He works for Mr. Ames, played by Lew Ayres. However the dog that Lonnie likes doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be trained. He prefers eating eggs resulting in him being referred to by the epithet, “the biscuit eater”.
Mr. McNeil decides to give the dog away to one of their neighbors, a friendly, but slick-trading gasless gas station owner named Willie Dorsey, played by Godfrey Cambridge. Willie’s bargaining skills are so slick that Mr. McNeil ends up “giving” the dog to Willie by paying him money to take it.
Afterwards, Lonnie gets an idea about which he discusses with his friend, Text, played by George Spell. They decide to partner up, buy the dog back from Willie, and train him themselves in time for the national trials. Willie agrees to part with the dog after getting the boys to do some manual labor for him.
The boys are happy to get the dog, but a local farmer named Mr. Eben, played by Clifton James, isn’t. He’s probably the most repugnant character to ever appear in a Disney film! I swear, I’ve never met a character that I absolutely hated as much as I did this guy. Anyway, he doesn’t like the dog because the dog’s father ate one of his sheep in the past. He threatens to shoot the dog if he ever finds him on his property.
The boys soon realize that the dog needs a name, so they head over to Text’s place to get help from his mother, Charity, played by Beah Richards, to name the dog. She says that the proper place to look for names is in the Bible. As they peruse the text (and yes, that’s how Text got his name as well), the boys come across the word, “Moreover”, and decide to name the dog that.
When Lonnie returns home that night, his father (having found out from Mr. Eben) talks with Lonnie about the dog re-purchase. He allows Lonnie to continue training Moreover providing the dog stays at Text’s place. Mr. McNeil doesn’t have much faith that Moreover can be trained, but he supports the boys in their efforts. The next day, the boy begin their training even getting an old hunting gun from Willie (for a price, of course) to use in their training. When Mr. McNeil sees them, he gives the boys pointers on how to train properly as well as how to hold and use a gun safely.
One night though, Moreover runs off onto Mr. Eben’s property.
Mr. Eben is about to make true of his word and shoot Moreover, but thankfully Mr. McNeil and Lonnie arrive just in time to take Moreover back home.
While Mr. McNeil supports the boys and their training of Moreover, the boys never told him that they were intending to admit Moreover in the national trials. He’s upset that Lonnie didn’t talk to him about it and voices his disappointment to Lonnie when he finds out. Mrs. McNeil, played by Pat Crowley, discusses the matter with her husband and implies that maybe Mr. McNeil is just nervous that his dog, Silver Belle, will lose to Moreover at the trials. At first, he says that’s nonsense but it’s enough to get him to forgive Lonnie and take the boys and Moreover to the trials with him.
Moreover does an excellent job at the trials impressing everyone including Mr. Ames. However Text and Lonnie misunderstand one of Mr. Ames’ jokes and think that if Moreover beats Silver Belle, Mr. Ames is going to fire Mr. McNeil as his trainer. The boys are saddened by this and how far they’ve come and decide that the right thing to do is to throw the competition. The next day of the trial, Lonnie calls Moreover a “no good, low-down, no account, biscuit eater” hurting Moreover’s feelings and causing him to run away forfeiting the trials.
Mr. McNeil is shocked to see what appears to be Lonnie calling Moreover off during the trials and is disappointed in him and Text as trainers. When they return home, the boys do their best to try to appease Moreover, but he’s just too hurt to be trained anymore. Not long after, Mr. Ames drives to the McNeil’s place after picking up Text and explains to Mr. McNeil what happened. He discovered that the boys misunderstood his joke and that’s why they threw the competition. He tells the boys that they shouldn’t have done that because firstly, Moreover did not have Silver Belle beat. Secondly, even if Moreover was in the lead, they would rather be beat fair and square than by someone forfeiting. And thirdly, as long as he has a job, Mr. McNeil has a job. Mr. McNeil apologizes to the boys for his incorrect assumptions.
One night, Moreover heads back to Mr. Eben’s farm in search of eggs. Mr. Eben takes his revenge by giving Moreover “poison eggs” so by the time Mr. McNeil arrives to pick up Moreover, he’s already incredibly sick. He takes him back home and along with his family and Text, they try to keep Moreover comfortable and nurse him back to health. Thankfully, Moreover survives!
The next day when Mr. McNeil sees Mr. Eben, they exchange words resulting in Mr. McNeil beating up Mr. Eben. And let me just say that this is the most satisfying fight I’ve ever seen in a Disney film! You’re just cheering for Mr. McNeil and enjoying the good thrashing that Mr. Eben gets for what he did.
After he learns his lesson, Mr. Eben goes along his merry way. Mr. McNeil and his wife are off to the finals as Silver Belle passed the trials while the boys continue to train Moreover (who’s given up his desire for eggs…understandably) for next year’s trials.
And that was The Biscuit Eater! Honestly, this was another pleasant surprise of a film! While having more of a quieter, rural feel, the film is very enjoyable! I think Mr. McNeil is one of the best father characters I’ve ever seen in a Disney film: both firm and loving, strong and kind, educative and apologetic. Earl Holliman portrayed the part very well! Actually, the acting by almost everyone was amazing including Johnny Whitaker, Clifton James, Beah Richards, and Godfrey Cambridge. The only person I wasn’t impressed with was Pat Crowley, but I feel that was more to how her character was written and given very little to do rather than her performance.
I also think the dog was trained amazingly well, even seeming to display human emotions at times! Even the main song, Moreover and Me, is really enjoyable and calming.
All in all, I think this is a very good film that should be more well-known!
The next review will be posted on October 18, 2022.