My Side of the Mountain (film)

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My Side of the Mountain
My Side of the Mountain Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James B. Clark
Produced by Robert B. Radnitz
Written by Joanna Crawford
Jean Craighead George (novel)
Jane Klove
Ted Sherdeman
Starring Ted Eccles
Theodore Bikel
Tudi Wiggins
Music by Wilfred Josephs
Cinematography Denys N. Coops
Edited by Alastair McIntyre
Peter Thornton
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 1969 (1969)
Running time 100 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Box office $2 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

My Side of the Mountain is a 1969 film adaption of the 1959 novel of the same name, by Jean Craighead George. It was directed by James B. Clark.


The story revolves around twelve-year old Sam Gribley (Teddy Eccles), a devotee of Thoreau (as many were back in the 1960s[2][3]). Sam decides to leave Toronto to spend time alone in the Canadian woods to see if he can make it as a self-sufficient spirit after his parents promise a summer trip that doesn't pan out.

His immediate companion is his pet raccoon, Gus, which lives with him in the city. He gathers supplies at a local store and leaves his family behind, hops on a bus and heads down the 401 with Gus to what he calls "the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec". In actuality he ends up in the picturesque town of Knowlton, Quebec, SE of Montreal, in the Notre Dame Mountains Range of the Appalachians. Here he finds the perfect mountain stream and pond location to build a home in an old dead tree. He begins his long-planned algae experiments, and proves his ability as a solitary, young Thoreau living off the land and communing fully with nature.

Sam wants badly not to have to feel needful of the urban and modern world, however after he sees a falcon flying overhead he wants to learn more about falconry. This required a journey back into Knowlton and to the local library, where he comes into contact with the librarian and bird-enthusiast Miss Turner (Tudi Wiggins), who supplies Sam with books on falconry. Sam locates a nest of a local falcon and steals one of the baby falcons to raise and train as his own. The mother falcon attempts to stop him, but Sam succeeds. The young falcon, whom Sam names Frightful, becomes Sam's new best friend and food supplier after he teaches it to hunt.

One day, returning to his tree home, he finds a stranger there. The older man, Bando (Theodore Bikel), is a wandering folk singer who travels the world in search of new folk songs and traditions. He also knows a trick-or-two about survival. The two share ideas and know-how with one another and enlighten each other's worlds. They also enjoy each other's pancake recipes (Sam makes acorn pancakes and Bando makes great syrup). Bando becomes Sam's best friend and mentor.

Eventually, after the pair bond over the summer and September's cold air sets in, Bando lets Sam know that it is his time to leave before winter approaches. Though Sam once seemed contented in his solitude, it is obvious that he, too, needs people in his life. After climbing the nearby mountain together Bando says his good-byes and the reality of Sam's own loneliness begins to set in.

Another of Sam's kindred spirits, Frightful, is killed by an insensitive hunter. Sam is devastated, but still manages to survive as winter sets in. His bright demeanor returns as he witnesses the local fauna playing in the winter snow. He also has the warmth of his tree home in place after building a makeshift chimney out of clay from his pond.

The final chapter takes place as Sam and Gus sleep by the fire as a terrible blizzard sweeps in. Soon their wooden home is blanketed in snow and without air the two will suffocate in the smoke-filled chamber. Panic-stricken, Sam begins to dig his way through the snowed-in doorway to the outside air. Luckily, Bando and Miss Turner have decided to visit him since it is Christmas Day. While digging his way out, he hears Bando's familiar voice through the snow drift and starts digging faster until finally both see each other's smiling faces. The four have a mini-Christmas celebration and Sam, Bando, and Miss Turner sing "Good King Wenceslas" over Bando's guitar playing.

Bando shows Sam newspaper clippings that detail his parents' concern over their missing son. Sam decides that he should go home, as he knows that he accomplished all that he set out to do and more. Sam says good-bye to his home and pond and the four head off around the side of the mountain.



The movie was filmed on location in Knowlton, Quebec, in the Green Mountains of Quebec, Canada, and Toronto.

Bikel said in his autobiography, Theo, "What was unusual about this production (My Side of the Mountain) was that they asked me not only to sing and play, but to write the songs as well. With the exception of one French-Canadian tune, 'Un Canadien Errant,' for which I wrote the English lyrics, for all the others I wrote the words and music."[4]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  2. ^ Koslow, Francine Amy (1984). Henry David Thoreau as a Source for Artistic Inspiration: DeCordova and Dana Museum and Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts, June 6-September 9, 1984. U of Massachusetts P. p. 13. ISBN 9780870234828. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Tichi, Cecelia (2000). "Domesticity on Walden Pond". In William E. Cain. A Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau. Oxford UP. pp. 95–122. ISBN 9780195138634. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Theodore Bikel, Theo. Harper Collins, 1995, page 308.

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