Where the Red Fern Grows (1974 film)

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Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the red fern grows 1974.jpg
Directed byNorman Tokar
Produced byLyman Dayton
Written byDouglas C. Stewart
Eleanor Lamb
Based onNovel by Wilson Rawls
StarringJames Whitmore
Beverly Garland
Stewart Petersen
Jack Ging
Narrated byWilson Rawls
Music byLex de Azevedo
CinematographyDean Cundey
Doty-Dayton Productions
Distributed byCrown International Pictures
Release date
June 21, 1974
Running time
97 mins.
CountryUnited States

Where the Red Fern Grows is a 1974 film directed by Norman Tokar and starring James Whitmore, Beverly Garland, Stewart Petersen and Jack Ging. It is based on the 1961 novel of the same name.[1][2][3]


Twelve-year-old Billy Colman is obsessed with coon dogs and coon hunting, but good dogs cost money that his family cannot afford. However, he sees several good dogs belonging to others, including a man named Mr. Kyle. One day Billy's father mentions that there's a Bluetick pup for sale at his grandpa's store. Billy runs to see it, only to have the Pritchard boys talk their father into buying it just to spite Billy. Billy's grandpa tells him that if he wants dogs he has to earn them. He begins working multiple jobs and finally earns the fifty dollars two puppies will cost. By that time, the price has dropped by five dollars each. Billy orders the dogs, but they arrive in Tahlequah, 30 miles away, because the mail stage won't carry live animals. Billy sneaks out of the house in the night and travels to Tahlequah. He uses his leftover ten dollars to buy presents for his family; overalls for Papa, dress cloth for Mama and candy for his younger sisters. Billy picks up the pups at the depot and carries them home in a gunny sack. He has to stop overnight and encounters a cougar which snarls at him until he makes a fire to scare it off.

The next day Billy passes a tree with the names Dan and Ann carved inside a heart on the trunk. He names the female puppy Little Ann and the male Old Dan. Once Billy gets the puppies home he sets out to train them to be the best dogs in the Ozarks, using a coonskin to teach them to scent trail. On the night of Billy's first hunt, the dogs go after a coon almost immediately but the coon foils them by crossing the river. Billy catches up with the dogs and tells them he is ashamed of them. He forces them to swim the river and pick up the track on the other bank. The dogs tree the coon up an enormous tree, and Billy starts trying to chop it down with his small hatchet even though it seems impossible. Finally he calls on God to help him and a strong wind blows the tree over. Billy's dogs become famous in that part of the country. One day, he runs into the Pritchard boys again down at Grandpa's store. They tell him about a ghost coon that runs on their land and which no dog has ever been able to tree. They then antagonize Billy until he bets them that Dan and Ann can tree the ghost coon. On the hunt, Dan and Ann tree the coon in an old mill. Billy refuses to kill it, saying it deserves to live because it fooled every dog in the country. He and the Pritchards get into a fight. At the same time, the Pritchard dog, Old Blue, gets loose and begins fighting Dan and Ann. Ruben Pritchard pulls Billy's hatchet out of his belt and runs toward the dogs. Billy trips him, and Ruben falls on the hatchet and dies. After Ruben's funeral, Billy tells his family he is never going hunting again. A few days later, Grandpa invites the whole family over to Sunday dinner. At the dinner, he tells them about a championship coonhunt that will be held soon and convinces Billy to enter. At the coonhunt, Billy wins the right to hunt in the championship round, along with two other hunters, one of whom is Mr. Kyle and his pair of Treeing Walker Coonhounds.

On the final night of the coonhunt, a blizzard blows up. Dan and Ann tree one coon and are on the way to another one when Grandpa trips and sprains his ankle. Nobody notices as they chase after the dogs. Dan and Ann have three raccoons up a single tree. Just then, Billy notices that Grandpa is missing. He calls the dogs off the coons, even though Papa tells him it's impossible, and sends them to find Grandpa and they succeed. The next day is the awards ceremony. Mr. Kyle is given the prize, but he gives it to Billy instead, saying that he earned it but not to get too cocky because he and his Walkers were going to whip Billy and his Redbones next year. Not long after the championship hunt, Billy is out hunting with Dan and Ann when they start barking up a cliff. A mountain lion jumps off and the dogs attack him before he can get to Billy. During the fight, Billy manages to get out his hatchet and kill the lion, but not before it mortally injures Old Dan. Billy carries Dan home but he dies. They bury him down by the river. After Dan's death, Little Ann loses the will to live and dies on his grave a couple of weeks later. Billy buries her beside him. Billy's parents decide to use the prize money from the coonhunt to move the whole family to Tulsa to operate a store. On the day they are leaving, Billy walks down by the river to Dan and Ann's graves. A red fern, which according to American Indian legend can only be planted by an angel, is growing between the two and Billy calls the family down to see it. Seeing the red fern satisfies Billy that what happened is for the best and he goes to Tulsa with his family.



The film was produced by Lyman Dayton and filmed on location in Oklahoma,[4][5] including at the waterfall in what is now Natural Falls State Park.


Where the Red Fern Grows received generally positive reviews.[6][4][5] The Nevada Daily Mail called the film "quite simply a wonderful story".[7]


In 1992, a sequel entitled Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two (alternately titled Where the Red Fern Grows 2: The Homecoming) was released by McCullough Family Media, Inc. and Red Fern II Ltd. In it, Billy returns home as a veteran from World War II, bitter and sad at having lost a leg. His ailing grandfather gives him two new puppies which he is reluctant to accept, but his sister Sarah convinces him to do so. Later, he befriends a neighbor boy named Wilson. The film starred Wilford Brimley, Doug McKeon, Chad McQueen and Lisa Whelchel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Where the Red Fern Grows". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2013-01-18.
  2. ^ "Where the Red Fern Grows". TV Guide.
  3. ^ "Where the Red Fern Grows - Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards - AllMovie". Allrovi.com. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
  4. ^ a b "The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
  5. ^ a b "The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  6. ^ "The Times-News - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  7. ^ "The Nevada Daily Mail - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.

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