Cast and Crew: Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. (Directors, Producers); Romeo Muller (Adaptation); Maury Laws (Music); Otto Preminger, Paul Frees, Thurl Ravenscroft
What It’s About: Gandalf the Grey (John Huston) talks hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Orson Bean) into accompanying a party of dwarves as their “lucky number” and burglar on a quest to recover the treasure that is the birthright of Thorin (Hans Conreid). Along the way Bilbo will face trolls, spiders, goblins, elves, the demented Gollum (Brother Theodore) and Smaug (Richard Boone), the dragon who guards the treasure.
Why Watch it Today?: Author JRR Tolkien was born today in 1892. Tolkien’s stories set in Middle Earth began with The Hobbit, much more of a children’s book than his later Lord of the Rings novels. The first installment of Peter Jackson’s films based on the tale is due in December, but a fun adaptation already exists: this 1977 TV movie from Rankin Bass, better known for their stop motion animated holiday specials. While its origins as a made-for-TV movie show in the limited violence (deaths in battle represented by figures spinning or flashing and disappearing) and obvious ad breaks, The Hobbit is an enjoyable adaptation of Tolkien’s book.
Where to Get It: Rent it at Netflix
No trailer or TV spot, but here is the first part of the film on YouTube:
Other Choices: Today is also Ray Milland’s birthday. Last year we highlighted one of my personal favorites, The Big Clock, but you could go with any number of excellent movies starring Milland, who was blessed with a long career, with films ranging from late-period goofiness like The Thing with Two Heads to Oscar winning classics like The Lost Weekend.