Films: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

We had an emergency with my dog tonight (she’s fine, but scared us with a bleeding paw–apparently she found the last chip of glass in the kitchen from a broken jar of jam) so tonight I’m doing just a short little piece, Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”


The story: Awkward schoolmaster Ichabod Crane comes to the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, where he falls for Katrina, the prettiest girl in town. Her other suitor, Brom, tells Ichabod the local legend of the Headless Horseman and the nearby covered bridge. But it’s only a story, right? Ichabod discovers, maybe not on Halloween night…

Continuing on the nostalgia trip, this is another film that was part of my childhood. I’ve only ever seen it on TV, of course, but it must have been incredibly effective to a 1949 audience (1949! Doesn’t it seem more modern than that?) on a big screen.

It’s hard to be objective about something from my childhood. Even harder, I find, to look at it as its own story and not add the layers given by the Tim Burton movie and the TV series. (Pity the TV series was only one season, la la la…)

When you get down to it, it’s really the story of newcomer being scared off by someone he never really was a threat to. Brom is kind of a bully, scaring Ichabod so badly he disappears (or runs off to marry a wealthy widow. It’s as ambiguous as a cartoon can get.) But at the very least, the film, and the story, has given us an iconic visual. Even if you’ve never seen any version of Sleepy Hollow, you know the Headless Horseman when you see him. Even without a horse.

Is it scary? Only to the most nervous of dispositions. It’s cute and nostalgic, and the animation is charming. Plus, Bing Crosby singing.

Speaking of Halloween music: other families would play spooky sounds or “Monster Mash” when trick-or-treaters came around, but our Halloween song was always “The Night on Bald Mountain.” You rarely see this short in full anymore; I’d forgotten that it ends with the demon being defeated, or at least driven back into the mountain, by church bells and the rising sun.

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