Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960)

Toby Tyler PosterToby is just a little kid who doesn’t ask for much. He’s poor and lives with relatives who hate him, but he is super-stoked when the circus rolls in to town. And this isn’t some newfangled circus that hands out coupons at the local grocery store. This is a full-blown, traveling circus that comes right up Main Street, U.S.A. in all its brightly colored glory. In short, exactly the sort of kick ass circus any brat with a cruddy home life would run away with.

Too poor to actually see the circus, Toby (Johnny Shiloh‘s Kevin Corcoran) hangs around outside the tent soaking up the atmosphere when he’s befriended by the guy selling peanuts, candied apples, and lemonade. Harry Tupper is a smooth talker and offers Toby a job being his assistant.

Toby wishes he could go, but he has an old jerk uncle to go home to, so he declines. Harry gives him a free pass to the circus for that evening’s performance and wishes him luck.

When Toby gets home, his uncle lays into him for hanging out with the circus instead of feeding the hogs. He tears up Toby’s free pass and tells him that he’s not his real son!

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Just so Toby doesn’t miss his point, the uncle calls Toby a “millstone” around their neck and then sends him to bed without supper. You can practically hear Harry Tupper rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation.

Toby turns up at the circus, prepared to run away to vend peanuts. Life at the circus though isn’t all cotton candy and limber trapeze girls as Tupper soon reveals himself as a slimy dingus who tries to cheat Toby, yells at him, and even steals his mail!

Toby meets a varied cast of characters during his time at the circus. There’s Ben, the over-sized gruff, but lovable chap in charge of the monkeys. He spends most of his time alternately complaining about having to look after a little runaway and protecting Toby from Tupper’s unscrupulous ways.

There’s Sam, the clown who dispenses wisdom about circus life (save your money, never agree to play stinkyfinger with Tupper, etc.).

There’s also two other little kids who do trick-riding on the horses – Jeanette and Ajax. Jeanette likes Toby, but Ajax is a self-centered brat. The viewer will no doubt laugh when he breaks his leg showing off on a horse forcing Toby to step up and save the show by learning to be a expert trick rider in two weeks.

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And then there’s Mr. Stubbs. Mr. Stubbs is the chimp that Toby ends up palling around with though as is the case with most of these boy-chimp relationships, things start off a little rocky.

See, Mr. Stubbs is one of those chimps that runs around in bib overalls, squawking and stealing stuff. He steals food, he steals money, and he even steals Toby’s mail back from Tupper!

Stubbs is worth the price of admission just by himself and somehow he ends up with all the dramatic scenes. There’s the time he eats too much and almost croaks. There’s that time that he escapes from Toby, breaks into the county jail, steals a gun and starts shooting at everyone. This is by far the greatest scene in any Disney movie as young Toby has to come in and talk Mr. Stubbs down from doing anything stupid.

Then there’s the time that Stubbs goes and gets himself shot by a hunter who has somehow mistaken the Osh-Kosh wearing little fella for a bobcat or something. Oh Mr Stubbs! Why? You were just realizing how valuable life was!

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As entertaining as the majority of this one was, I found the ending of the movie to be less than genuine, chiefly because of the sudden change that the uncle apparently underwent. Those letters that Tupper was hiding from Toby were from his aunt and uncle and it turns out that they want him to come home because the uncle is having problems doing all the work by himself. Well, too bad, jackass! You should have thought of that before you went and scarred Toby for life with your heartless blather!

Toby is young though and his heart still hasn’t shriveled all up from a lifetime of rejection so he decides to run away from the circus. Huh? Who ever has run away from a circus?

Tupper brings Toby back to the circus, his aunt and uncle are there and his uncle is real sorry about how he treated Toby. Toby is glad to see them and triumphantly performs in front of the family that up until a week ago thought he was nothing but a burden.

The ending notwithstanding, the ninety-plus minutes of this movie flew by in a blur of circus antics, colorful characters and solid work by performers like Corcoran.

This is classic wish-fulfillment stuff here. I defy anyone to watch Toby ride away on the circus wagon in the middle of the night, all the problems in his life left behind him, and not think how it was when you were a kid when anything seemed possible as long as you were willing to take a chance.

A fun diversion full of the magic of the old-time circus and the exuberant adventure of childhood. What Top Gun did for military recruitment, Toby Tyler does for running away with the circus.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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