Like so many classic and best-selling books, Where the Red Fern Grows almost never saw the light of day. Wilson Rawls’s wife encouraged him to let her help with his woeful spelling and grammar, finally getting the book published—first serialized, then as a children’s novel in 1961.
The story follows the adventures of Billy Coleman (Stewart Petersen) as he works hard for a pair of Redbone Coonhound puppies he can raise and train himself into great coon dogs. His perseverance is at last rewarded with two adorable red pups he calls Old Dan and Little Ann.
One of the very few movies with hounds in major starring roles, Where the Red Fern Grows beautifully captures the spirit and character of these dogs. The adult Dan and Ann were played by Redbone Coonhounds named Rowdy and, ironically, Blue. Trained by Harold Packer, George Kerr, and Gerry Warshauer, who apprenticed with Frank Inn (of Benji fame), the two hounds did promotional touring at schools and theaters when the film was released in 1974. They were such huge hits with the crowds, Kerr later said they “almost had all the hair petted off them.”1
Produced by Doty-Dayton Production