The Journey of Natty Gann

The Journey of Natty Gann

Promotional poster
Directed by Jeremy Kagan
Produced by Michael Lobell
Written by Andrew Bergman
Jeanne Rosenberg
Music by James Horner
Elmer Bernstein
(uncredited score
Cinematography Dick Bush
Edited by David Holden
Steven Rosenblum
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
  • September 27, 1985 (1985-09-27)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $9.7 million (U.S. and Canada only)[1]

The Journey of Natty Gann is a 1985 American film directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and released by Buena Vista Distribution.[2][3] The film introduced Meredith Salenger and also starred John Cusack, Lainie Kazan and Ray Wise.


Set in 1935, the movie tells the story of a 15-year-old tomboy girl, Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger). Out of work because of Depression-era unemployment, Natty's widowed father (Ray Wise) parlays his surefootedness into getting a job as a lumberjack. In order to get hired, he travels from Chicago to the state of Washington. He tells Natty that she will have to look after herself for the time being. Having no mother, Natty is left in the care of Connie (Lainie Kazan), the insensitive woman who manages the hotel Natty and her father had been living in.

After overhearing Connie reporting her as an abandoned child, Natty runs away to find her father on her own, embarking on a cross-country journey. Along the way she saves a wolfdog from a dog fighting ring. In return the dog, whom she calls Wolf, follows her as her protector in her attempt to return to her Father. She has a brief, innocent romance with another young traveler (John Cusack), and encounters various obstacles that test her courage, perseverance, and ingenuity, such as being falsely accused of cattle rustling and remanded to a juvenile facility. Natty escapes the detention center and is aided by a mountain man, who spirits her out of the area and gives her some money.

Connie tells Natty's father on the phone that she ran away, causing him to worry. He becomes grief-stricken when he learns that Natty's wallet was found underneath a derailed train - unbeknownst to him, she lived through the crash when she stowed away on it during part of her journey. He leaves the lumber company to search through the wreckage for her, to no avail. He returns to the lumber camp and accepts the most dangerous jobs, known as "widow's work" on the basis that his daughter has died and he should throw himself into his work.

Locating her father's company's base-camp, Natty eventually finds and reunites with her father in a heartwarming embrace on a mountain road. Afterwards, she lets Wolf go to answer the call of the other wolves that are free.



One of the filmings on the BC Rail, known as the British Columbia Railway formerly the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE) before 1972, between Pemberton & Lillooet is ranked as one of the top 10 most-scenic rail journeys in the world.[4]

Home media

The film has been released in the United States on VHS as well as DVD. The DVD version was released using the pan and scan format.[5][6] The title was also made available for streaming and download in SD and HD versions (without pan and scan).[7][8]


The movie has gained universally positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 100%, based on 14 reviews, with a rating average of 7/10.[9] Critics praised the actors' performances and the film's portrayal of Depression-era life, while lamenting its pace and level of sentimentality.[10][11][12]


At the Young Artist Awards, Salenger won for Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film, and the film itself was nominated for Best Family Motion Picture (Drama).[13] Albert Wolsky's costume design received an Academy Award nomination.[14]


Elmer Bernstein originally scored the picture, having to rewrite much of his material in the process; ultimately most of his music was replaced with a new score by James Horner.[15] Both scores were released on compact disc – Bernstein's in 2008 as part of a four-disc set of rejected scores by Varese Sarabande (also including Gangs Of New York and The Scarlet Letter) and Horner's in 2009 by Intrada Records.


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