CHILDREN YOU HAVE IT
Five Juveniles In Two Successful Films
From IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Herald Film Critic
It must be Baby Week. In only two shows I have seen five school-age children— and Shirley Temple was not one—who sing, croon, dance and act in no sub-adult way. In fact, their ways were very much their own, individual and pitched high, among the standards that their elders approach only on tip-toe.
Deanna Durbin, the eldest of the bunch, but she is only fifteen, is one of those apparently lucky people who do everything effortlessly. She looks lovely at an age when most of our parents' highest ambitions for our appearances were that they should be wholesomely tidy. She moves with light ease, when we, if we stirred at all quickly, knocked chairs and tables over in our clumsiness. She sings with all the power and surety of a voice long trained, and with, what is rarer, all the understanding of one who has lived and thought into a certain maturity. And this so easily, so effortlessly as though she just can't help herself singing La Traviata out of sheer good spirits.
Pounds More Elaborate In her latest film, 100 Men and a Girl (Leicester Square), she is allowed to enjoy herself as wildly as she likes. In spirit, this production much resembles Three Smart Girls, but it has inevitably got several thousands of pounds more elaborate.
Its story is naïve to match its star, and turns around the mad theory of a down and out musician's daughter who organises an unemployed men's orchestra—and gets it on Broadway, conducted by Leopold Stok owski. Deanna, the daughter, manages this mainly by audacity, some part by sheer calculation, lots by being such an irresistible little girl, and not a little by an absurd curly feather in her beret.
Adolphe Menjou comes into this picture as Deanna's father. For once he plays the the simple man of the people instead of the highly polished villain in correct tails, and 1 re-discovered him as an actor.
But after Deanna herself, I remember with most excitement her voice. more happy than anything I ever heard on the screen laughing Mozart's Alleluia up and down the scale, and then 1 remember S'tokowski's violent hands shaking staccato, or drawing gentle music out of his magnificent orchestra. After his hands I remember the lean figure of the man standing stiff to his work, and the woolly white hair upstanding too, as though at attention out of respect for the brain it protects.
Juvenilia The break between 100 Men and a Girl and Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (Empire) is pretty deep. It has to be crossed to get to the rest of the juveniles that are outstripping some of their elders in this film business. But while Deanna Durbin produces grown up material (minus the usual love interest, thank goodness), Judy Garland and Ronald Sinclair make a juvenile film and spoil all the fun by suggesting boy and girl romance.
Forgetting this little descent into the film world's greed—everything must be got into every picture and even twelve-year-olds must toe that love-interest line—Thoroughbreds Don't Cry is still jolly good Christmas holiday entertainment for the backfrom schools.
Spelling's Not Everything
Mickey Rooney, brilliantly cast as a jockey with a wise cracking script and a recordbreaking professional reputation, is the tough little chap whom every schoolboy longs to emulate. He knows everything about stables, but can't spell and thinks algebra is the kind of horse that has stripes all over his back. So consoling to those whose school reports have proved not quite so successful with the Pater.
Ronald Sinclair, in spite of much Oxford accent, a tutor, a country estate, also has no knowledge of algebra, loves horses, can give a black-eye to tough little jockeys, and eventually has no money—these last qualities save him for popularity. But he does, not entirely win his spurs of general syrnpathy until that last reel when he rides in a race of his own.—Little Lord Fauntleroy would never have done this. So is Ronald Sinclair preserved by a hair's breath from Fauntleroyism.
Judy Garland is, I feel sure, a typical American little girl who thinks a lot of " uplift," and practices a lot of crooning, and has ambitions for the stage. She is far too fat for elegance. can sing below her tonsils, has plenty of character, but would make Deanna Durbin look high brow.
There are several adults about the picture which the children play around with from time to time. C. Aubrey Smith is the most charming of them and Sophie Tucker the best entertainment value—but its still the children who haw it.