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A TRIBUTE TO THE GROUND-BREAKING FILMS OF THE 20'S
Hello, fellow movie buffs. This page is our tribute to the ground-breaking work of film makers of the 1920's and 1930's. We will offer our views and reviews of selected films from those eras, and at the same time give you the opportunity to tell us what you think. Take a second to check out our links section.
We are graduate students just about ready to be unleashed upon the world. Since we are in our final year, we have some time to kill. We figured it would be fun to give this home page a try.
First, it should be emphasized that we are aiming for quality, rather than quantity. For any given week, we may review no more than one or two movies, but we will try to make each review as detailed and informative as possible. In addition to our discussion of a particular film's content, we will try to provide our readers with a list of credits, hypertext links to other databases, and some background information about stars, directors, production, etc., where possible. Each of us will give his own review and separately rate the movie, using one to five film clip icons. The rating system will be as follows:
Completely lacking in merit -- bad acting, writing, cinematography, etc.
Poor. One or two redeeming qualities, but inferior overall.
Average. Not outstanding in most respects, but worth a viewing.
Good. Solid acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Superior in many respects.
Excellent. A true classic. Superior acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Few, if any, flaws.
IN HISTORY (1935)
In 1935, America Was mired in the greatest economic malaise of its still relatively short history. The United States Supreme Court had struck down most of Roosevelt's First New Deal, and things were getting worse. Undaunted, Roosevelt pushed harder. By the end of 1935, the United States Congress had passed, perhaps, the most expansive piece of America has ever seen. The result was the formation of the Social Security system, unemployment insurance, and rudimentary welfare for those in need.
Big Band jazz was very popular. Names such as Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, and the Queen of all American singers, Ella Fitzgerald were at the top of the business. Louis Armstrong was on his way to becoming an American musical icon. One could honestly say that musically, the United States was in a truly Golden Era.
At the movies, Fred Astaire was dancing his way into cinematic history with the release of Roberta and Top Hat; film legend Greta Garbo starred in Anna Karenina; and a little girl named Shirley Temple was tapping her way into Americans' hearts. 1935 saw the release of The Littlest Rebel, our featured film.
Shirley Temple . . .Virgie Carey..................... ................Studio . . . . Twentieth Centurty Fox
John Boles. . . Captain Herbert Cary..............................Director . . . . David Butler
Jack Holt. . . . Colonel Morrison.............. .....................Written by Edwin J. Burke and
Karen Morely. . . .Mrs. Cary........... ....................................... .......Edward Peple
Bill Robinson. . . .Uncle Billy...........................................Music by Cyril J.Mockridge
Guin Williams. . . . Sergeant Dudley................................Cinematography by John F. Seitz
Frank McGlynn. . . . President Abraham Lincoln.............Edited by Irene Morra
Bessie Lyle. . . . Mammy
Hanna Washington. . . . Sally Ann
Willie Best. . . . . John Henry
......................................................Running Time: 70minutes.
What do a cute smile, a pouted lip, a smile, and golden locks get you in Hollywood? Not a whole lot---unless your name is Shirley Temple. Some would suggest that the superficial made Shirley a Hollywood legend. There is some truth in that but not much. It is true enough that Shirley wasn't a great actress, but nobody can seriously question her talents. She was an excellent dancer, a pretty good singer, and she had a commanding stage presence. Some of today's biggest Hollywood stars should be so luck y to have such a combination of talents. Shirley put these talents to good use in The Littlest Rebel.
The Littlest Rebel is the story of how the loveable six year old Virgie Carey (Temple) attempts to rescue her father, Captain Carey (Boles) from the executioner's reach. Captain Carey is a Confederate scout who loses his wife during the war. Realizing that Virgie needs to be in a steady home environment, he decides the best thing to do would be to take Virgie to Richmond to stay with her Aunt. However, Captain Carey is discovered by Union Colonel Morrison (Holt). Feeling sorry for the Carey's Morrison gives Carey a pass and tells him where he can find a Union uniform so t hat he can get the little Virgie to Richmond. There is only one problem, if Captain Carey is caught (and he is) he will be charged as a spy (and he is), and Morrison will be charged as an accomplice (and he is). Both men are tried and sentenced to death. This leaves Virgie with the only choice of pleading directly to President Lincoln for a pardon. Seem a little far-fetched? Remember, this IS a Shirley Temple film.
The biggest problem with The Littlest Rebel is that it really is a lot of fluff-not all fluff, just a lot of it. The story is predictable, and not a whole lot happens along the lines of plot or character development. On more than one occasion, one gets the feeling that this really is just a big set up for Shirley to sing and dance, but remember, this IS a Shirley Temple film. In any event, don't expect to discover why people fight or hate others. Although, there are a few lines which will make you think about these on your own.
I would like to single two individuals out who make this film definitely worth watching. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who plays Uncle Billy, the Carey's house slave, and Willie best, wh plays John Henry, a slow not really stupid slave. But for the unfortunate history of blacks in films, these two could have been true Hollywood legends. Bill Robinson's dancing may have been superior to that of Astaire's, and Willie Best could probably out "Jerry Lewis" Jerry Lewis. The timing between the straight man Robinson and the Best is precious. I would recommend this film simply because of these two actors.
As I have said earlier, this is a Shirley Temple film, which would normally mean that this is a family film, and The Littlest Rebel is that. However, too often these days "family films" mean that the parents can sit the child in front of the television and let it do all of the work while the parents undertake other pursuits. I would STRONGLY recommend that parents watch this film with their children and have an open and honest discussion about why the black characters are treated differently from the white characters. If parents don't know themselves, here is an idea, pick up a history book and look under the heading "Civil War, the" or "Slavery." In any event, children, especially young children, who are left on their own with this film may be confused or get the wrong idea altogether. Don't let this little warning scare you, just take some time to discover it with your children.
Overall, I liked the film. However, one must realize that this really is just a "movie" and not true "cinema," and there is nothing wrong with that; just don't expect art, but remember, this IS a Shirley Temple film. My rating:
Beau Geste (1939), The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), Destry Rides Again (1939)
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