Jungle Book (Korda; United Artists) is a bold attempt by the epic-minded Brothers Korda (Producer Alexander and Director Zoltan) to make Kipling's beloved animal fable of Mowgli, the Hindu boy who was raised by jungle wolves, into a movie. It can't be done. The myth-destroying movie camera produces a laborious, sometimes silly tale, saved from disgrace only by some of the best Techni-colored animal photography extant.
Star of the beast epic is Shere Khan (real name: Roger), a magnificent half-Bengal, half-Sumatran tiger who is out to get Mowgli (Sabu, the young Hindu who starred in Elephant Boy). The ominous supporting cast includes some 2,000 animals, birds and reptilesnotably a slinky black panther (Bagheera) with a sinister propensity for sharpening his lethal claws on tree limbs, an enormous python (Kaa, who had to be controlled with a blow torch), and a very unpleasant cobra.
When the animals are talking their own language and roaming their improvised jungle near Los Angeles, Jungle Book is as absorbing as a behind-the-scenes trip to the zoo. But when they converse in Kipling's English, the result is painful. The python sounds like Lionel Barrymore; the cobra, who is very long winded, like a wheezy crackerbox philosopher; a tough monkey like a Tammany ward heeler.
Sabu, who returns to his native village and his true mother after his wolfish education is ended, learns how to run with the man pack in no time at all. Buldeo (Joseph Calleia), the hunter, sells him a "tooth" (a long-bladed knife), and he polishes off Shere Khan. But the hunter's lust for the treasure of a lost jungle city which Mowgli reveals to him sends the disgusted wolf-boy back to his animal friends-and leaves the door wide open for a sequel, if the box office warrants it.
Unintentionally hilarious scene: Mowgli enters the hunter's home to buy his "tooth" and discovers a host of his jungle palsstuffed. Pointing to a fine bear (now a rug) with whom he used to fish, he asks in astonishment: "What happened to him?" "My father shot it," replies the hunter's daughter. Says the wolf-boy: "We missed him six moons ago. He was Baloo's cousin."
The Courtship of Andy Hardy (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) is the twelfthbut not the lastof the Hardy pictures. Like an oldtime serial, the series, which has become M.G.M.'s biggest moneymaker, threatens to go on" forever. As a chronicle of the homey, down-to-middling-good-earth doings of a triumphantly ordinary family in a triumphantly ordinary U.S. town, it is a natural for U.S. moviegoers.
Star of the serial is brassbound Mickey Rooney. In Courtship, Mickey is a big boy now, working, paying for his board, enjoying his father's (Lewis Stone's) adult confidence. Somewhat subdued, Mickey acts his age, cuts his mugging and scene swiping to a pardonable minimum.
His good deed is to rehabilitate a pretty stay-at-home (Donna Reed) who is letting her divorced parents ruin her life. He teaches her how to attract boys, gets her a boy friend, and departs, wondering why he didn't fall in love with her himself. The fact that he didn't will be recognized by all Hardyites as the passage of another milestone in Andrew Hardy's career.