Cinema: Peewee's Progress

  • Share
  • Read Later

(See front cover)

Shirley Temple was cinema's No. 1 box-office attraction for 1935. She receives 3,500 letters and $10,000 in an average week. She is, outside of the 100,000 feet of screen film on which she appears every year, the world's most photographed person. Last week in Los Angeles, Shirley Temple was getting ready for her seventh birthday. All over the U. S. cinemaddicts packed theatres to see her first release of 1936 and the first picture she has made since the reorganization of the $54,000,000 company in which she is the most valuable single asset.

Captain January (Twentieth Century-Fox) is the story of a poor little foundling (Shirley Temple) washed up on the New England shore and adopted by a kindly lighthouse keeper (Guy Kibbee). Approaching her seventh birthday, the foundling is an extraordinary child. When she wakes she yodels a little song called Early Bird. When she visits the general store to buy brass polish, she pauses for a tap dance in the company of a proficient young villager (Buddy Ebsen). By this maneuver, she unhappily attracts the attention of the new & nasty truant officer (Sara Haden), and the plot begins to thicken. On the grounds that little Star is being carelessly reared, the truant officer will try to take her away from her kindly Captain January, put her in an institution.

First brush between Captain January and the truant officer occurs when Star is haled to the village school to take an examination. Here, while Captain January and his friend Nazro (Slim Summerville) stand on a rain barrel and peer through the schoolhouse window, Star distinguishes herself. She makes the young nephew of the truant officer, being questioned simultaneously, appear doltish by comparison, gains credentials for the third grade. As lighthouse inspector, Captain Nazro has the sad duty of telling Captain January that, because his light is being mechanized, he must join the unemployed. This means that poor little Star is likely to be turned out doors.

The truant officer busily seizes the occasion for renewed efforts to send Star to an asylum. Captain Nazro cleverly remembers that when Star was washed ashore a photograph album was rescued also, containing portraits of her kin. He writes to them. They appear. Kindly folk, they take Star to live with them in Boston. When she pines for Captain January, they charter a small yacht on which he is captain, Nazro first mate and the tap-dancing villager, the crew.

Adapted from an 1890 best seller by Laura Elizabeth Richards, directed by David Butler, Captain January belongs to a special class of cinema. Neither epic, romance nor extravaganza, it is designed solely as its star's vehicle. The screen play by Sam Hellman, Gladys Lehman and Harry Tugend is pleasantly salty and the supporting players comport themselves as expertly as usual. As an item of entertainment, however, the value of Captain January depends entirely upon the fact that Shirley Temple appears in almost every sequence, grinning, sobbing, dancing, singing, wriggling, pattering down stairs or spitting on her pinafore, as the scenario requires.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6