Marathon Pictures is stuck with Billy Doran, Whiz Quiz radio show star but a flop in Hollywood. Ex-child star Tiny Barlow suggests that the studio remake "Skippy", the film that made him ...
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Young boy Bill Peck adores his father and tries to be good, but the arrival of Bill's cousin Horace upsets Bill's plans. Horace's brattish ways result in Bill rather than Horace getting in ... See full summary »
Edward F. Cline
Marathon Pictures is stuck with Billy Doran, Whiz Quiz radio show star but a flop in Hollywood. Ex-child star Tiny Barlow suggests that the studio remake "Skippy", the film that made him famous, with himself as coach for little Billy. A. J. Colder, Marathon's Mighty Mogul, agrees. Joan Winslow, a contract player who has never had a part, is picked to replace balky Brenda Lee in Marathon's monster musical of the year. Tiny poses as a big shot and takes credit for getting Joan the role. They are soon seen everywhere together as Tiny is taking advantage of her publicity build-up for his own gain, until he suddenly finds out he is in love with her and confesses his duplicity. This occurs when Colder has forbid Joan to see Tiny anymore, directing her to only be seen with important people who can help her career, and Tiny thinks it is because she has dumped him. He enters into a conspiracy with Brenda's agent, Mickey Fadden, to make Brenda give up her strike and accept the role Colder gave ...Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Jackie Cooper was 19 when he made this picture, where he plays a character his same age, Tiny Barlow, no longer the glamour child star that ten years before won the audience´s hearts playing Skippy (a real Jackie Cooper success); not even the youngster who had a though rival in Melvyn Douglas for Deanna Durbin´s affections in That Certain Age (1938). He is now a grown-up boy capable still (or will it not be so?) to offer a good performance.
When the story begins his character works as a soda barman and is mockingly referred to as "Glamour Boy" by one of the teenage players. He wants to come back to the movie business, but "in a big way". And he finally gets his chance, not in front of a camera but as a coach for child actor Billy Doran (Darryl Hickman), who at Tiny´s own suggestion is going to play a new version of Skippy. Billy is all but a simple child, yet both boys go on very well since their first meeting and so Tiny is in again. William Demarest as daddy Doran continuously clashes with his highly intellectual son, Walter Abel is the studio boss bound to intermittent lullaby singing, and Edith Meisner the efficient and sceptical secretary.
The problems start when Tiny meets the lovely aspiring actress and singer Joan Winslow, who will also get her chance as a result of the insubordination of the studio´s teen female star, Brenda Lee (Ann Gillis). As she and Tiny come to like each other, Abel orders them to stay apart, threatening to fire Tiny. Young Billy, wanting to help him, reacts plotting a scheme to make things turn to his wishes, and this is what the second half of the picture is about.
Susanna Foster, on the other side, was 16 when she made this picture and, same as her role, a promising new star possessing a wonderful voice with an astounding high range. She was being trained by Universal as a replacement for rebellious Miss Durbin, who was fighting the studio to get more control on her pictures and would be on suspension for that reason (notice the coincidence). Little did they suspect that in real life Susanna would quit Hollywood even sooner that Deanna, that is, before she was 20 (Cooper, on the contrary, would successfully keep making pictures until old age).
This was only her third picture and turns out to be one of the best. Because she is glamorously presented, sings several operatic and mostly melodic songs (starting with Sempre libera - another intended comparison with Miss Durbin ?) and is not second fiddle like she had been in the Great Victor Herbert and would be in several of her few future movies. This film also offers her a good story, a good cast and beautiful songs, and easy as it might seem all these ingredients were hardly seen together in her other pictures (only a dozen).
So we have a double interest : on one side, the story of a grown-up child actor conscious of his past glory, striving to come back to movie business and teaching a younger sosias to play his own former role, while trying to share the fortune and affections of the feminine new promise; and on the other, the double lecture with plenty of parallelisms to real situations of the time, with the chance to see what´s going on in the studio lot, including school lapses for young players (even if they´re already married), viewing the rushes, meeting colleagues (like Cecil B. DeMille) and see how scenes are being shot from both the players and the technician´s side. This double story greatly adds to the interest of a musical comedy entertaining enough for itself, and makes it one of the best pictures Susanna Foster ever made. One that decidedly deserves to be watched and better known.
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