Sunday, March 02, 2014

Little Miss Marker (1934)

Early Shirley Temple vehicle benefits from great cast and script (from a Damon Runyon story), populated with colorful characters played by top character actors (Lynne Overman, Sam Hardy and Tammany Young among them). This time, Shirley is left by her father as collateral for a debt he owes to racetrack bookie Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou). Her father never comes back to collect her, however, and is eventually found dead, so the reluctant Sorrowful is left to look out for Shirley, warming up to her and eventually changing his ways to become an honest man. Also in the cast is Dorothy Dell as the nightclub singer who comes to consider Shirley as her own daughter, and Charles Bickford as tough gambler Big Steve, who is finally redeemed in the end by an act of selflessness toward Shirley that saves her life.

Produced on loan-out to Paramount, this one is a little darker than her later vehicles for Fox, with its rough Depression-era New York atmosphere. It features only one musical number performed by Temple, "Laugh You Son of a Gun", which was a big hit. The film was also a big hit at the box office, and did much to launch Shirley Temple into the stratosphere of movie stardom.

Growing up, I saw a lot of her films on video (my mom is a big fan who also grew up watching these films on TV) but this is one that I had missed over the years, so when I saw that Loew's Jersey was screening it in 35mm in tribute to its late star, I made a point to go see it. It contains everything I love about 1930s Hollywood movies - the sparkling cinematography, wise-cracking dialogue, great music, fine characters actors who appear to be having so much fun with their roles, and stars who really knew how to transcend the roles they were playing and become real personalities that still pop off the screen 80 years later.

No comments: