In the 1800s, an American boy, Cedric Errol (Freddie Bartholomew, David Copperfield), discovers that he is the sole living relative of a British aristocrat, The Earl of Dorincourt (C. Aubrey Smith, Red Dust). Ceddie moves to England to live with The Earl, who is his late father’s father, and soon wins the heart of the snobbish old curmudgeon.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Adaptations of classics of literature were very popular in the mid-thirties Hollywood and every studio tried to satisfy the public’s demand for them. This elegant adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1885 novel was independently produced by David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind) and distributed by United Artists.
Directed by John Cromwell (Of Human Bondage) from a screenplay by English novelist Hugh Walpole (The Herries Chronicles), Little Lord Fauntleroy is a charmingly quaint, emotionally affecting movie. I haven’t read the book, but this film adaptation is perfect for children and fans of classic Hollywood.
Bartholomew is terrific in the tittle role. You can immediately see why he was one of Hollywood’s most popular child actors (he was second only to Shirley Temple). He also has great rapport with veteran Smith, who is a delight as the bitter old man. Dolores Costello Barrymore (Drew’s grandmother) plays Bartholomew’s mother. She’s okay but the role lacks reality — Costello is forced to stare at the camera with a saintly look. I wish she had given a bit more to do.
The impressive supporting cast includes Mickey Rooney (National Velvet) as a Brooklyn boy, Henry Stephenson (Oliver Twist) as Mr Havisham, Una O’Connor (The Invisible Man) as a servant, E. E. Clive (The Bride of Frankenstein) as Sir Harry Lorridaile, and Guy Kibbee (The Dark Horse) as Mr. Hobbs.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Little Lord Fauntleroy drags a bit near the end, but overall, this is first-class family entertainment. The book has been filmed numerous times, most recently as a 1995 BBC miniseries. B&W, 102 minutes, Not Rated.