Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney, Melvyn Douglas. Dir: Victor Fleming
So there’s this little rich kid (okay, he’s 12 in the movie, 15 in the original Rudyard Kipling story) and he’s a pain in the butt, and he’s mean to his peers, and he lies to his widowed dad, and he falls off a boat. Then he tries that crap with the guys on a fishing boat that save him, but they don’t put up with it. Then more stuff happens that I won’t tell you.
I have a fairly short list of Child Actors That I Don’t Want to Slap, and Freddie Bartholomew is on it. So is Mickey Rooney, and he’s also in this movie, as with most of Bartholomew’s. I have yet to see a Bartholomew movie in which I didn’t enjoy his performance. Freddie wasn’t a pouter or a whiner, except for in the beginning of this movie, when he was supposed to be, so it’s pretty evident that he had those skills within him, but he didn’t use them for evil. And that’s what set him apart from other kids. Even Spencer Tracy was impressed with him for his dedication to making the film more believable. If Tracy says the kid’s okay, the kid’s okay.
I’ll tell you who else got the okay for this movie- Tracy. He won his first Oscar for it. But it was inscribed to “Dick Tracy”, though they meant “Spencer”, and they gave him a new one with his name on it, so everything turned out all right in the end. What a great story. Sigh. Anyway, Dick, I mean, Spencer Tracy’s character really connects with Bartholomew’s character and they have a deep, meaningful, father-son type relationship that makes you look forward to a wonderful future for them. Whoops.
That “Whoops” was a spoiler. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. And I’m not going to edit it out.
Melvyn Douglas plays the dad who just can’t relate to his son. In most cases I dislike this kind of character, but in this case, a) it’s Melvyn Douglas- it’s not possible to hate his characters, and b) he’s actually trying but doesn’t know how. This is one of those relationships you want to work out.
Lionel Barrymore is always great and this movie is no exception. This is one of the last movies he made standing up as he had arthritis so badly that he had to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. In all of his movies prior to the wheelchair I watch him walk and it just makes me hurt. You can see that, the later in his life the movie is, the more he stoops. But he was a trouper, he really was, and he loved acting. Can you even imagine Mr. Potter standing? I certainly can’t. He was all kinds of evil sitting down.
Don’t miss this one if you get the chance to see it. If you don’t like it, you can throw a wreath at me. Whoops, another spoiler. Heh.