“If I have to be an earl, I can try to be a good one.”
The good-natured son (Freddie Bartholomew) of an American woman (Dolores Costello) and a deceased British father discovers he has become the new Lord of Fauntleroy, and moves to England to live with his crusty grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith) — but he finds his new status threatened by a woman (Helen Flint) claiming to be the mother of the rightful heir.
John Cromwell’s adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s novel is — like its source material — a bit too twee and precious for its own good, but remains a reasonably enjoyable cinematic adaptation, thanks in large part to the fine central performance by Freddie Bartholomew. While Bartholomew’s Cedric comes across as simply too kindhearted and naively optimistic to be true, Bartholomew is such an intrinsically charismatic child actor that one can’t help watching him with a certain degree of investment and interest. Nearly every plot development is telegraphed far ahead of time — will Cedric melt the heart of his crusty old grandfather? will he convince his grandfather to open his arms and finally embrace Cedric’s “commoner” mother? will he lose his noble title to a dastardly imposter? what do you think? (!) — but it’s finely presented and directed, and Charles Rosher’s cinematography is nicely atmospheric. Watch for Mickey Rooney in a small (but ultimately pivotal) part as Cedric’s shoe-shining friend back in America. An interesting bit of trivia: “Dearest” (Cedric’s mother) is played by Drew Barrymore’s grandmother, wife of John Barrymore.
Note: As a public domain title, this film is available for free viewing at http://www.archive.org.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Freddie Bartholomew as Lord Fauntleroy
- Charles Rosher’s cinematography
No, though it’s worth a look.