Little Miss Marker (1934)

“I ain’t takin’ no dolls for security!”

Synopsis:
When a bookie (Adolphe Menjou) accepts the young daughter (Shirley Temple) of a suicidal gambler as collateral, he and the moll (Dorothy Dell) of a local gangster (Charles Bickford) end up caring for her — but when Temple starts to pick up bad habits and slang, they realize they must craft a recreation of King Arthur’s legend to restore her faith in magic.

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Review:
Shirley Temple made her cinematic lead debut in this adaptation of Damon Runyon’s short story, featuring such colorfully-named characters as Sorrowful Jones, Bangles, Big Steve, Regret, Sun Rise, Dizzy Memphis, Buggs, and Sore Toe — not to mention “Marky” herself (Temple), so-called because she’s handed over as a human marker for her dad’s gambling. This pre-Code flick doesn’t shy away from noting that Temple’s sour-luck dad kills himself from despondence — and while the entire tale eventually devolves into schmaltzy saccharine, at least it’s all befitting a Temple vehicle. (Who would want anything but the absolute best outcome for a girl as adorable as her?) Speaking of Temple, she really is charming — it’s easy to see why she was, and remained, such a favorite with audiences.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Shirley Temple as “Marky”

Must See?
Yes, once, for its historical relevance as Temple’s breakthrough role, and as the first cinematic adaptation of a Runyon story. Selected for preservation in the U.S. Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1998.

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One Response to “Little Miss Marker (1934)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, but it’s certainly harmless-enough and Temple is cute-enough in an unusual setting – even though Menjou doesn’t seem to be all that invested in what he’s playing. (Alas, he has never come off as all that interesting an actor.) There’s something of a dated feeling to it all – and, at 79 minutes, it feels longer.

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