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Rare is the scene in a Shirley Temple film where Curly Top is reduced to a
mere spectator while another actor grabs the spotlight and runs screaming
with it, but Bright Eyes has them in bunches! See Shirley gasp as human pit
bull Jane Withers dismembers a doll before her very eyes! Tremble with fear
as Shirley flees from her possessed playmate when their Santa Claus
discussion takes a nasty turn! And if you think young Joy is a terror now,
imagine how bad she'd be without psychoanalysis.
In the movie's far too numerous non-Jane scenes, Shirley reverts to her
old role as top banana with predictably charming results. No Shirley Temple
film can really get rolling until her parents have been killed, so Mother is
done in about half-way through, while Dad offs it before the opening
credits, freeing our young pixie for another delightful custody battle. (By
the way, do you suppose kids of the 1930's took a secret satisfaction in
watching Shirley's parents get systematically rubbed out in every one of her
movies? After all, her new parents were always a step up from the old ones;
richer, prettier and usually much more fun. Life as an orphan might not have
looked so bad to a depression-era tot after seeing a Shirley Temple
In conclusion, this movie is highly recommended for Shirley's fans and foes alike. Watch it for Shirley's smile or Jane's scowl, and stay tuned till the end. You won't want to miss the most satisfying closing shot in the history of cinema.
Even though there is very little singing and dancing, which is a big
part of the appeal of Shirley Temple, it's still a solid film.
This was the first movie in which was Shirley was the big star, I believe, and you can see why she quickly won the hearts of Americans.
Although there is only one song, it's perhaps her most famous: "On the Good Ship Lollipop." The rest of the film is almost as charming as that song with many sweet, touching moments that made her films so endearing.
It also helped to have James Dunn as the male lead. Dunn was one of the more likable guys in classic Hollywood, on and off the screen. He and Shirley make a great pair.
Other interesting people to watch in this movie are the crabby old grandfather, played by Charles Sellon; the spoiled brat played by Jane Withers, who is so bad she's funny and an assortment of other characters from fliers to cooks to old girlfriends.
The only negative is the ending. It looked like they didn't know how to end this, so they rushed to finish it without much thought. Oh, well, the main thing is Shirley's charm.....and that's there in abundance.
Little BRIGHT EYES wins the hearts & changes the lives of
lonely aviator and a cranky old coot.
This movie was a very big hit for Shirley Temple, who certainly deserved all the attention: she is adorable. Although the film tends to lag into melodramatics during the final half hour, Shirley brightens everything considerably when she appears. With her undeniable talent & elfin smile, it's easy to see why she became Hollywood's top box office star.
However, the Mighty Mite does have competition. Jane Withers is on hand as the Ultimate Brat, a dreadful child who likes to play with imaginary machine guns and amputate body parts off of dolls. Although she looks alarmingly like OUR GANG's Alfalfa in drag, Withers is wonderful and the perfect antidote for those who may find Miss Temple a tad bit icky sticky. To say that Miss Withers practically plunders the picture from The Moppet is high praise, indeed.
James Dunn appeared in four films with Shirley in 1934; in BRIGHT EYES he has his finest scenes with her. As her dead father's best buddy, Dunn is quite touching in his devotion to the child. Elderly character actor Charles Sellon has some funny scenes as a most obstreperous old blister. His contempt for Miss Withers is a joy to behold.
Jane Darwell was always a welcome addition to any cast; here she plays a lovable Irish cook. Brandon Hurst as her prim English butler husband, Judith Allen as Dunn's love interest, Lois Wilson as Shirley's doomed mother, and Theodore von Eltz & Dorothy Christy as Withers' pestilential parents all add to the movie's enjoyment.
Shirley sings what was to become her signature song - On The Good Ship Lollipop' - and it is a highlight of the film. Many first time viewers, having heard the song all their lives, may be surprised to learn it's about a plane, not a boat - in this case, from American Airlines.
Jane Withers, at age four, started as one of the deep South's most popular
radio stars on Aunt Sally's Kiddy Club. She was so small she had to be
lifted up to reach the microphone. She was the mischief-maker of the Kiddy
Club program, called "The Little Pest". Like Mitzi Green, she had an
ability to imitate the voices and facial expressions of actors, actresses
and other people, something she learned playing with the mirror. On stage
age five, she became a famous actress throughout the South, finally moving
to Hollywood at five-and-a-half. In Hollywood, Jane began by playing in a
weekly radio-revue and gave numerous stage performances for beneficial
"Bright Eyes" was Jane's first credited movie role and led to a long-term contract with Twentieth Century-Fox. She stared in numerous movies of the thirties, and was Shirley Temple's main competition. Jane was one of the great child actresses of all times, very popular with the children of her era, and after watching Shirley's goodie two-shoes act in Bright Eyes playing against Jane's power-house comedy performance, I can see why. Shirley Temple was her usual cute, sugar-coated, man-worshiping self with everyone giggling politely at her jokes except the audience. In contrast, Jane Withers had my daughter and I laughing our heads off until we had stomach-aches. Jane in Bright Eyes was bratty, adorable and hilarously funny. Her brat act has seldom, if ever, been equaled in the annals of film.
It is really a shame, and I hope the studios who own Jane Withers' many films as a child take note, that Bright Eyes is the only Jane Withers performance to survive to contemporary video. What ever happened to her movies "Ginger", Paddy O'Day", "Gentle Julia", "Little Miss Nobody", "Can This be Dixie?" and "Pepper"? In a published chat-room article Jane, who is still very much alive, says that she will eventually finish her book on her child star days. Like the kids of Our Gang, she remembers a fun, privileged childhood and has nothing in the way of sob stories. Let's hope that the studios will stop suppressing her films and release them on video soon, perhaps coinciding with her book.
Author/Director David Butler put together a script that showcases
SHIRLEY TEMPLE as a lovable little girl who gets caught up in a nasty
custody battle when her mother dies and her aviator god-father (JAMES
DUNN)wants to adopt her. Scenes between Temple and Dunn are so natural
that you'll have a hard time not getting a lump in your throat in the
scene where he assures her that her mother (who has just died) is in
heaven with the angels. Yes, it does get a little sticky at times.
But wait!! Before things become to saccharine and predictable, little JANE WITHERS, America's most lovable brat, shows up as a nasty rich girl who delights in tormenting everyone around her, especially Shirley. It's a great role for Jane and she makes the most of it, whether imitating a machine-gunner or threatening to make mincemeat of Shirley's dolls.
And believe me, she's a welcome presence in a Shirley Temple vehicle that does tend to get all dewy-eyed over the adorable princess. Watch the scene on the plane where the aviators all watch Temple as she sings "On the Good Ship Lollipop", strolling down the aisle and enjoying all the male attention. You can almost sense something darker than is supposed to meet the eye with the way they all leer at her. But she is, quite simply, at her most fetching in that casually charming little number.
Shirley's first film tailored just for her, and it opened at Radio City Music Hall in 1934 to cheer Depression-era audiences with its innocent star at her most disarming. Easy to see why she would become the nation's number one box-office star four years in a row.
BRIGHT EYES (Fox, 1934), directed by David Butler, stars child actress
Shirley Temple in the last of her many 1934 movie releases, and the
first to be categorized as a formula "Shirley Temple film," though her
earlier LITTLE MISS MARKER over at Paramount comes close to that
format. Whether playing an orphan or a child with a living parent, in
BRIGHT EYES, Shirley has a mother whose aviator father "cracked up"
some time ago. She is loved and admired by everyone except her mother's
employers. This also marks a rare case in which Shirley is pitted
against another little girl, a complete opposite to her angelic
character, as well as the introduction to Temple's signature song, "On
the Good Ship Lollipop" by Richard Whiting and Sidney Clare, singing it
to the fellow aviators on an airplane as it taxis on the runway, and
her catch phrase of "Oh, my goodness!"
The story, set during the Christmas season in California, revolves around Shirley Blake (Shirley Temple), a charming 5-year-old living in a mansion with her widowed mother, Mary (Lois Wilson), employed as a maid for the snobbish and selfish Smythe family: Anita (Dorothy Christy), J. Wellington (Theodore Von Eltz) and their unruly daughter, Joy (Jane Withers). Also under their wing is the cranky Uncle Ned Smith (Charles Sellon), a wheel-chair bound old man, and Mr. and Mrs. Higgins (Brandon Hurst and Jane Darwell), a middle-aged couple working as butler and cook, who all have a soft spot for little Shirley. One of Shirley's greatest pleasures is heading over to the American Airlines Airport where she spends time with her godfather, James "Loop" Merrill (James Dunn), a pilot whose best friend was Shirley's deceased father. When Shirley's mother is struck by a passing vehicle on her way to attend her a Christmas party at the airport, the child, now an orphan, becomes a charity case for the Smyths, who in reality take her in and her dog, Rags, too, only to please their Uncle Ned. Because Loop is a bachelor, he's unable to take in Shirley. He even refuses the help of Adele Martin (Judith Allen), a society girl staying with her cousin Anita's home for Christmas, because he refuses to forgive her for jilting him at the altar years ago. When it's learned that Uncle Ned intends on adopting "Bright Eyes," this not only finds the Smythe family in fear of losing their inheritance after he dies, but Loop to risk his life flying his airplane in uncertain weather to obtain enough money for an attorney to fight for the custody of Shirley against the old man in court.
BRIGHT EYES is one of the few Temple movies where she's nearly overshadowed by her co-stars, namely Charles Sellon and Jane Withers. Sellon's performance predates that of Lionel Barrymore years before cranky old men in wheelchairs became fashionable. Aside from coming down the stairs in his wheelchair, Sellon's Uncle Ned has some truly funny lines as well as a great moral message about selfishness and love. Withers, in the first important screen role, plays a spoiled brat to perfection. She not only has tantrums, rips apart dolls, and wanting to play train wreck with Shirley, but is the only little girl in history to want a wheelchair as a Christmas present. Fortunately her unlikable performance didn't put an end to her career. In fact, it started a whole new cycle of Jane Withers movies. While Temple remains the most famous child star in history, Withers, whose career at 20th-Fox lasted longer than Temple's, is virtually forgotten, and due to her only association with Temple, BRIGHT EYES would become the only Withers film from the 1930s in circulation today.
Great moments of BRIGHT EYES include Shirley's mother telling her a Christmas story with chorus singing "Silent Night" in the background, and a tender loving scene where Dunn's character, in a choked-up manner, having to tell Shirley that her mother has gone to Heaven. Shirley's response, "You mean, my mother cracked up, too?" This alone is classic Temple, with Dunn constantly asking her throughout the story, "How much do you love me?" He even gives her his "magic ring" to send to him whenever she's in trouble. All this sounds corny in print, but actually plays better on the screen.
Formerly available on video cassette and currently on DVD either in black and white and colorized process, BRIGHT EYES has played on numerous cable TV stations throughout the years: The Disney Channel (1980s), American Movie Classics (1996-2001), Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: August 1, 2002) and even The Fox Movie Channel. In spite of its age, BRIGHT EYES is sure to delight adults, children and optometrists alike. Be sure not to miss the good ship lollipop. (***1/2)
Hollywood's smallest, biggest star Shirley Temple plays an orphan caught up in a custody battle. She worships a daredevil pilot(James Dunn)and through the course of the movie gets the chance to sing and make immortal "On the Good Ship Lollipop". Also in the steadfast cast are: Jane Darwell, Judith Allen, Charles Sellon and probably the show stealer Jane Withers. Withers is the perfect rich brat to be mean to the poor little orphan(Temple). One of the better projects of the busy little "curly top".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
119: Bright Eyes (1934) - released 12/11/1934, viewed 9/22/08.
BIRTHS: Judi Dench.
DOUG: It appears I had completely misunderstood Shirley Temple's niche in Hollywood before I watched this movie. I thought that her movies were all-out musicals for kids only, but she was more for the family and all-ages market. Bright Eyes is not a kids' movie, nor is it really a musical, other than the famous Good Ship Lollipop number. That number is, I think, more indicative of a trend in the early sound period where nearly every movie made tried to incorporate a scene with music. I thought the movie was going to be predictable, and it mostly is; the Smythe family never really become more than one-dimensional caricatures, ready to toss the lovely Shirley out onto the street while still indulging their own demonic daughter's every whim. Still, it managed to surprise me in a few places. Loop and Uncle Ned, the two most awesome characters and the ones who care about Shirley the most, suddenly become enemies as they each try to claim custody. **SPOILER ALERT** I was almost in tears a couple times: when Shirley's mom dies was pretty rough (though that car hit looked awfully gentle), and Loop flying through the storm is pretty intense. **END SPOILER** If you're trying to get an idea of what Shirley Temple was all about in Depression-era Hollywood, Bright Eyes is a great place to start. Contract Player Alert: Charles Sellon (Uncle Ned) and Jane Withers (Joy) both appeared three films ago in It's a Gift, as Mr. Muckle and the hopscotch girl, respectively.
KEVIN: This movie surprised me. I really didn't expect to like it much, but the themes of the film and the complexity of many of the characters kept me interested. Of course little Shirley is great, everyone knows that, but all the adult characters, none of whom I recognized right off, are all very well acted and fully fleshed out. **SPOILER ALERT** I'm not gonna lie, I was indeed moved to tears in the scene where Loop (James Dunn) must tell little Shirley that her Mom has died. **END SPOILER** And I was even more intrigued when Shirley is taken in by the snobbish, blue-blooded Smythe couple with their bratty, Nazi-in-training daughter (Jane Withers). Although the custody battle between Loop and the Smythes is the center of the movie, the film does a really good job setting up the characters and getting all its ducks in a row for maximum emotional punch. I couldn't help but giggle at the schmaltzy happy ending, starting with the judge deciding that the proceedings "won't need lawyers anymore." Everyone gets what they want and/or what they deserve, even the crotchety uncle.
Last film: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Next film: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was Shirley Temple's last movie as a "real" child. After this she
was always "Little Miss Fixit", usually wiser than the adults,
manipulating the people around her, whether by tears, songs or sweet
looks to her particular needs. Of course the main reason to see this
film is Jane Withers. She is a riot as Joy, whether trying to run
Shirley over, slapping her dolls into good behaviour, pounding away on
the piano or asking for a machine gun for Christmas. She proved that
brats have more fun in the movies (except at the end when she gets her
come-uppance). I can remember watching Jane Wither's films as a child -
she was certainly a lot more bubbly and energetic than Shirley and I
agree with the other reviewers, there should be more of her films in
The first sight is of Shirley, looking adorable, in aircap, goggles and leather coat - she is "thumbing a ride" to the airport to see Loop (James Dunn). He was her daddy's best friend and tells her stories about her father's flying adventures before he "cracked up". Her mother is employed by the Smythes, a high flying family (excuse the pun), counting on the expectations of rich "Uncle Ned". Their daughter, Joy, is the ultimate "spoilt brat" whose obnoxious behaviour is encouraged by her psychiatrist, who tells her parents not to criticize but always give her positive encouragement. Jane Withers is the whole show - in her scenes with Shirley she completely dominates the screen (and not only because she is twice as tall)!!!
Uncle Ned's one consolation is Shirley and after her mother is killed in a road accident he is determined to adopt her. Before all the drama Shirley gets to sing her most famous song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop" to the crew of Loop's plane. Did she ever get sick of singing that song I wonder??? Loop's one time fiancé, Adele (Judith Allen) comes to stay with the Smythes and falls under Shirley's spell. She and Uncle Ned join forces to try to adopt her but Loop also wants Shirley. James Dunn had such a rapport with Shirley - he was by far the best of her male co-stars. He was a bright and breezy leading man who should have had a bigger career.
After another scene with Joy - this time about Shirley's dog Wags, Shirley decides to use Loop's magic ring and runs away. She hides in the plane that Loop uses for an unexpected mail run to New York. In the film's most exciting sequence Loop and Shirley bail out when the plane is caught in a fierce storm. Their parachutes almost go over the cliff and Shirley quips "Let's do it again"!!!
This is one of her best films and it is really lifted by the co-stars. Apart from Jane Withers, Charles Sellon is an absolute scene-stealer as Uncle Ned. Jane Darwell often played sympathetic roles in Temple movies and Dorothy Christy, who always enhanced any movie she was in plays Anita Smythe.
One of Shirley Temple's best movies is stolen by an absolutely riotous performance by Jane Withers as Temple's bratty nemesis-the mean rich kid who picks on poor,noble motherless Shirley. This is the movie that boasts Temple's anthem- On the Good Ship Lollipop.Worth seeing if you haven't seen a Shirley Temple movie.And this was one of the major hits of the 1930's.
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