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In rural 1840's Scotland, Gavin Dishart arrives to become the new "little minister" of Thrums's Auld Licht church. He meets a mysterious young gypsy girl in the dens and to his horror Babbie draws him into her escape from the soldiers after she incites a Luddite riot. But unknown to Gavin, Babbie is more than she seems. And they must overcome her secret, the villagers' fears of her, and worst of all, Gavin's devotion to his mother's sensibilities, before they can openly declare their love. Written by
Hmmmmm .... strange one, this. Though it was made as early as 1934, it is no less than the FIFTH film adaptation of J.M. (Peter Pan) Barrie's stage play. It is a simple love story, set in a Scottish hamlet in early victorian times. RKO do the period feel very well indeed (check out the churchyard scene) and we can forgive a few shaky Scottish accents.
Gavin Dishart is the handsome young man who has just been appointed minister to the church at Thrums. He meets Babbie, a mysterious gypsy girl, and suddenly his life is transformed, and some of his values need to be reappraised.
"The fall of man through the temptation of woman" is Gavin's improvised sermon, and it encapsulates the theme of the film. The light coquetterie between Babbie and Gavin is very well done, and for the young generation of 1934 this must have been a terrific date movie. Max Steiner, RKO's contract composer, provides the score.
John Beal is ideal as the innocent young pastor, and Katharine Hepburn is impressive in a gentler, less stridently feminist role than was usual for her. She is memorable in the scene where she takes off at an athletic sprint, trailing skirts behind her. Beal is great in the scene where Gavin rues the missed kiss. Wearyworld, the unpopular policeman, adds a touch of wry humour: actor Andy Clyde appears to be a genuine Scot, though his Glaswegian accent is wrong for this lowland village. He is, one would guess from his style of delivery, a veteran of the music halls. Alan Hale Snr. is Rob Dow, the local drunk. Wise, humane Doctor McQueen is played admirably by Donald Crisp.
Memorable images include the zoom-in on the fast-disappearing "irresponsible, light-headed gypsy" which informs us that Babbie may amount to more than she seems, and the dour faces of the three elders at Mrs. Dishart's door.
Verdict - curious early Hepburn vehicle with nice period atmosphere
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