Little Miss Marker (1934)
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Plot summary: Big Steve Halloway (Charles Bickford), gambler, gang leader and proprietor of New York's Horseshoe Cabaret, where his girl, Bangles Carson (Dorothy Dell) sings, is in desperate need of money. He arranges for his fellow bookies, especially Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou), to each pay him $1,000 each for his racehorse, Dream Prince, to lose. With all bets being placed at the window, Sorrowful encounters a gambler (Edward Earle), having lost $500, wanting to place his bet but is unable to come up with $20. Instead, he places his daughter, Marthy Jane (Shirley Temple), as security, or in bookie's terms, a "marker." While Sorrowful refuses to accept 'markers," he does so with this one, having the child to wait outside his office until Daddy returns. Having lost his bet, he commits suicide, leaving "little Miss Marker" under the care of Sorrowful Jones. As Steve hides out in Chicago to avoid investigation for his crooked bets, he entrusts Sorrowful to watch over Bangles during his absence, at which time the "gold digger" helps "tight-wod" with his "40 pounds of trouble." When Big Steve learns Bangles is involved with Sorrowful, he takes his "rod," returns to New York to do something about it.
The supporting players: Adolphe Menjou is perfectly cast as Sorrowful Jones, resembling that of a cartoon character down to his sad-eyed face and droopy mustache. He and Temple work remarkably well together, sharing great scenes, especially the highlight where Sorrowful teaches "Markey" how to pray. It is Menjou, not Temple, who closes this with a comedy line. Unlike her future film assignments, LITTLE MISS MARKER offers Temple a rare opportunity to play a fresh kid later on in the story, thanks to the bad influence of Sorrowful's friends. Dorothy Dell's Bangles is the one who makes every effort to restore Markey's child-like innocence by having the gang gather together in Steve's night club to re-enact her favorite bedtime story of "King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table" with Sorrowful playing Sir Galahad, and Bangles as Lady Guinevere, along with the opportunity to ride her horse known as "The Charger." Charles Bickford, a fine actor with a rough exterior, plays a tough mug whose very presence and gruff sounding voice causes the Charger to jump about in fear, an idea duplicated in the Marx Brothers comedy, A DAY AT THE RACES (MGM, 1937), with Douglass Dumbrille as the villain whose harsh voice causes the star racehorse to run amok.
While many will comment on Shirley Temple's performance, one cannot help but notice the unfamiliar name of Dorothy Dell in the cast. Who is Dorothy Dell? It's surprising to learn that during the making of LITTLE MISS MARKER, she was a 19-year-old newcomer (who looked older than 25) with only two other 1934 releases to her credit: THE WHARF ANGEL and SHOOT THE WORKS. By the time LITTLE MISS MARKER was released, Dorothy Dell was dead, a victim of an serious automobile crash. Looking over her style, she had the mannerisms of a young 20th-Fox's own Alice Faye, blonde, deep-throat singer, tough exterior but soft in heart. Due to the availability of LITTLE MISS MARKER will Dorothy Dell's name be virtually a curiosity today. Dell takes part in much of the song numbers composed by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin including: "I'm a Black Sheep Who is Blue" where she vocalizes in the night club, and "Low-Down Lullaby" singing Markie to sleep. She and Temple team up with on the piano with "Laugh, You Son-of-a-Gun," the latter obviously a hit tune since it's instrumentally used for opening or closing to other Paramount films, namely Temple's upcoming Paramount project NOW AND FOREVER.
Aside from frequent commercial television revivals prior to 1989, LITTLE MISS MARKER surfaced on numerous cable stations in later years, including the Disney Channel (1990s); American Movie Classics (1991-92) and Turner Classic Movies (2003-04). Unlike its presentations on either AMC and TCM, LITTLE MISS MARKER's availability on both VHS (1996) and DVD formats are colorized. LITTLE MISS MARKER consists of such notable remakes as SORROWFUL JONES (Paramount, 1949) with Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Mary Jane Saunders; FORTY POUNDS OF TROUBLE (Universal, 1963) with Tony Curtis; and 1980 under the original title starring Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews, but very few child actresses could compare to the likes of the original Little Miss Marker herself. (****)
This version has a lot more comedy from the supporting players, since Temple is cute but she' isn't going to be the main source of humor as Hope was in his films. In here, all the bookies and gangsters provide the humor. The leading male, played by Adolph Menjou, is a sourpuss but still likable. The leading adult female, Dorothy Dell, was a bit tough-looking, I thought, for this role.
Temple doesn't play as sweet a role as she did in most of her films, but she still has her tender moments. Nobody can produce a sentimental scene as quickly as Shirley could. In all, a nice film and enjoyable from start to finish.
Note: This was the best colorized version I have seen of Temple's films. Perhaps that was because MGM did this, not Fox, which did the others. It advertises "stereo" but I didn't hear any.
Shirley Temple - not quite six years old - became a full-fledged movie star with LITTLE MISS MARKER. Loaned out to Paramount for the one picture, she emerged as a top of the bill powerhouse prepared to return to Fox Studios and become the most popular performer in Hollywood for the next five years. With genuine talent & an infectious sparkle, she would carve out her unassailable niche in film history.
To its credit, the fast moving script allows her to be a little less than saintly, with a normal dose of cranks & crotchets. Even so, her costars, as well as the audience, become her willing slaves in short order. Adolphe Menjou, as the cynical gambler who takes her in, and Charles Bickford as his tough boss, find themselves completely overwhelmed by the mighty moppet. Both of these gentlemen were abundantly experienced actors, used to controlling viewers' attentions in their screen scenes; it must have been somewhat odd for them to be reduced to so much stage dressing - but Shirley's ascendant flood swamped all other boats.
The Damon Runyon story is well served by the rest of the colorful cast, but it is easy to regret every minute the Small One does not appear on screen. Shirley became quite close to pretty Dorothy Dell, playing a nightclub chanteuse involved with both Bickford & Menjou. The news of Miss Dell's tragic death in a car wreck soon after filming completed was kept from Shirley for some time.
Movie mavens will recognize Willie Best as a friendly janitor & Tammany Young as a bettor, both uncredited.
With the influence of tough-talking gents and gals around her, she soon adopts street-wise ways and manners of speech, so it's not the usual soft and sweet Shirley that we get here. Nevertheless, she remains adorable throughout, speaking all of her lines with the kind of verve and personality that would soon make her the number one box office attraction during the Depression years.
It's worth noting that ADOLPHE MENJOU (who called her a little Ethel Barrymore) has some of his best scenes opposite Temple. She manages to hold her own against him, but he's well cast as the shady character with the sad eyes and droopy mustache who'd rather be romancing DOROTHY DELL than taking care of a pint-sized doll.
Incidentally, DOROTHY DELL died in an auto accident within days of the film's release. She showed promise of becoming a very good actress in all of her scenes with Shirley and Menjou.
Shirley Temple really shines in her breakout role. From her first line she hooks us with her entire adorable little self. She charms the grouchy Apolphe Menjou and pals. Due to a series of events, Shirley ends up in Menjou's care. Hilarity ensues and his grinch-like heart becomes the perfect size for the happy ending. Most of the supporting cast are players I'm not familiar with as this movie is a bit older than those I usually watch, but these kooky men with soft hearts and pride fall for Markie and their lives are forever changed. A beautiful story that even shows Menjou praying which humanizes him and makes him even more heroic.
This film is old, less then 90 minutes, plays a little bit like a stage production sometimes, has few big name stars, isn't Oscar worthy in the acting category, but it has heart. A big heart! It's pure entertainment like I'm sure depression era patrons needed for a dime or less. The production quality is still good. It's a feel-good comedy drama that is just the perfect film for someone wanting pure entertainment from its humble beginnings. I highly recommend this film:)
This Damon Runyon story filmed four times already and is about due for another retelling, is the story of how Shirley Temple managed to melt the hearts of all those Broadway sharpies that populate Runyon stories, people like Charles Bickford, Warren Hymer, Lynne Overman and Bickford's girl Dorothy Dell. In fact Temple causes a split between Bickford and Dell and plays a little girl cupid for Menjou and Dell.
The young lady is full of illusions, her mother used to read tales of King Arthur, but these guys who are in the business of odds making and occasional odds fixing when it comes to the kind that race on the track make pretty poor substitutes for Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere. Still in their own Broadway style they try to live up to little Shirley's image of them.
After Darryl Zanuck became head of the new 20th Century Fox studios his greatest asset in the form of America's favorite moppet would never be lent out like she was here to Paramount. Little Miss Marker represents a milestone in the career of Shirley Temple and the three remakes don't reach this standard. But Damon Runyon is timeless and I'll bet someone out there in Hollywood might be thinking of a fifth version.
The film stars Adolph Menjou as Sorrowful Jones--a hard-hearted bookie whose all-consuming love of money and gambling is soon to be challenged by a cute kid. That's because a sap leaves her (Shirley Temple) at the gambling establishment--with the intention on coming back for her. But, when he loses, he kills himself--leaving little 'Marky' an orphan. Now you'd think that Jones would take the child to the police. However, he comes up with a scheme with an even harder-hearted guy, Big Steve (Charles Bickford)--they'll register a horse in the child's name and then take the kid to the cops AFTER the big race! There is a problem with the plan, however--they don't realize how absolutely marvelous the child is and how she'll melt their stony hearts. There's much more to the film than this--see it and have a nice time doing so. The film gets very high marks for entertainment value, and Temple IS about the cutest thing you've ever seen! The film isn't perfect and makes little sense, but if you can just sit back and enjoy the film for what it is, then you will no doubt be happy you did. A swell film.
This movie may be disappointing for Shirley Temple fans as she does relative little. Most of the movie concerns the rough gangsters whose life is disrupted by her. They are wonderful characters, while Temple does little more than act like "the doll" that the characters often call her.
Adolph Menjou and Dorothy Dell really carries the movie. Menjou gives an hilariously understated performance as cheap gambler "Sorrowful Jones" Menjou was a fashionable dresser, so it is particularly funny to see him unkempt in wrinkled clothes for most of the movie. Whereas Walter Matthau played the role with a wink, Menjou plays it quite straight. Sorrowful Jones is a sorrowful human being in this movie. Dorothy Dell gives a terrific Mae West style performance as gangster moll/nightclub singer Bangles Carson. It is assured and polished, and it is impossible to believe that she was only 19 when she did it.
Incidentally Dorothy Dell and Dorothy Lamour were best friends as teenagers. When she won the Miss USA beauty pageant, Dorothy Dell invited Dorothy Lamour to come with her to Hollywood. In her autobiography, "My Side of the Road," Lamour notes that they went to the premiere of the Marx's Brother's "Animal Crackers" together in 1930. Dell helped and influenced Lamour to start her career.
Also watch some of the great comic actors in small parts here. Lynn Overman as Regret and Warren Hymer as Sore Toe are flawless.
This film is more than an excellent Shirley Temple star vehicle, it a comic masterpiece with Shirley Temple as the icing on the cake.
SYNOPSIS: Man leaves his daughter as a deposit with a bookmaker. NOTES: Academy Award to Shirley Temple, best juvenile performer of 1934. Re-made as Sorrowful Jones (1949): 40 Pounds of trouble (1963); and again as Little Miss Marker (1980).
COMMENT: Despite the fact that the title role is enacted by the one and only Shirley Temple, "Little Miss Marker" is actually a Dorothy Dell vehicle. Shirley gets to sing only one song ("Laugh, You Son- of-a-Gun") and that in tandem with Miss Dell who also has two solos ("Black Sheep Blues" and "Low-Down Lullaby"). The musical program is rounded out by Lynne Overman and chorus rendering "East Side, West Side, Sidewalks of New York" and "The Bowery".
Miss Dell is a very able actress and a most accomplished singer but you are excused if you don't recognize her. She had previously starred in "Wharf Angel" and after this film made "Shoot the Works". Before the latter film was released, she was killed in a car accident.
Unfortunately, despite the skill of Miss Dell and the obvious charm of Miss Temple, this first version of "Little Miss Marker" doesn't really stand up to any of its re-makes. The fault can be proportioned equally among the scriptwriters, the director, and the rest of the players. Too much dialogue, too slow a pace, too little dramatic tension (despite a few promises and hints now and then).
As a result, the film lacks punch, sharpness, contrast. The characters are all too wishy-washy. We are never led to believe for one moment that Menjou is as mean as he says he is, or that Bickford (for all his customary blustering) as tough.
In fact, most of the players seem miscast as Runyonesque types. Warren Hymer and John Kelly overact atrociously.
However, the movie is reasonably attractive to look at, even if its lighting, costuming and staging are somewhat bland.
Why do we know Shirley weighed 40 1/2 lbs.? Because the gangsters bet on her weight and had an appropriate scale available.
Dorothy did most of the singing of several new songs composed by the team of Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. Shirley apparently was too young to be trusted with the major singing and dancing assignments. The rather catchy theme song: "Laugh You Son of a Gun" was played during the opening and closing credits. It's also sung by Dorothy, followed by Shirley. Dorothy sings "Low Down Lullaby" when trying to put Shirley to sleep(Dorothy also falls asleep). She also sings "I'm a Black Sheep Who is Blue" formally at the cabaret where she worked. "The Sidewalks of New York" and "The Bowery" were sung by a group of gangsters dressed up like the Knights of the Round Table, with which Shirley was infatuated.