One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
A child will take to those whom they know love them, and regardless of bloodlines, will think of them as a parental figure. That's the theme of this tearjerker of an unhappy boy (David Holt) whose mother (Helen Mack) has married a man (Arthur Person) who obviously has no interest in him. Thanks to his friendship with his mother's rough around the edges vaudeville partner (Lee Tracy), Holt has a male adult figure to look up to, but the cruel stepdad has him sent off to boarding school. Things go from bad to worse, and it's up to Tracy to straighten things out.
What could have been an overabundance of sentimentality and tears (think Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery at MGM) comes out to be only mildly maudlin, but a twist with mama Mack leads it to a tragic twist that must have shocked depression era audiences. Every character here seems to have some sort of hidden past or tragedy that guides their destiny, threatening to make this really depressing. I can see, however, women audiences packing in to shed buckets of tears thanks to every twist and turn, and it really draws you emotionally into the story. This raised my rating far above my initial impression, making this a forgotten gem.
The performances of Tracy and Holt guide this to becoming a good family drama, although I don't know if kids the same age as Holt would understand or be able to handle the string of events that Holt goes through. Pierson, while a good looking man, shows the coolness that would guide him in later authoritarian character parts. Mack holds everything in until her final scene, showing her penchant for tragic characters. The troubled off screen life of Helen Morgan doesn't come through in her performance as Tracy's estranged wife who shows up working at Holt's school, leading to obvious conclusions. Dean Jagger has a small part as one of the military school staff members. I was so touched by the twists and turns that I quickly moved this from **1/2 to ***1/2 without batting an eye.
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