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Five-year-old Sybil Jason, or "The Countess', with her wonderful clear English diction, is orphaned, and teams up with two cheap four-flushers, the con men Steve (Robert Armstrong) and Mortimer (Edward Everett Horton) on Broadway in depression New York.
What a masterful performance Sybil gave! A true work of acting genius. We first see her in the "Ritz" with her father, Steve and Mortimer eating a palatial dinner neither her gambling indebted father, nor the broke four flushers can afford. Abandoned by her father, Sybil ends up at the con men's cheap hotel. Later, lost on the street in Broadway with three black children, she performs masterful song, dance and imitation routines that can only be compared to the VERY BEST of Shirley Temple and Mitzi Green. In one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinema history, Steve abandons her at an orphanage where, sobbing, she carries a suitcase nearly as big as herself down the walkway and collapses on the stairs to the front door. Beyond that, you'll have to see the rest of the movie.
Sybil runs the gamut of emotions in her acting, always with her special girlish English accent. Her voice rings like a perfectly tuned bell. With her big brown eyes, she alternates masterfully between a little girl's joy, pain, laughter, longing, affection and fear.
The movie itself is extremely well done. Not your usual depression era child mush-fest, the movie works on many levels -- beyond the little lost orphan story, it is a masterful, tough gangster film, a love story, and a glittering, multi-faceted cinematographic gem of depression era Broadway street scenes.
Favorite line --
The Countess: "I'll be good. I won't say a word. I'll just sit in the corner and eat a lollipop"
Let's hope that the classic movie cable channels dig up some more of Sybil's lost films.
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