Circus animal trainer Wallace Beery (as "Windy" O'Shaughnessy) shows son "Spanky" McFarland (as "Stubby") how to train a lion cub while well-proportioned wife and mother Leona Maricle (as Cora) thrills audiences on the flying trapeze. She suffers from psychological problems, and leaves the circus due to Mr. Beery's drinking and carousing. Beery, devastated because he no longer has the companionship of his son, is disabled when his right arm becomes tiger food. He hits the skids as a one-armed-man, but will soon receive a second chance with both the circus and his son.
When his mother is taken the biggest of the big tops, young Jackie Cooper (as Joseph O'Shaughnessy, a slightly older "Stubby") is placed in military school under the guardianship of mean aunt Sarah Haden (as Martha Shields). The court grants Beery custody of son Cooper for a three month trial period. He takes his boy back to live at the circus, where Beery's been re-hired (despite now having only one arm). Trouble is, teary-eyed Cooper misses his mother and feels none of the old closeness with Beery. Can Beery win back both his son's heart, and his courage in the cage?
"O'Shaughnessy's Boy" capitalizes on the chemistry of its stub-nosed co-stars, who won box office battles in "The Champ" (1931). It also features some good MGM resources, although you'll mainly see them being wasted in this film. The biggest distraction is the fact that Beery is supposed to be playing a man with one arm through most of the movie, and it's obvious he's simply hiding his right arm under an over-sized coat. Most of the performances are overwrought, although Beery and Ms. Haden have some good moments. "Spanky" McFarland and Cooper were both in "Our Gang".
***** O'Shaughnessy's Boy (9/27/35) Richard Boleslawski ~ Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Sara Haden, Clarence Muse
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