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Edwin J. Burke
JUST AROUND THE CORNER (20th Century-Fox, 1938), directed by Irving Cummings, stars Shirley Temple in what might be her only venture into "screwball comedy," and reportedly her first box-office flop. Temple plays Penny Hale, a child who returns home from boarding school to her prominent architect father (Charles Farrell), unemployed and now living in a basement of the same skyscraper in which they used to live in style up in the penthouse. Amanda Duff, a new Fox starlet at the time, is featured as Farrell's love interest.
Songs by Walter Bullock and Harold Spina include: "Just Around the Corner" (sung during opening credits); "This is a Happy Little Ditty" (sung by Shirley Temple, with Joan Davis, Bert Lahr/danced by Bill Robinson and Temple); "Brass Buttons and Apple-Lass" (sung and danced by Bill Robinson and doormen); and the lively tune, "I Like to Walk in the Rain" (sung by Temple/danced by Temple and Robinson).
Aside from familiar character actors in the supporting cast, featuring the likes of Franklin Pangborn and Cora Witherspoon (who later appeared opposite WC Fields in 1940s THE BANK DICK), along with Joan Davis and Bert Lahr as maid and chauffeur, some of the comedy strains for laughs. Shirley was about 10 years old when this movie was made, and recites lines and lands herself in comedic situations that would have performed better if she were a few years younger. Instead of being cute, she appears more silly than charming, sorry to say. The dance numbers in which she participates with Bill Robinson, as the building doorman, are still good but not given enough screen time to make amends for trite storyline. As with Temple's previous LITTLE MISS Broadway (1938), JUST AROUND THE CORNER plays at "B" movie length of 70 minutes, both giving some indication of it being longer, and having gone through some tight film editing process. Joan Davis whose name is billed second after Temple, disappears before the movie is half way over. What became of her? Maybe she and Lahr, who are very amusing together, had more to do, even in a supposed production number in a charity benefit near the film's end that possibly got the ax. Maybe deleted scenes such as the this might turn up as part of a documentary on 20th Century-Fox movies or Shirley Temple's career in the similar fashion to American Movie Classic's well constructed HIDDEN Hollywood (From the vaults of 20th Century-Fox) specials that premiered in the mid 1990s. Charles Farrell, billed third, as Temple's (supposedly) widowed father, had seen better days in his career at the old Fox Film Studios when he achieved popularity as the romantic leading man opposite Janet Gaynor in 12 feature films from 1927 to 1934. He was by then a name of the past whose movie career came to an end by 1941. And Shirley gets to share screen time opposite a boy actor, Bennie Bartlett, playing a rich "momma's boy" named Milton with curls and glasses, but with the encouragement by little Penny, Milton earns respect from his "Uncle Sam" (Claude Gillingwater Sr.) by losing those "girly" curls (Penny had given him a much needed haircut), and getting a black eye in a fight with a bully. Aside from that, Temple continues to play her usual "little miss fix it."
JUST AROUND THE CORNER, available on video cassette in both black and white and colorized versions since the late 1980s, appeared as part of Shirley Temple festivals on the Disney Channel in the early 1990s, followed by American Movie Classics cable channel from 1996 to 2001, and the Fox Movie Channel, where it is currently shown. (**)
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