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Olivia de Havilland,
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The truly delightful Virginia Weidler is at her most engaging as an innocent teenage orphan in this film excellently directed by Austrian émigré William Thiele. She is supported by a host of splendid character actors of the period such as Elizabeth Patterson and Guy Kibbee. The film has some truly hilarious moments and is most entertaining. The South African actor Ian Hunter is wonderful as the ever-cheerful adoptive father who battles corruption in his town with fearless intrepitude, risking ruin for his whole family. And Gene Reynolds is perfect as the young boy who befriends Virginia. Reynolds had come fresh from his excellent work earlier in the year in 'They Shall Have Music' with violinist Jascha Heifetz (one of the best such musical films ever made), and he later ended up as the producer of the TV series 'Mash'. The girl played by Virginia is deeply religious in a conventional Southern Baptist way, and opens the Bible at random to receive a message from the Lord in exactly the same manner that Oliver Cromwell used to do in the 17th century. Although this film may seem 'deeply religious' now, in this far more secular age, there was nothing at all unusual about the story in 1939, and it was not made as a religious film at all, but as a comedy fable. If it had been of truly religious intent, it would not have made such jokes out of the Biblical passages. Early in the film, Virginia is fleeing the horrible orphanage, having been instructed by the Bible to 'flee into Egypt'. She goes to the train station and asks for a ticket to Egypt, and is told blandly that that will be one dollar and fifty cents. The ticket turns out to be to Egypt, New Jersey. This film is a wonderful joyride, highly recommended to all who can laugh and to all who can cry, and Virginia Weidler was a marvellous presence on the screen, a child actor who was far from beautiful but whose personality shone.
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