BOY TROUBLE (Paramount, 1939), directed by George Archainbaud, might sound more like a Warner Brothers social drama dealing with a rebellious youth causing trouble in a reform school, but in fact, is a heartwarming comedy-drama centering upon the trials and tribulations of a middle-aged couple, Homer and Sybil Fitch, as enacted by Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland, a popular couple of fine screen chemistry that started in 1932.
As for the plot, Homer C. Fitch (Ruggles), a storekeeper and family man with a wife (Boland) daughter, Patricia (Joyce Matthews), and an adopted son, "Butch" Smiley (Donald O'Connor), decide to take in another orphan, Joey (Billy Lee) with the possibility of adopting him. Homer proves himself the perfect father when devoting all his time to Joey after he becomes seriously ill. As for Butch, the pre-teen agrees to let Homer become a member of the "Golden Arrow" boys club. However, trouble links into the Fitch household when Homer, in a fit of anger, socks Mr. Snively (Andrew Toombes), his employer, causing him to lose his position and his chances of keeping Joey when news of this incident reaches the adoption agency.
The supporting cast features John Hartley as Wyndham "Windy" Wilson, Patricia's love interest; Zeffie Tilbury as Mrs. Jefferson; and Dick Elliott as Doctor Benslinger, among others.
This long forgotten programmer was a typical time filler in theatrical houses at the time, and not a bad little film at that. BOY TROUBLE was to have been the start of a proposed movie series, following the tradition of MGM's Hardy Family ("Andy Hardy"), Republic's Higgins Family, and Columbia's Bumstead Family ("Blondie"), but after only two installments, the second and much better being NIGHT WORK (1939), the series came to a close.
In spite of Mary Boland's name heading the cast, the story is devoted more to the second billed Charlie Ruggles. A fine character actor of numerous diversified roles, it is his performance that carries on the film. Little Billy Lee and Joyce Matthews would appear in other motion pictures before fading away from the Hollywood scene, but of the youths, only Donald O'Connor's career succeeded the longest, through adulthood in films, television and night clubs performances.
BOY TROUBLE, which runs at 66 minutes, is fine family viewing, especially those who enjoy old-fashioned entertainment such as this, but sadly this had been out of circulation on the television markets since the mid 1970s, and may never be seen again, but to know and love the wonderful team of Boland and Ruggles, watch the old video releases of SIX OF A KIND (1934) and/or RUGGLES OF RED GAP (1935). (**1/2)
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