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The Peppers - widowed Mrs. Pepper and her five children Polly, Ben, Joey, Davie and Phronsie - and the Kings - mining businessman J.H. King and his grandson Jasper King - are still living in the Pepper's small house in Gusty Corners with their faithful butler Martin, despite they now being financially well off with the discovery of copper in their mine. But the Peppers will soon have to move as Mrs. Pepper has been diagnosed with a serious health issue that requires her to recuperate for at least a year in a location at altitude. While J.H., Jasper and Martin remain in Gusty Corners, the Peppers move out west to stay with Mrs. Pepper's sister, Alice Anderson, and her husband, Jim Anderson, who own a boarding house in Oregon logging country. The Peppers, however, are not totally welcomed as Jim does not want them to stay, despite the Peppers paying their own room and board. What the children are unaware of is that Jim is a drunk and the boarding house is the only way the Andersons can ... Written by
Several people are in studio records/casting call lists as cast members, but they did not appear or were not identifiable in the movie. These were (with their character names): Millard Vincent (First Specialist), Wyndham Standing (Second Specialist) and Harry Bernard (Checkers Player) See more »
OUT WEST WITH THE PEPPERS (Columbia, 1940), directed by Charles Barton, the third installment of the short lived theatrical series based on Margaret Sidney's storybook characters, marks another change with the casting of one of its regulars. Clarence Kolb, who initiated the role of business tycoon, J.H. King, is now played by Pierre Watkin. While the King role was a major supporting one, he, along with his grandson, Jasper (Ronald Sinclair), are both reduced to limited performances. Dorothy Ann Seese retains her second billing status under Edith Fellows as the level headed older sister, while Dorothy Peterson resumes her part of the mother, who, this time around, is secondary, leaving the Five Little Peppers (who introduce themselves individually in the opening credits as they pop up from behind the pepper shakers) to carry the basic premise here on their own.
The story has its humble beginning on a ship as the Peppers, along with Mr. King (Pierre Watson) his grandson, Jasper (Ronald Sinclair), and King's servant, Martin, (Rex Moore), due to Mrs. Pepper's (Dorothy Peterson) sudden illness, returning home prematurely from their overall trip to Paris. Upon their venture back to Gusty Corners, Polly (Edith Fellows), advised by their doctor of her mother's need for rest and relaxation, writes a letter to her Aunt Alice (Helen Brown) in Drakefield, Oregon, asking if the family can come visit with her for a while. Alice, who runs a boarding house, is pleased with the news to be with her sister and siblings again, but her husband, Jim (Victor Kilian) is not. While there, Phronsie (Dorothy Ann Seese), the youngest, stirs up trouble for Uncle Jim by correcting his paying guests, consisting mostly of lumberjacks, about their manners at the dinner table. ("My goo'ness"). While the Pepper kids do their best not to annoy Uncle Jim, they do so unintentionally. As Mother Pepper gets her deserved rest, and Ben (Charles Peck) spending time away working at a local grocery store, the Pepper kids find time to acquire a true friend in Ole Johnson (Emory Parnell), who takes a liking to little Phronsie ("bless her little heart'). One day, the kindly Swedish lumberjack takes the four children out on a picnic, and builds a raft for David (Bobby Larson) and Joey (Tommy Bond) so that can play pirates. With the boys and Phronsie abroad, the raft unexpectedly floats down the river to unforeseen danger.
Unlike the title inspired OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS (MGM, 1938), a popular family film series starring Mickey Rooney, this Pepper venture doesn't include horses or cowboys, mostly lumberjacks in a small working community. Still tightly edited at 62 minutes, and containing less sentiment than the earlier Pepper entries, screenwriter Harry Rebuas has wisely thrown in some "Our Gang" (Little Rascals) type antics in for good measure, some quite typical for its time. Notable scenes include the mischievous Joey and David stirring up a commotion when seen walking on the rail of the ship; the three Pepper brothers arguing who gets to sleep in the middle of the bed; the boys having some fun and games at the train station while Phronsie, the youngest, releases a flock of chickens from their cages; and later, while out in the country looking for Phronsie's missing bird, the boys trapping and taking back to Uncle Jim's inn a squirrel with a white streak on its back, turning out to be a smelly skunk. The one where the Pepper kids spreading out molasses from a barrel onto the floor in a grocery store is a clear reminder of better days provided by W.C. Fields and the troublesome Baby LeRoy from IT'S A GIFT (Paramount, 1934).
With these aforementioned sequences, it's a wonder why OUT WEST WITH THE PEPPERS didn't live to the expectations to Columbia's own Bumstead family from the "Blondie" series (1938-1950). Possibly having to sit through the unpleasantness of the unsympathetic character of Uncle Jim may have something to do with it. Presenting him as one who dislikes children immensely, coping with a previous drinking problem and controlling his temper throughout is indication of having the opposite of some kindly characters, and how crucial he can be to the story in this manner. Rex Evans, who gave a sincere performance as the gentleman's gentleman in FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AT HOME (1940), offers himself in a couple of brief scenes early on, plus a rehash of him trying to get a good night's sleep while lying between two restless Pepper boys on their bed, before disappearing from view.
OUT WEST WITH THE PEPPERS is definitely routine stuff as family films go. Virtually forgotten, and seldom revived in recent years, this, and other installments have turned up on cable television's Turner Classic Movies in 2007. Next in the series: FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS IN TROUBLE (1940), which should have served as its main title for this particular installment. (**)
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