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Once Upon a Time (1944)

A cash-strapped theater producer promotes a nine-year-old boy's dancing caterpillar.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shipyard Worker (scenes deleted)
Attendant (scenes deleted)
Lionel Braham ...
Weightlifter (scenes deleted)
George Bruggeman ...
Trapeze Artist (scenes deleted)
English Bobby (scenes deleted)
Doorman (scenes deleted)
Bill Chaney ...
Call Boy (scenes deleted)
Charles Coleman ...
English Bobby (scenes deleted)
Girl from Brooklyn (scenes deleted)
George Eldredge ...
Man (scenes deleted)


Smalltime crookster and showman Jerry Flynn is desperately searching for a new act to promote in order to save him from ruin. He meets a boy on the street who claims to have a dancing caterpillar called Curly. Flynn seizes the opportunity for fame and fortune at Curly's expense. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Fantasy


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Release Date:

29 June 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alexander Hall's Once Upon a Time  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on February 4, 1945 with Ted Donaldson reprising his film role. See more »


Version of Sametka (1967) See more »


Yes Sir, That's My Baby
Music by Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Played often throughout the film
See more »

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User Reviews

Obscure for Good Reason
25 May 2016 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Plot-- A neighborhood boy (Donaldson) discovers a caterpillar that dances to a harmonica tune. Meanwhile, show-biz impresario Flynn (Grant) is going bust, and sees the novelty of a dancing insect as his ticket back up the ladder. But how will the businessman get along with the critter's young owner who's got a more personal interest than making a fortune.

Despite the talent involved, the movie overall fails to gel. Unfortunately, director Hall directs at a flaccid pace that drains too many of the comedic aspects. Admittedly, the material is difficult to get a handle on, which I think is the reason for the rather odd prologue. In addition, we never see the dancing caterpillar around which the plot evolves. Instead the fuss appears to amount to no more than a shoebox with an eyehole in it. Couldn't special effects have done at least a dancing silhouette? That would have given viewers something definite to root for, instead of a cheap piece of cardboard.

Cast-wise, little Donaldson is quite persuasive as the willful boy, looking nothing like the usual Hollywood moppet, while movie vet Gleason does his usual cranky old man bit. Seems the well-upholstered Blair is mainly along for the ride and a fashion parade. However, Grant has a few Grant moments, but is largely wasted. Too bad that on the whole a number of lesser actors could have sufficed.

All in all, I can see why the movie's not included in Grant's lengthy canon. As a result, it has drifted into understandable movie obscurity.

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