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This movie, a re-make of Shirley Temple's "Little Miss Marker" gets
little respect from the critics. As usual, I disagree with them: this
is fun movie and one you should enjoy if you like Temple and laugh at
Bob Hope's jokes.
I didn't always think Hope was funny but this movie had a lot of laughs, a great story and a cute kid. It isn't as hokey or dated as most of Hope's films and some of his lines in here are downright clever.
Mary Jane Saunders does a nice imitation of Temple-Margaret O'Brien, a combination of those two child stars. You also get Lucille Ball in here, although she's just okay, nothing hilarious. She does get some good wise-cracks in, however.
This is a solid, underrated comedy. I'm sorry to see I am only the second person to review this film on IMDb. A lot of people are missing out on a funny movie.
This is a remake of 1934's Little Miss Marker, a Shirley Temple movie. Sorrowful Jones, the cheap bookie, is played to a tee by Bob Hope, who suddenly has a little girl to look after when her father leaves her in his care as a bet marker, and doesn't come back. But the little girl doesn't mix well with his lifestyle, and provides him with some close shaves involving some errant gangsters, and a bout of horse napping. A predictable and sappy ending, but still a sweet little movie, with some hilarious one liners by Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. (Make sure you're not eating when you watch this, because they shoot them out so suddenly that you're likely to end up wearing your lunch.) Overall? 8 out of 10.
All the versions of the Runyon story are very good. It's just a great story, but this one is clearly the best. A seemingly heartless, stingy bookie accepts a little girl as a marker for a bet, but when the girl's father is killed by notorious gangsters, the bookie, Sorrowful Jones, is stuck with her. The events that follow range from hysterically funny to emotionally provoking. And those qualities are enhanced by great talents. Bob Hope is perfect as the stingy bookie, playing to his usual role. Bruce Cabot does well as the evil gangster, and Lucille Balllands another great role (she had to have the best agent in the business) as the mother figure. But the little girl, Martha Jane Smith, is absolutely divine as the sad faced girl that even makes Bob Hope melt. She is just zillions of times cuter and more emotion provoking than the bland Shirley Temple. If you don't believe me, see for yourself. A classic that need to come to AMC instead of those stupid boring movies they keep showing (Arnie movies, Stallone movies, Friday 13 movies, etc). How about showing real classics like this instead, something people will watch and enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In their first of four big screen appearances (not to mention countess
on TV), Bob Hope and Lucille Ball go into Damon Runyeon territory and
are almost upstaged by a little girl. Ball had gone down Runyeon
territory before with "The Big Street" and Hope would follow this up
with "The Lemon Drop Kid". This remake of "Little Miss Marker" is
almost better thanks to the less overly sweet performance of Mary Jane
Saunders, compared to Shirley Temple's in the 1934 version. She is
simply just a little girl, not too coy or perky, and totally natural.
As the orphaned young girl (left with Hope by her soon-to-be murdered
father), Saunders brings heart into the film, giving Hope more humanity
as a tragic accident leaves her life in the balance. Ball, as a
nightclub singer who obviously has motherly instincts, is given her
share of wisecracks along with Hope, and together they are a fun team.
Bruce Cabot and Tom Pedi are a believable team of mobsters, Pedi in particularly funny as a slightly older variation of Leo Gorcey. The future "Uncle Charlie" of "My Three Sons", William Demarest, is very funny as Hope's crotchety partner at the bookie joint he runs. There are many light-hearted moments between Saunders, Hope and Ball, and the scene where Hope tries to get a race horse put under Saunders' name into the hospital, is both funny and touching. The mix of sentiment and comedy makes this remake most worth watching, not just for Lucy and Bob fans, but everybody who simply wants to see a good story where seemingly not so noble characters prove that they actually have a heart, gangsters who seem dumb (but actually aren't as dumb as they seem) and a little girl who can steal your heart without giving you diabetes in the process. This was remade two more times after this in OK versions that aren't as classic as this and the original, somewhat lacking the heart, particularly the one that this version displays.
In this remake of the Shirley Temple vehicle "Little Miss Marker," a little girl is left as collateral for a racetrack bet. The good news is that it's a huge improvement over the terrible Temple film. The bad news is that it's still based on the same uninteresting Runyan story. As the little girl, Saunders is much easier to take than Temple. Unlike the earlier version, the focus here shifts from the little girl to the title character, which is a good thing as Hope is always fun to watch. Hope and Ball work well together although they don't get much help from the script here. The ending is far better than the corny finale to the earlier film.
What you will think about this probably depends a lot on if you are
looking more for comedy or more for a cute family film...with a strong
emphasis on cute. As far as a comedy goes, it's not terribly funny. As
a cute film goes, it works reasonably well--mostly because the little
tyke is awfully sweet--and not always in a saccharine way. It is
clearly designed as a sweet family film and Bob Hope's comedy
definitely takes a back seat to this.
The story is about a period in the life of the Damon Runyon character, Sorrowful Jones. All of Runyon's characters had colorful names like this, by the way. Jones is a professional gambler--a sharpie with an aluminum heart. First and foremost, he is interested in money and hasn't an ounce of sentiment about him. However, when a poor schnook leaves his four year-old child with Jones, temporarily, Jones is forced to care for the tyke. Sadly, however, her father runs afoul of a mobster and is killed--leaving the kid to either stay with Hope or go to an orphanage. Naturally, the struggle throughout the film is for Hope to show SOME nurturing skills and force down his natural impulse to be a money-grubbing jerk. To help him in this process is his on-again/off-again girlfriend played ably by Lucille Ball.
In a goofy twist (and one I didn't care for that much), the child becomes the owner of a racehorse...of sorts. Crooks decide to put the horse in the child's name in an effort to dodge the police--but the child becomes enamored with it. This leads to a schmaltzy portion of the film when the child is hurt and ends up in the hospital. They almost give up hope (not the actor) until Bob gets the idea of sneaking the horse into the hospital (this happens all the time). But, to do this, he has to fight thugs who are intent on killing the horse instead.
All in all, this was not a bad Bob Hope vehicle despite the emphasis on schmaltz instead of humor--though I would have preferred more humor and less sentiment. It's agreeable and cute, though as I said above, some may balk at the fact that the humor, such as it is, is pretty restrained. But, Hope did show that he could handle a role with a bit more to it than his usual characters...just a bit.
By the way, there have been four versions of this film. I haven't seen any of the others, so I cannot compare them. But based on the plot, I'm not in a huge hurry to see the rest. Meh.
FYI---Little Mary Jane Saunders grew up to marry Jay Johnstone, the major league baseball player.
Sorrowful Jones is both the first time Bob Hope teamed up with Lucille
Ball as a leading lady and it's his first try at a Damon Runyon
character. It succeeded, but it's not as good as some of the other of
Bob Hope's Forties comedies.
This is a remake of Little Miss Marker where Adolphe Menjou played the role of Sorrowful Jones. The problem with this version is that in the first one the main character is the little girl left as a human marker for bookie Sorrowful Jones. The little girl back then was Shirley Temple and it was a Shirley Temple picture.
No child was going to steal the spotlight from Bob Hope and this one has the emphasis on Hope's character which is all wrong. Little Mary Jane Saunders is not Shirley Temple, but who is. Anyway she does not steal the film from Hope and that's wrong.
On the plus side Hope and Lucille Ball show some really good chemistry and they did far better in their next film together Fancy Pants. Also look for good performances from Bruce Cabot as the gambling kingpin and from William Demarest as Hope's sidekick.
But if you want to see Hope and Ball at their best I recommend Fancy Pants.
Damon Runyon was another one of those writers whose work never
transferred very successfully to the screen. Even the great Ernest
Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald had troublesome films made from their
novels. Runyon failed before with THE BIG STREET (Lucille Ball as a
hard-boiled dame using Henry Fonda as a doormat) but had better luck
when GUYS AND DOLLS transformed one of his works into a musical.
Here it fails once again to provide BOB HOPE and LUCILLE BALL with anything more than routine roles in this racetrack comedy about an unlikely man to chaperone a kid (MARY JANE SAUNDERS in the role originated by Shirley Temple in "Little Miss Marker"). Saunders is cute, but that's about it. She's no Temple and never went on to child star stardom as Temple did.
Sidney Lanfield directed a lot of lightweight films for Paramount, not all of them successful, and this has to be counted among his least likable comedies--unless, of course, you happen to be a fan of the stars and can watch them in anything.
Hope has some amusing one-liners as the man who takes a marker on a kid who becomes a big part of his life and Lucille Ball has a few quips of her own. Adolphe Menjou played the unsuitable man in the Temple film, with better and more believable results. Hope and Ball are simply killing time here and it shows.
The story, which depends so much on the charisma and appeal of a child star, simply hasn't got the strength to support Hope and Ball. This one's a real loser without the charm of the original.
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