Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980 TV Movie)
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That innocent young Fauntleroy melts the heart of his cantankerous grandfather played by Alec Guinness is hardly surprising. It is the typical Christmas good overcoming evil theme in the best Charles Dickens tradition. It is the path of the film, the actors and the setting that make this a jewel. The plot goes something like this: Grandfather sends for grandson.
Grandson assumes love, Grandfather is looking for an heir.
Heir becomes loved grandson.
There are subplots of grandfather not liking American mother/daughter-in-law and refusing to acknowledge her; the deplorable conditions of the estate's workers; and a contender for heir to the title and estate.
I watched this gem when it first aired and have watched my poorly transferred VHS copy yearly since (in my household it wouldn't be Christmas without it).
I long for this made-for-TV movie to be released on a remastered DVD.
Filmed in England with virtually no other American in it than Ricky Schroeder, it has the proper Victorian feel to it. Ricky brings his brash but honest Yankee personality into this staid atmosphere and shakes up his grandfather's long-held prejudices against the Colonies and his own family and tenants. Schroeder was the ultimate child actor; no other I could think of would have done this role justice as he is perfect for the part. His beautiful blond hair, in the requisite pageboy required for a Victorian Lord Fauntleroy, frames his angelic face and visually sets him on a plane above every other actor, even Alec Guinness. Guinness is superb as the bitter and self-absorbed grandfather. The rest of the supporting players are excellent, especially Colin Blakely as the opinionated Mr. Hobbs, the American grocer. The English countryside and architecture also have their own role to play here. The landscape is lush and beautiful, and the enormous estate that Lord Fauntleroy will inherit is magnificent, adding much to the atmosphere.
This is a fine family film which is especially wonderful to watch at Christmas; unfortunately it hasn't been out on VHS since 1980 and hasn't been released in the US on DVD, but has been released in an Italian edition with the English soundtrack and Italian menu options. The transfer is excellent and the film is uncut. This is not hard to find but is in Region 2 format, so regular US DVD players won't play it. If you ever run across a copy of the film in any form don't hesitate to snap it up. This is one of those rare films that truly brings a novel to life, and it shouldn't be missed.
The music score was particularly good too and even now I can remember the wonderful theme.
Another reason why I liked this film so much is that it was filmed locally to where I used to live. The castle scenes were filmed in and around Belvoir Castle in Lincolnshire (near Grantham), and where the Duke of Rutland resides. The shop/village scenes were filmed in the village of Exton, Rutland (near Oakham - my home town).
Hope to see a DVD copy sometime! BTW would love to know Patrick Stewart's thoughts/memories on this film!
Throughout it was well timed and a real tear jerker.
I lost my copy several years ago - anyone know where one is available???
The mother is great and all the supporting cast too. The beauty of English countryside and of New York are wonderful. The lines are terrific. The mother's speech about American values and the lawyers prejudice of English countryside are just fantastic.
I have a worn VHS tape from the TV of it that may break any year now. so I really would like it out on DVD.
A great children's or Cmas film. I put it up to the level with "It's a Wonderful Life."!!!
Director Jack Gold manages to stay away from the cloying sentimentality and excessive wordiness of the badly written novel by F H Burnett. The relationship between the young boy (Schroder) who refuses to see the selfishness in his crusty and ill-tempered grandfather (Guiness) and the lonely old man, is developed reasonably well considering the budget and time restraints.
The plot concerns a young, fatherless boy, growing up on Hester Street in the low income district of New York as he rises to wealth and social position by the whim of an old man after his three sons die. Cedric's father, the youngest son, would have been the last to inherit his father's Earldom in rural England. But his unfortunate death when Cedric was very young, means the nine year old will be the next Earl of Dorincourt. His grandfather does not approve of his son's marriage to Cedric's mother, and sends for the boy to live with him, putting the mother up in a cottage on his estate because he fears what others will say if he does not provide for her in some way.
The boy is not told of his grandfather's disaffection for his mother and gradually thru his trust and fondness for his grandfather, the boy transforms the selfish Earl into a kinder, more compassionate person. When the Earl suddenly hears of another claim to the Earldom thru the illegitimate child of his middle son, Beavis, he is shocked and outraged to discover the boy and his mother are ignorant and mercenary.
Shamed by his grandson into doing good deeds, the old Earl realizes that he is not as good a man as he should be and begins to mend his ways.
The story is well told, and from a strictly critical viewpoint may be a bit too sentimental. But compared with the actual novel this film is derived from, the story has been made vastly more enjoyable by the removal of the hundreds of unnecessary adjectives in Burnett's badly written novel. Although the story was brought forward in time a few decades, this does not lessen the impact of the plot, or decrease the enjoyment factor. THe language used by young Cedric sounds a bit stilted in the mouth of Ricky Schroder, but it is the fault of the author and not the director.
I definitely feel this film is well worth viewing, so make some popcorn, call the kids into the living room and sit back and enjoy Alec Guiness, Ricky Schroder, Eric Porter and Patrick Stewart in LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY.
Within a year of first seeing it, my daughter knew every line of the script, and we would watch her watching the movie, her lips moving, speaking all the parts...(she was of course, going to marry Ricky Schroder). She still has the tape, and even at 28 years of age, still watches it from time to time. But it is sadly worn, and like another reviewer, I too long for it to be re-released on DVD. It is a beautifully made story performed equally beautifully by a superb cast.
It is an exiting story for all ages, with a feel good ending reminiscent of a kinder and more gentle age. May it last forever, and if anyone knows where it may be purchased, either new on tape, or even if it has indeed been released on DVD...please, PLEASE let me know...Enjoy! Brian Arpel