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"The First of May" refers to a greenhorn in the circus business, and that's what young Cory (affectingly played by Dan Byrd) is, when he runs away from his current foster home & joins forces with Carlotta, a lonely, assertive woman condemned for some reason(she has no obvious physical or mental defect) to a restrictive Florida nursing home. Carlotta is no greenhorn, however; she has had years of experience in a circus & even encounters two old friends when she & Cory join Clyde Beatty's troop. The circus scenes alone, w/ their brilliant colors & daredevil activity, would be enough to attract young viewers, but the film is also based on the child-catching premise that a young person of pluck & ingenuity can rescue himself from a constrictive situation. I, for one, was sorry to see Cory return at the end to the kindly but clueless couple from whom he ran away. (In one episode they put him to bed without supper, without asking for any explanation of his behavior.) The lack of family dialogue, however, is more than made up for in his relationship with Carlotta, wonderfully played (complete with foreign accent--Austrian? Hungarian?) by the inimitable Julie Harris, who handles every scene, including dancing with an elephant, with dignified capability. Harris, Mickey Rooney, and several other actors (including Joe DiMaggio in a cameo) agreed to act in this film because it sends the message, "Adopt an unwanted child." But the more important message is, that with the concern & understanding of a few perceptive adults, a child can acquire the self-assurance he needs to succeed in an often irrational, unfriendly world.
The story was well written, the acting was well done, the cinematography
well done. Charles Nelson Reily was great as an old clown, and Mickey
was in his usual top form, even at this age.
Heck, I'm not one for family films, but this one was pretty good. My wife caught it on the Hallmark channel, and we just ended up watching it.
Sure, it has a happy ending...it's supposed to. Anything else would have been a disappointment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The screenplay took the book's story and enhanced it into a great
of the human condition. A cast away placed into a series of foster
and institutions that are warehouses at best; finally finds a home with
Michelle and Dan and for a time seems to be more than the
He even finds a friend; an old lady who, as he, is without a family; Carlotta is a retired Circus performer and tells Cory stories of her life with the circus and shares her favorite candy. As the two talk and learn about the other, Cory realizes that Carlotta and he have a great deal in common. Neither of them have a family ... Cory volunteers to be Carlotta's family and she pledges the same ... the two of them build a family.
The Michelle becomes pregnant, Cory overhears Dan and Michelle talk about the pregnancy and how it would affect Cory ... Cory misunderstands and jumps to the wrong conclusion ... decides that he's not wanted; just like the rest and runs away. Carlotta decides to run away with him.
They ultimately find a circus, and the two of them find an extended family (not like the book) and build meaningful relationships with and old friend Dinghy and Zack a performer that takes Cory under his wing. Zack along with the school teacher/high ring dancer bring Cory back together with Dan and Michelle when Carlotta suffers a heart attack and seems to die.
All ends well; with the misunderstanding resolved; Cory goes back to Dan and Michelle and becomes their son and brother to the new baby. Carlotta recovers and becomes moves in with the family ... the two of them finally get what they've wanted all along ... a family.
A great story played by a powerful cast, and a great improvement over the one found in the book; which was good, don't get me wrong. But in the screenplay all the characters become real and positive players in Cory's life. I give the effort a 10; and hope it's released in DVD or at least VHS.
I first saw The First of May a few years ago with my family and we all
were thoroughly pleased. Julie Harris gives a wonderful performance as
the lovable Carlotta and Dan Byrd is fantastic in his first film!
Mickey Rooney may not be the greatest actor in the world (and I hear he smelled like tuna fish on set) but he certainly seemed to deliver in this film.
This film also features the final screen appearance of Joe DiMaggio, a true baseball legend.
The story is fun and touching, the cast is fantastic, and I have a feeling that kid who played the catcher will go on to do great things in the future!
I really hope this film comes to DVD soon! I'll be the first in line to buy it and share it with others!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just saw this movie as the opening film at our town's first ever film festival here in NM. This was an independent film made by a gentleman in Florida. I knew that Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris were in it but was surprised by Charles Nelson Reilly. He was fun to see. I thought the movie was well done and had something for everyone. The young man who played Cory was perfect for his part. I thought Julie Harris was wonderful dealing with the problems of the aged. It was also a good film promoting the idea of adoption. It showed how some kids fall through the cracks. Some of the wisdom in this movie will be remembered for a long time. The rest of the cast was good as well as the cinematography. They did an excellent job with the real circus footage versus the film footage. Fun for the whole family!
I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening followed by a Q&A session conducted by the producer-director and found the film to be wonderful - there wasn't a dry eye in the house - and the Q&A session to be very enlightening. Don't miss this one if you have a chance to see it. Julie Harris gives an Oscar-quality performance as an elderly lady shunted off to an old folks home. Dan Byrd is perfect as the foster child abandoned by his mother. Joe DiMaggio played hurt once again and you wouldn't know it. The director shared with us that The Yankee Clipper, who was forced by the union to accept the princely sum of $248 for his work in this film, cracked two ribs the week before filming his scenes. Although he was in obvious pain between takes, on-screen he was the Joe DiMaggio we all remember. This G-rated film has powerful messages about adoption and should be seen by families. This movie deserves wide release.
I will be writing a paper on The First of May. I am a student of Professor Rogers and consider it an honor to experience the insights he has provided in many aspects. The First of May hit home with me and I believe that this movie has a message to deliver to others as well. I believe in the efforts put forth in this movie and the dedication has paid off in sharing family values and encouraging love, support, and understanding towards one another. The First of May contains all the elements of emotion allowing the viewer to the escape with the circus on the roller-coaster of life. It also shares a reality with these ups and downs; however, through life's journey comes hope and belief! This is a movie worthwhile to watch. I am sure it will give appreciation to those you hold dearly.
I was in Gary Rogers drama class at LSCC and he is an amazing
professor. I got to be Little Red Riding Hood in a kiddie musical we
put on for school kids. All the songs were really cute and the kids
We watched the movie in class and I loved it! I haven't had much luck finding it to watch on TV but have seen Dan Byrd in several things since. I haven't seen it in a couple of years hopefully I will catch the movie on TV soon. I really wanted my daughter to watch it I think she would really enjoy it.
The story line is really great and fun very family friendly!!
The Fist of May is a great family film. This is a nice story of a foster
child meeting an older woman in a nursing home, bonding with her and running
away to join the circus with her. The film is well acted. Julie Harris is
wonderful. The kid who played "Corey" is a fabulous actor. Even Joe DiMaggio
This film looked great, sounded great, was well acted and well directed.
I watched this movie because of my eternal love of Charles Nelson Reilly. I love this story. The entire cast was superb. Although I didn't enjoy the family scenes too much, I enjoyed every minute of the circus. This is definitely on my list of favorite movies!
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