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Frank Coghlan Jr.,
Mary Lou is excited because today is her older brother Sonny's birthday. Sonny wants a motorcycle, but his father has decided to buy him a dog instead, mainly because he himself wants to have a dog that he can take hunting. After a dispute with his father, Sonny leaves home. As he walks along a railroad track, he finds a frightened lost dog, and soon he begins to feel differently about dogs. Written by
In the 1930s studios would use short films like this one sort of as testing grounds for new actors, given their relative ease of production in comparison with full length feature films, so it's interesting that this one should star Shirley Temple, who had long since established herself as The Most Famous Child Star of All Time. Then again, she probably wasn't the one being tested, I would imagine that would have been Frank Coghlan Jr., who played Shirley's brother Sonny in the movie and delivered a comparatively less impressive performance. Then again, a 9-year-old Shirley Temple was probably not an easy act to accompany.
The film opens with an unimpressive sight gag involving a leaky ceiling, which I suppose was designed to have Shirley Temple give a scornful look at the ceiling, illustrate the working class status of the family in the movie, and provide a clean transition into the next scene, which features Shirley gleefully stomping in the rain.
It's Sonny'y birthday, and his father makes occasional and horrendously botched efforts to hide the fact that he wants to give Sonny a dog that he really wants for himself, but Sonny is afraid of dogs because he was bitten by one once and has been creeped out ever since. It's curious that, when his father insists on getting a dog, Sonny decides to run away from home rather than have a dog in the house, and as he is running away with no destination in sight, it's also curious that the movie illustrates what seems to be an indifference to homeless people that surpasses even the astounding indifference that exists today.
Sonny passes a man cooking bacon in an iron skillet at the side of the train tracks (right after a train flew by which, given how close to the tracks he was, you would think would have blown the guy right off the tracks, but no matter). After Sonny gives up on sharing breakfast due to the sour stare that his gleeful smile receives from the guy, he continues on and the homeless guy disappears from the movie. It's interesting to consider what a longer film would have done, because this one leaves this poor guy as a loose end.
Not that that matters, Sonny soon hears a dog whining underneath a trestle as he passes over it, and jumps down to find a dog covered in burrs. It might seem trite that he immediately takes the dog up and adopts it since he just left home because of his fear of dogs, but it seemed to me that he just needed to be reminded not of his power over dogs, but of their lack of power over him. As soon as he saw a dog in need he overcame his fear.
Hey, if that's all it takes, all I have to do is find a helpless spider and I'm set!
It's a very convenient movie in which everything works out exactly as it is supposed to, but it's cute enough and enjoyable enough (and short enough, as it were) to still be a fun movie. We already don't expect an epic plot in a 19-minute film, but Pardon My Pups still packs in a substantial amount of story and character development in its short running time. And it also features a fight scene at the end of the movie that must have made Charlie Chaplin proud. I am hardly an expert of Shirley Temple's films, but it's not hard to see how she became The Most Famous Child Star of All Time.
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