Precocious adolescent Skippy Skinner spends most of his time trying to get around doing those things that his parents want him to do (like brush his teeth), while doing those things his parents don't want him to do. Chief among the latter is spending time across the railroad tracks in Shantytown, instead of playing with "clean" neighborhood kids like brother and sister Sidney and Eloise. Skippy's father, Dr. Herbert Skinner, the city's head of the health board, in particular doesn't like Skippy spending time there as Dr. Skinner is a verminophobe, and believes Shantytown is dirty and unhealthy. On Skippy's latest visit to Shantytown when he meets a new friend named Sooky Wayne, he learns that Shantytown is being torn down and its poor residents have to move. And Sooky's mongrel and unlicensed (since Mrs. Wayne can't afford the $3 license fee) dog Penny is captured by the city's dog catcher. As Skippy does whatever he can to raise the $3 to get Penny back for his new friend (which ...Written by
Based on the comic strip of the same title written and drawn by Percy Crosby that was published from 1923 to 1945. The strip also spawned a novel in 1929 and a children's radio serial program from 1932 to 1935 on the CBS Radio Network. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring the character (albeit as a doll) in 1997. The character was so popular it led to a lot of merchandising, but not including the Skippy brand peanut butter launched in 1933. Litgation over that matter has been repeatedly fought in the courts by Crosby and his heirs well into the 21st century. See more »
This constitutes one of the most surprising Oscar wins in history – the Best Direction nod for Taurog (reportedly, the youngest such recipient at the age of 32!) over heavyweights Lewis Milestone for THE FRONT PAGE (1931; who, by then i.e. the 4th ceremony, already had two statuettes to his name!) and Josef von Sternberg for MOROCCO (1930; the first of only two nominations for one of my dozen favourite auteurs!), both clearly superior films. Taurog was perhaps the epitome of the journeyman film- maker in Hollywood's Golden Age – showing a propensity for kiddie fare (such as SKIPPY and its unavailable inferior sequel made the same year, SOOKY, are), notably two BOYS' TOWN pictures (1938, for which he was also nominated, and 1941) and the Venice Film Festival winner(!) THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (also 1938), and musical comedies (suffice it to say that he ended his career directing resistible vehicles for the likes of Jerry Lewis and Elvis Presley!).
Incidentally, SKIPPY was also seminal for having the first child performer to be nominated for acting (nine year-old Jackie Cooper, who happened to be Taurog's own nephew!): needless to say, the role made him a star yet lasted just a few years at the top (though he formed a durable partnership with Wallace Beery) – not least because the market was subsequently flooded by other talented juveniles (Shirley Temple, Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, etc.). For the record, SKIPPY (which I had previously acquired a low-quality copy of, but did manage to upgrade some time back) was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (co-written by Norman Z. McLeod and Joseph L. Mankiewicz – both better-known as directors, though the latter would only move up the scale 15 years down the line).
Anyway, the film is a likable effort all round if hardly displaying outstanding merit at this juncture. Though a couple of them are overbearing (especially a girl with a penchant for yodeling!), the kids are practically the whole show here: apart from Cooper, easily the most effective is – the brother of famed child actor and later "Uncle Fester" incarnation Jackie – Robert Coogan (playing Sooky and actually top- billed during the opening credits, but rightfully listed below the protagonist when these are picked up at the coda!). Even cuter are the mongrels involved (which Sooky reasons are thus more "thoroughbred" than any pure breed!), around which the narrative partly revolves. The grown- ups are generally tyrannical (Skippy's health officer father – who intends demolishing the shantytown that is Sooky's home and to where his own boy frequently escapes), subservient (Cooper's mother) or just plain bullies (the local dog-catcher).
The latter picks up Sooky's unlicensed dog, so he and Skippy scrape for money to pay for one and retrieve the mutt – even going so far as to do the old "puttin'-on-a-show" routine before a hostile audience of friends – but they are still too late to save it! Sooky is understandably crushed, and Skippy – indirectly blaming his dad for authorizing the putting-down of stray animals – withdraws to his room; in reparation, the father buys him a bike, which he immediately trades for a dog to give Sooky but, upon meeting him, discovers his pal has already filled the void (albeit with a bulldog)! The film offers drama and sentimentality galore, but also a few undeniable comic highlights – particularly the accidental repeated smashing of the dog-catcher's car windshield (the second time round by Skippy's own father!).
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