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C. Aubrey Smith
Withers is an immigrant who learns on arrival in the U.S. that her mother is dead. Friends help her survive as an entertainer, and success is a good argument against the immigration officials.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following is from "Weekly Variety" magazine: "Rita Cansino comes along nicely in this, though she is better known as a dancer than a player. She has two dance bits, both Russian, the last on a tasteful production number that actually fits the stage on which it's supposed to be played!" See more »
PADDY O'DAY (Fox Films, 1935), directed by Lewis Seiler, stars Jane Withers in the title role of Paddy O'Day. And who is Paddy O'Day? A charming, likable little immigrant girl with talent for singing, dancing, and winning the hearts of those around her. And who's Jane Withers? The same as described in character, with the exception of being a little immigrant. Before becoming best known as Josephine the Plumber in the Comet TV commercials of the 1960s and 70s, Withers was another child star of the 1930s whose movie career began about the same time as the studio's own top star, Shirley Temple. In fact, the two teamed together in BRIGHT EYES (1934) with Temple in the lead while Withers nearly steals the attention away away from little Shirley where Jane's the honorary brat making life miserable to those around her, namely Shirley. Going professionally their separate ways, and based on the performance of BRIGHT EYES, Withers earned her own assortment of likable little films mostly in the Temple formula such as this. Comparing both films, it's hard to believe how the excessively mean child from BRIGHT EYES can be the same charmingly sweet child in PADDY O'DAY, each showing off the true talent of little Jane Withers.
The story begins on a ship from Europe where Paddy O'Day (Jane Withers), a little Irish girl traveling in third class alone with her dog bound for America to be with her mother working as a cook in home of the Ford family in Salvin, Long Island. While on board, she befriends and is looked after by Tamara Petrovitch (Rita Cansino) and her Russian relatives. Upon their arrival on Ellis Isand, Benton (Russell Simpson), the Ford butler, notifies Tom McGuire (Francis Ford), an immigration officer, of the recent passing of Paddy O'Day's mother. Because there's no living relative in America to care for Paddy, it is so ordered by officials for the child to be returned home to Ireland. Not being told of the circumstances, Paddy, only knowing her dear mother to be sick, manages to sneak away from officials, hiding on board the Manhattan Dairy Product truck, ending up somewhere in a tenement district in Manhattan. After some run-ins with troublesome boys, Paddy is assisted by a fellow Irish policeman (Russ Clark) who arranges a journey to her destination to the Ford estate. Once there, she encounters the non-smiling Benton, Dora (Jane Darwell), the kind-hearted housekeeper who tells her the sad news; Roy (Pinky Tomlin), a bird fancier who recently acquired a European woodcock known as the Solopax Rusticola, and Roy's two matronly aunts, Flora (Vera Lewis) and Jane (Louise Carter), who's rather have the child turned over to the authorities rather than take the responsibility in raising this child.
Not quite an original premise but an audience pleaser none-the-less. The idea of an immigrant child loose in New York was already put to use in MY BOY (First National, 1922) starring little Jackie Coogan. Though the plot for PADDY O'DAY was not taken from MY BOY and retitled MY GIRL, portions of it was, in fact, lifted more from Fox Film's earlier musical titled DELICIOUS (Fox, 1931) starring Janet Gaynor as the youthful Scottish immigrant avoiding deportation from authorities, with Charles Farrell playing the engaged American millionaire who becomes interested in her. Co-stars Raul Roulien and Manya Roberti assume the roles of Gaynor's Russian friends, no different from the roles enacted here by Rita Cansino and George Davis. With DELICIOUS scored by George and Ira Gershwin, PADDY O'DAY features new ones by Harry Akst and Troy Sanders: "There'a a Twinkle in Your Eye" (sung by Jane Withers); "There's a Twinkle in Your Eye" (reprised by Withers while sleeping); "Russian Lullaby" (sung by Rita Cansino); "I Like a Balalaika" (sung by Withers); "Changing My Ambitions" (written and sung by Pinky Tomlin); and "There's a Twinkle in Your Eye" (reprised by Withers). The "Twinkle" song comes off best, sung by Withers in her very convincing Irish brogue. The "Balalaika" number, a somewhat weak moment, has Withers seen in outlandish eye-lashes and circular spots on her cheeks, quite similar to Gaynor's make-up in the musical portion from DELICIOUS.
With Pinky Tomlin (whose physical resemblance comes as a reminder of future band-leader, Kay Kyser) and George Davis (with broken Russian/ English dialect) individually playing their roles for sake of humor, the center of attention falls mainly on the female leads from moon-faced Withers to the youthful Rita Casino (the future Rita Hayworth).
While PADDY O'DAY starts off well, it loses something in the translation towards the end. Thanks to Jane Withers, she makes this worth sitting though its 77 minutes (with two minute extra of overture closing music after the end cast credits). As much as there's plenty of Jane Withers movies from the 20th-Fox library (1934-1942) to go around, her feature films are as rare today as Shirley Temple movies are readily available. PADDY O'DAY, however, an appropriate movie for St. Patrick's Day (March 17th), did eventually come out of mothballs when broadcast June 27, 2012, on Turner Classic Movies cable channel as part of its evening theme, "The Immigrant Experience - The Lighter Side," that also included DELICIOUS as part of its line-up. This revival of PADDY O'DAY on TCM is certainly satisfactory enough to "keep a twinkle in your eye." (**1/2 shamrocks)
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