Cricket West is a hopeful actress with a plan and a pair of vocal chords that bring down the house. Along with her eccentric aunt, she plays host to the local jockeys, whose leader is the cocky but highly skilled Timmie Donovan. When a young English gentleman comes to town convincing Donovan to ride his horse in a high stakes race, the plot breaks into a speeding gallop. Donovan is disqualified from racing, but Cricket springs into action and heads into the home stretch riding high!Written by
A rum affair. Always noted as Judy's first teaming with Mickey Rooney, but her love interest is Ronald Sinclair, and the plot is more interested in the boys', ahem, friendship. I am bored by constant readings of old movies as coded gay, but you can't ignore the scenes when the boy owner and his jockey move together on horseback, or a protracted episode of Timmie massaging Roger's legs and trying to keep Cricket out of the room. As a jockey Timmie specialises in 'coming from behind'.
Another mystery concerns casting. MGM's first thought was to reunite their British boy wonder, Freddie Bartholomew, with C. Aubrey Smith, reprising the grandfather-grandson relationship of 'Little Lord Fauntleroy'. Barthlomew reportedly dropped out due to a contract fight; yet he stars in the trailer introducing Sinclair, falsely, as an old pal. Judy wrote that he had been dropped when his voice broke.
Sinclair was a New Zealander and not quite as veddy veddy British as most kids from over the water in pre-war Hollywood. Though obliged to wear short pants in most scenes, he does okay in the puppy-love passages with Judy, but soon faded as an actor, transforming into the editor of Roger Corman's horror films.
Rooney, already in the Jolson class for self-confidence, breezes through the plot's twists (one of them, involving his crooked dad, is ingenious) and displays his gift for emoting without seeming soppy. The great C. Aubrey is only in the first half but scores in contriving to make Timmie hitch a ride on The Pookah. Did Cricket get her unusual monicker as a play on the ball game Smith and the English Colony brought to California?
Judy's role is undercooked: her showbiz ambitions remain unfulfilled and her main task is to feed Sophie Tucker, repeating their double act in 'Broadway Melody of 1938'. Again Tucker is cast as a den mother: she does some sleuthing but no singing. Judy's only song, delivered while barred from the massage, is 'Got a Pair of New Shoes'. This was later picked up by Eleanor Powell, star of 'BM38', for her cabaret tap dancing; also Smith and Tucker reappeared in Powell's last vehicle, 'Sensations of 1945'.
A poignant note: uncredited as one of the track stewards is Francis X. Bushman, the rival of Ramon Novarro in 'Ben Hur', MGM's biggest silent picture. From chariot race to horse race in 12 years: a long way down.
In nine subsequent movies Garland and Rooney would cement their status as America's prototypical teenagers- but not yet in this jolly little programmer.
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