Little Lord Fauntleroy Reviews
Little Lord Fauntleroy was originally a wildly successful children's novel written in the 1880s by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's the story of a fatherless New York lad, Ceddie, who lives with his widowed mother after the death of his English father, who came from an aristocratic family. Unexpected deaths in that family result in Ceddie being designated the heir apparent to an Earldom, and he and his mother go to England so he can begin preparations to assume his inheritance. Plot complications arise from the prejudice of the old Earl, Ceddie's grandfather, against Ceddie's American mother, and the appearance of a pretender who seems to have a better claim to the Earldom. Both complications are resolved, the latter albeit by an egregiously unlikely coincidence, and a happy ending is granted to all concerned.
The book's success led to over a century of film, television, and theatre versions, of which the 1936 film directed by John Cromwell is undoubtedly the best known. This is a classic Hollywood Golden Age sentimental favorite, with a cast of old movie stalwarts you will have seen often before, including Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Dolores Costello, Guy Kibbee (in perhaps his best role,) C. Aubrey Smith, Una O'Connor, and others -- some of the names may be unfamiliar to you, but if you watch many classic Hollywood films, you'll recognize all the faces.
Until recently, this film has been available only in very inferior versions on TV, VHS, and DVD, but in 2012 Kino/Lorber issued a Blu-Ray DVD (I think there may also be a standard one issued) which is advertised as an "Authorized edition from the estate of David O. Selznick from the collection of George Eastman House," "mastered in HD from a original nitrate 35 mm print." At 101 minutes, I assume it's uncut. That print isn't pristine: though resolution and contrast are fine, there are some streaks and many specks, and the sound track is definitely tinny, not enough so to obscure the dialogue, but the fine Max Steiner score does sound a bit distorted. All in all, this is probably the vehicle of choice now to watch this film on.
If you've seen this film before only on a probably poor quality and incomplete TV version and liked it, you'll enjoy seeing it properly on the Kino DVD. And if you haven't seen it, I'm sure you'll find it worth watching if you like classic Hollywood films, or if you're just in the mood for an old fashioned, outrageously sentimental movie which will leave you grinning through your tears.
You see all the punches coming long before they arrive, and still it's a charmer of a work.
Prior to the 70s, just about everyone had I think. Before people were calling each other "Pollyannas" they were calling each other "Little Lord Fountleroys." I've heard the reference countless times in classic cinema and television.
It's hard to imagine a contemporary film getting away with this degree of optimism.
The film is well crafted, has brilliant acting, and stars Freddie Bartholomew, one of the most beloved child stars in history. I read somewhere that schoolboys in the 30s hated Freddie because their mothers were always telling them to be like him. He's, hands down, the most charming child I've ever seen in film. I've watched him in this film, The Devil is a Sissy, and Lloyd's of London, all of which he was brilliant in, but this is my favourite.
It even has a twist ending, and a good one!