6 December 2008 | boblipton
Amusing Little Kiddie B
Jane Withers, a three-year veteran of the movies at this stage, begins her starring career with this tale, half Charles Dickens, half Mark Twain, of an orphan who has run away from her cruel guardians who make her dance half a dozen times a day. Marshall Neilan, who used to direct Mary Pickford in this sort of vehicle twenty years earlier, runs the shoot competently. There doesn't appear to be much in this story, but there are some very nice eccentric performances by the adults, especially John McGuire as her cohort -- this was as big as his roles ever got, alas -- and even Francis Ford gets more lines than in five of his brother's movies.
Although almost everyone has heard of Shirley Temple, Jane, who was the B child star at Fox has largely fallen into obscurity -- doubtless it was Miss Temple's runaway success that made Fox produce these less expensive films. Miss Withers performs a couple of big production numbers, one in the style of Harry Lauder, the other in a swing chorus, and is a decent enough actress at this stage to carry off the picture.
In many ways the most interesting feature of the movie is the sense that the viewer gets that the talent involved is trying to report on character and situation as they might actually occur. Far too many modern children's shows and books give you the message first and the story afterwards, whether they seem to believe in the message or not. I prefer this.