16 March 2010 | bkoganbing
What Are The Odds?
After the Mauch twins made their debut in The Prince And The Pauper it was Billy who got the coveted role of Penrod in a series of films that Warner Brothers made from the Booth Tarkington character. Apparently he was the more aggressively interested in an acting career than brother Bobby. But Bob did get into two of the films and Penrod And His Twin Brother is the first.
I really do have to ask what are the odds that not only does a kid have a doppleganger move into the same small Indiana town, but the doppleganger has a doppleganger dog which is the heart of the story of this film. Young Penrod adopts a stray dog that soon gets a reputation of biting people and he bites young Jackie Morrow one of the Penrod posse which upsets Morrow's father Charles Halton.
Of course it turns out that Bobby Mauch has moved into town with his lookalike dog and eventually that problem is resolved. But by that time Penrod and his posse are involved in tracking down some Dillinger like bandits who robbed a payroll and take young Morrow a hostage because he got innocently involved with them. I don't think I have to say more.
Although this has nothing to do with the Penrod stories that Booth Tarkington wrote, mainly because they're set in the teen years of the last century and this is up to date, the wholesomeness of the stories and character is preserved here. Frank Craven and Spring Byington play Penrod's parents and the Indiana ambiance is faithfully recaptured.
One unusual thing is that young Philip Hurlic plays the son of the live in maid of Penrod's family played by Bernice Pilot. He's treated as an equal by the other kids in the gang for the most part, unusual for the times even though Bobby Mauch uses a racial slur when first meeting him. Still I don't think the cause of racial brotherhood was served by giving the kid the character name of Vermin.
Seeing the eventual careers of the Mauch brothers does make you wonder what the future has in store for the Sprouse twins playing Zack and Cody at the Magic Kingdom. Maybe the Penrod stories will be adapted for them as it's the kind of material the Disney Studios go for.
Penrod And His Twin Brother is a pleasant enough film for the time and the spirit of those who love those Tarkington stories is respected and preserved.