29 December 2007 | aimless-46
"Confessions of a 4'10" Drama Queen"
The generation that grew up on the "Little Peppers" books and the four films they inspired is pretty much gone now. Current viewers will wonder what all the fuss was about, just what did that earlier generation find so appealing about this family? The films were quite popular during their two-year run just before World War II. "The Five Little Peppers In Trouble" (1940) was the last of the four, which were produced non-stop over about a 12-month period. The ensemble stayed pretty much the same throughout and the child actors weren't noticeably older than in the first film.
Edith Fellows plays Polly Pepper, the oldest of the five children. She was a sawed-off (4'10") version of Bonita Granville and Anne Shirley, with a little Deanna Durbin style singing thrown in. Charles Peck was Ben, the oldest boy, and the least developed of the characters. Tommy Bond (Butch on the "Little Rascals") and Bobby Larson were the younger boys and in retrospect the main strength of series; you wish they were featured more often. Dorothy Ann Seese was Phronsie Pepper, the single most irritating character in cinema history (step aside Moochie). Seese was just a hammy little kid but the writers repeatedly inserted her into virtually every scene, working the same lame gag over and over. Jasper King played Ronald Sinclair, a sort of sixth Pepper and their adopted grandfather's teenage ward.
The Peppers don't really get into much trouble in "The Five Little Peppers In Trouble", which is basically an early version of "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" (2004), with Fellows playing the Lindsey Lohen character. The six are packed off to an elite boarding school. The other students, all rich kids led by queen bee June (Shirley Mills), won't associate with these common public school intruders. Although all six are in the same boat, the focus is almost completely on Polly; Fellows gets to do some singing when they hold tryouts for the school's musical.
The story is not entirely formulaic, as the Peppers leave the school rather than reform their snobby fellow students. And June only gets the mildest comeuppances.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.