10 May 2008 | Tom_Barrister
The movie more or less follows the storyline of Louisa May Alcott's book of the same name, although the movie starts about a third of the way through the book, skips over some things and over-condenses others, particularly the last chapter, which is reduced to a few lines of dialog in the movie. The story is sat in the 1870's among the snooty-rich of Boston. Polly Milton (Jean), the poor relative to a rich family, refuses to enter their circle, preferring to make her way as a music teacher. After much ado, Polly serves as a relatively young Miss Fixit, patching up things here and there. If you like the movie, do check out the book.
The acting is first rate, especially 11 year old Elinor Donahue (of Father Knows Best fame), who is hilarious as the wise-cracking Maud, poking fun at her snobbish relatives.
Songs for Jean include "Beautiful Dreamer", "The Travel Song" (written for this movie by Charles Previn), part of Schubert's "Where" (arranged by Charles Previn), and parts of other songs (such as an abbreviated "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"). Jean, Donahue, and Frances Rafferty sing a song called "Kitchen Serenade" which threatens at times to break into a gadget-added number typical to those performed by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Jean's voice is beautiful, as usual, and while the highest notes aren't tested as they were early in her career, her lower register is much fuller and more mature.
There's also an excerpt from the third movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, performed by then 18 year old Sandra Berkova. Ms. Berkova (who was related to conductor Lorin Maazel) was a child prodigy who later faded into obscurity. She only plays the work modestly well here, and her inclusion in the movie was at the adamant insistence of director Arthur Dreifess, who was supposedly infatuated with Berkova (although not in a romantic way). The camera-work during the concerto is, to say the least, weird.
I haven't seen this movie on TV in over thirty years. Finding it can be difficult, except that you can, as usual, buy a copy from Gloria Jean herself at her website. IMDb policy forbids the posting of URL's, but you can find the site with your favorite search engine and the words "Gloria Jean Child Star" (or by putting those four words together, and adding a "." and "com" to the end).