9/10/12: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936)


“Would you mind explaining what an Earl is? If someone is going to be one, he should know what one is, don’t you think>”

John Cromwell’s Little Lord Fauntleroy was released in 1936. It’s adapted from British playwright & author Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1886 novel of the same name. She originally published it as a monthly serial, like many of Charles Dickens’ pieces. She was 20 when Dickens died & Fauntleroy is in some ways reminiscent of A Christmas Carol.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is the story of 9 year old Ceddie & his mother who he calls Dearest in homage to his father before him. The film opens in Brooklyn in 1880 & Ceddie’s father just passed away. He’s a polite, kind, loving & charming boy, played nicely by Freddie Bartholomew. They live modestly. Dearest is played the gorgeous Dolores Costello Barrymore, Drew Barrymore’s grandmother, known as the Goddess of the Silent Screen in an earlier time. Her father, Maurice, was the most popular matinée idol of the decade of the 1900’s & 1910’s. He helped Dolores get into pictures and her film debut was in 1909 at 6 years old as a Fairy (along w/ her 3 year old sister Helene) in the short A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Maurice played Lysander in the film. She was so popular that Lou Costello changed his surname from Cristillo to honor her.

Okay, so back to fauntleroy: Shortly after Ceddie’s Dad’s death, he learns that he the last living male heir of his paternal grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt (C. Aubrey Smith). He immediately becomes Lord Fauntleroy & his life is changed dramatically. Ceddie’s father was disowned by the Earl for marrying Dearest, an American. He’s a misanthrope but truly hates Americans, who he considers to be crude, rude, base & uneducated . So intense is the Earl’s bigotry toward Americans that, while she can move to England with Ceddie, Dearest isn’t allowed to live in or even visit him at the Dorincourt Castle. However, Ceddie’s kindness, optimism & boyish charm melt the Earl’s cold heart rather quickly revealing his true character – a kind & generous man! Watch for a 15 year old Mickey Rooney as Ceddie’s good friend Dick. He’s just as funny & endearing as a teenager as he was a seasoned actor. Other good performances include character actress Uma O’Connor as Mary – you’ll recognize her right off the bat – and Henry Stephenson as Attorney Havisham.

The film was produced by the brilliant David O. Selznick, who won two Best Picture Oscars as head of Selznick International Pictures in 1940 at the 12th Academy Awards for the Fleming, Cukor & Wood masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, and the following year for Hitchcock’s Rebecca. He also received the Irving G. Thornberg Memorial Academy Award for Creative Producers in 1940. The music in Little Lord Fauntleroy is composed by 3-time Oscar Winner Max Steiner. He worked with Selznick on & was nominated for an Oscar for  Gone With the Wind.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is a rags-to-riches film about the love of a mother & son, and learning to overcome one’s prejudices. I think you’ll really enjoy it. I’ve attached it immediately below for your convenient viewing. 🙂

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