Pat (Sharyn Moffett) is being raised in an old Southern home in Georgia. Her widowed father (Lester Matthews) drinks too much, but housekeeper Aunt Lindy (Louise Beavers) lavishes attention and affection on the little girl.
When Pat's father dies suddenly, she's sent to live with her snooty Aunt Elizabeth (Jacqueline White) at her mansion in Boston. Elizabeth has recently broken up with her fiance, Dr. Bob Hartley (Walter Reed), and she's unreasonably unfeeling toward the little girl. Pat maintains a positive attitude despite her aunt's coldness, and housekeeper Harriet (Una O'Connor) gives Pat some of the affection that she should be receiving from her aunt.
I was drawn to this film as it stars Jacqueline White and was directed by Richard Fleischer, who would later team for one of my favorite movies, THE NARROW MARGIN (1952). When I saw White speak at the TCM Classic Film Festival a couple of years ago, she told a funny story about working with Fleischer on BANJO; there's a scene where the dog jumps on her, and to accomplish that there was some meat hidden in her dress!
The brisk 68-minute pace also helps, as problems must be solved quickly, whether it's Aunt Elizabeth's bad attitudes or Pat running away to find her dog. I also liked the matter of fact way that characters such as Bill (Harry Harvey), the baggage clerk on the train, advise and help Pat.
The movie has some nice atmosphere in its early scenes of carefree children playing with Banjo, and I was especially touched by Louise Beavers, who breaks down in tears when little Pat is sent to Boston.
THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO (1945), THE LOCKET (1946), and MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948). As I wrote in my post on THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO, Sharyn ultimately became an Episcopal priest. A Classic Images interview with Sharyn's brother Gregory, who was also a child actor, is available online.
The supporting cast includes Herbert Evans, Ernest Whitman, and Jason Robards Sr.
BANJO was filmed in black and white by George E. Diskant. Pat's Georgia home, incidentally, looks suspiciously like Tara -- and since Tara was built on the RKO lot and BANJO is an RKO film, I think it's safe to say that Pat lives in Scarlett O'Hara's famous former home!
The opening credits of BANJO are a bit speckled, but all in all it's a fine print. There are no extras.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.