Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Kathleen (1941)

Shirley Temple plays a poor little rich girl in the title role of KATHLEEN.

KATHLEEN served as a bridge transitioning the 12-year-old Temple from child to teen actress. Kathleen has been neglected by her widower father (Herbert Marshall) and emotionally abused by an unkind governess (Nella Walker).

Enter Dr. Angela Martha Kent (Laraine Day), a psychologist who agrees to serve as Kathleen's governess for a summer. Kathleen adores Angela and comes to hope her father will marry her instead of his gooey, insincere fiancee (Gail Patrick). One guess how the movie ends!

I wasn't expecting much from KATHLEEN, having read weak reviews of it over the years, but for the most part I found it pleasant, if unexceptional. A musical number in a dream sequence seemed a bit out of place, extending the length of the story unnecessarily (especially as Shirley was obviously dubbed), but otherwise it was an entertaining little movie.

The "Mary Poppins" type theme of an outsider healing a broken family has been done many times before -- 1935's SHE MARRIED HER BOSS is but one example -- but fans of the lead actors will probably enjoy spending time with them in this film.

I especially enjoyed Day and watching how Angela cultivated a respectful and then loving relationship with the distrustful Kathleen. Day was only 19 or 20 when she filmed this, not long after both FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) and AND ONE WAS BEAUTIFUL (1940). Day is very self-possessed and mature; it's a bit mind-blowing to realize that in actuality her leading man, Herbert Marshall, was three decades her senior! In fact, now that I think of it, he played Day's father in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. I'm rather glad I didn't remember that while I was watching this movie (grin).

I'm always glad when Herbert Marshall -- and his beautiful voice -- turn up in a film. Marshall's diverse credits include classics for Hitchcock, Lubitsch, and Wyler, screwball comedies and film noir, pirate movies and Westerns. He often worked with young people in movies, whether it was Temple, Deanna Durbin in MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), or Margaret O'Brien in THE SECRET GARDEN (1949).

Lloyd Corrigan is effective in two scenes as a kindly doctor called in to assess Kathleen. Felix Bressart plays an antique dealer who serves as Kathleen's confidant, providing her with support and advice when she has no one else to whom she can turn. Watch for Florence Bates as a customer in the antique store.

The screenplay for KATHLEEN was by Mary C. McCall Jr., who coincidentally also wrote the screenplay for last night's movie, DESIRABLE (1934).

The movie was directed by Harold S. Bucquet. It was shot in black and white and runs 88 minutes.

KATHLEEN is not available on video or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs on Shirley Temple's birthday, April 23, 2010.

A trailer is here.

January 2015 Update: KATHLEEN is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

March 2015 Update: Here is a review of the new Warner Archive DVD.


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