Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Adventure in Baltimore (1949)

Dinah Sheldon (Shirley Temple) is a minister's daughter with a knack for innocently ending up in awkward situations in ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE.

Dinah's father (Robert Young) is endlessly understanding of his daughter's foibles and her ability to spark controversy, while Tom, the boy next door (John Agar), is less patient. Somehow Dinah manages to be expelled from a school for young ladies, lands in jail after painting a man sleeping on a park bench, and writes a speech on women's equality for Tom, which gives him some embarrassing moments when he delivers it. Matters come to a head when Dinah's advocacy of equal rights for women and her "controversial" portrait of Tom threaten her father's election as bishop of his diocese.

ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE, which is a bit of an odd title for the film's subject matter, has a nice period flavor; it's somewhat reminiscent of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) or Doris Day's ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951), although it doesn't have as well-balanced a story as either of those films. It's a bit top-heavy with Dinah going from one scrape to the next and her father's ruminations on petty gossip and his career plans; individual scenes are often well-done, but the film is a bit repetitive.

The best scenes may be those which break out of the "here's another problem" mold. The sequence where Dinah and her father -- who has a secret past as a ballroom dancer -- enter a waltz contest is a real gem. A few more moments like that would have done the movie good.

I generally prefer Shirley Temple's films as a young woman to her childhood films, and she's quite good in this. It's curious to me, though, that in the script Dinah is never called to account when she's actually wrong, whether it's writing a speech for someone else or going back on her word about using Tom's face in a painting.

Temple was paired with her then-husband John Agar, appearing in his second film; his first film was the previous year's John Ford Western FORT APACHE (1948), in which he was also matched with Temple as a romantic couple.

Robert Young, wearing makeup which makes him appear older than his actual age (42), is excellent as Temple's loving father. My appreciation of Young as an actor continues to grow as I see more of his work. I think Young and Fred MacMurray were frozen in the minds of many of us as a certain kind of bland "TV dad," and it's been something of a revelation for me to watch quite a bit of their earlier work over the last few years.

Josephine Hutchinson plays the minister's sweet-natured wife. The other children in the family are played by Tommy Sands, Patti Brady, and Gregory Marshall.

There are more familiar faces in the cast, including Albert Sharpe as the parish warden, Norma Varden as a suffragette, and Charles Kemper as a garage owner.

ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE runs 89 minutes. It was directed by Richard Wallace. Wallace's credits include THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938), A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1943), and BECAUSE OF HIM (1946).

ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE is not available on DVD or VHS, but it is shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

While not a perfect film, ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE is a well-made, entertaining family movie with solid values; it's worth seeing.

February 2015 Update: ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

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


Blogger panavia999 said...

I really liked this film when it ran on TCM during the Shirley Temple fest. I watched it several times.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Ed South said...

I discovered this film when the Maryland Historical Society ran an exhibit about films made in the state. I was anxious to see it and then was later disappointed when I discovered that it had little to do with Baltimore. It was still a cute little flick, though.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad you both have been able to see it too!

That sounds like a neat exhibit, Ed. It's too bad it apparently was all filmed on the back lot! The title is really rather misleading.

Best wishes,

9:34 PM  

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