Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Dear Brat (1951)

The Wilkins clan of the enjoyable family comedies DEAR RUTH (1947) and DEAR WIFE (1949) return in the third and final film in the series, DEAR BRAT.

It will come as no surprise to those who have seen the first two entries in the series that the "brat" of the title is the irrepressible Miriam (Mona Freeman), a politically conscious young miss whose harebrained schemes remarkably always seem to work out in the end.

This time around Miriam has the idea that her family should help rehabilitate an ex-con (Lyle Bettger) that her father (Edward Arnold), now a senator, sentenced when he was a judge. This causes no end of complications for the family, as well as silly but loyal friend Albert (Billy De Wolfe), the former beau of Miriam's older sister, Ruth.

DEAR BRAT isn't as sharply written as the first two films in the series, which had some really excellent dialogue, but it's still very enjoyable spending time with the Wilkins family. DEAR BRAT is rather like an early version of a TV sitcom, but with a higher level of execution, particularly thanks to the presence of Edward Arnold. I was very sorry to have the series come to an end.

Mary Philips, who plays Mrs. Wilkins, reprises her role in this film along with Freeman, Arnold, and De Wolfe. Also returning is Patty Lou Arden as Miriam's friend Clara. Marietta Canty, who played Dora the Cook in the first two films, was replaced here by Lillian Randolph.

Ruth and her husband Bill, played by Joan Caulfield and William Holden in the first two films, aren't on screen in this edition, but they're often referred to, especially as the family babysits Ruth and Bill's infant twins for most of the movie. Rather inexplicably, Ruth and Bill are constantly described as bickering, with Mrs. Wilkins regularly giving Ruth advice via telephone.

Natalie Wood has a small role in the film as the ex-con's daughter. She was about 12 when this film was made and was going through a gangly, awkward phase; in fact, in some shots it's difficult to recognize her face. Before too many years would pass she would transform into a beautiful teenaged actress.

This was the film debut of William Reynolds, who plays Miriam's boyfriend Robbie. Reynolds went on to star in the TV series PETE KELLY'S BLUES and appear in numerous Warner Bros. TV shows of the '50s, then left acting.

DEAR BRAT was directed by William A. Seiter. The original screenplay was by Devery Freeman. The movie runs 82 minutes.

DEAR BRAT is a Paramount film and is not available on DVD or video, but it can be seen via Netflix streaming, along with DEAR WIFE. The first film in the series, DEAR RUTH, is not available via Netflix.


Blogger Evangeline Holland said...

I watched Dear Wife and Dear Brat on a whim and I loved them--mostly because Miriam could have been me as a teenager, LOL. I actually tracked down Dear Ruth on YouTube, and though I liked it, the two sequels were so different in tone and the main characters were tweaked a bit (i.e. Albert wasn't such a fool, and Ruth actually wanted to marry him, as opposed to there being references in Dear Wife that she was never in love with him). And this was like a sitcom! I wish this had become Paramount's Andy Hardy", because Miriam was an amazing anchor for the trilogy.

4:31 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Thanks for the YouTube tip. For some reason it is listed as "Deer" instead of "Dear". Here is the link:

8:50 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Oh, and I just now noticed it is "Rooth instead of "Ruth".

8:52 AM  
Blogger mel said...

I've never seen any of these three movies. Mona Freeman co-starred in a couple of the early Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies, and I always thought character actor Billy De Wolfe was very funny.

They sound good to me - I'll have to try YouTube and have a look.

Thanks, Laura.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hope you enjoy, Mel! There is some dialogue in the first film that's especially good (Edward Arnold is tremendously funny, along with Freeman) -- but they're all quite enjoyable. :)

Best wishes,

9:18 PM  

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