Sunday, May 21, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Little Miss Marker (1934) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Five-year-old Shirley Temple stars as LITTLE MISS MARKER (1934), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

LITTLE MISS MARKER was made by Paramount Pictures, which later remade the film as SORROWFUL JONES (1949) with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. I reviewed that film, also recently put out by Kino Lorber, a few weeks ago.

As indicated in the linked review, I enjoyed SORROWFUL JONES, but I have to say I was blown away by the relative quality of LITTLE MISS MARKER. LITTLE MISS MARKER is a very good film with considerably more depth and mood; in some ways it's a more adult film than SORROWFUL JONES, though it's fine for children to watch it as well.

The precocious Temple plays Martha Jane, whose father (Edward Earle) leaves her with Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou) as security for a bet. The father is already grieving his wife's death and when he loses his bet he commits suicide.

Martha Jane, now nicknamed "Marky" for "marker," initially stays with Sorrowful as part of a plot to run a crooked race -- it's complicated -- but it doesn't take long at all for Sorrowful to start feeling fatherly toward the little girl.

As Sorrowful gradually reforms -- including getting a nicer home, buying a new suit, and teaching little Marky how to pray -- singer Bangles Carson (Dorothy Dell) falls for him despite being the girl of "Big Steve" (Charles Bickford).

Despite the care of Sorrowful and Bangles, the bad attitudes of those in their crowd begin to influence Marky's behavior negatively. Sorrowful and Bangles throw a party themed to Marky's favorite story, KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, hoping to revive the little girl's original sweet personality. Then there's an accident which sends Marky to the hospital...

I thought LITTLE MISS MARKER was a wonderful film. It was released just as the pre-Code era was ending and has a correspondingly tough attitude, which balances out very well with Temple's cuteness. Temple has "personality plus" but it's not allowed to overwhelm the movie as she interacts with gamblers and nightclub denizens.

I was especially impressed with Dorothy Dell, who was only 19 when this was made. She conveys both warmth and world-weariness and has a couple really marvelous, sultry songs, the nightclub number "I'm a Black Sheep Who's Blue" and "Low Down Lullaby," sung to Marky.

Dell tragically died in a car crash on June 8, 1934. This was the last film in her too-short career.

The supporting cast of LITTLE MISS MARKER is terrific. Menjou does a fine job depicting Sorrowful's gradual unbending into a thoughtful human being. Bickford's character spends much of the film out of town, but he returns to play a key role in the final scenes, and he's ultimately rather delightful.

I also especially enjoyed Lynne Overman as the wisecracking Regret. The cast also includes Frank McGlynn Sr., Willie Best, John Sheehan, Garry Owen, Warren Hymer, and Mildred Gover.

A trio of writers wrote the script for this 80-minute film, based on a story by Damon Runyon. It was directed by Alexander Hall and filmed by Alfred Gilks.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is excellent, especially given the film's age.

Disc extras consist of a commentary track by Lee Gambin and Elissa Rose, along with four trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

As a side note, in addition to SORROWFUL JONES the story was also filmed in 1962 with Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette and in 1980 with Walter Matthau, Julie Andrews, Tony Curtis, and Bob Newhart.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Anonymous Bert Greene said...

Dorothy Dell was also quite memorable in "Wharf Angel" (1934). Neat film, with loads of atmosphere. It's a shame her career was cut so short.

6:35 AM  

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