Little Lord Fauntleroy [1936]

Genre: Drama, Family
If Little Lord Fauntleroy is a crusty, curmudgeonly sort of book, the BBC film adaptation is even crustier. For here, among these 100 overstarched and often overacted minutes, are more frown lines, furrowed brows, and pasty complexions than you can shake a Victorian walking stick at. It's not that the story isn't compelling. True to the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, a humble and kindly 10-year-old boy living a hardscrabble life alongside his widowed mother in 1870s New York is dispatched by England's Earl of Dorincourt, his dreary and shrunken-hearted though fabulously wealthy grandfather, to claim his title--he shall be Lord Fauntleroy. This is to the old man's distaste, as he is of the opinion that unmannered scum dwells across the pond. Worse for young Cedric, his mother is relegated to a cottage outside the castle, where he is to live. Predictably, the ingenuous lad, a real gee-whiz kind of a kid, soon lights a fire beneath his grandfather's frosty heart. Right when things begin to feel warm and fuzzy, though, another foul American, this one a shameless social climber and pretender on her son's behalf to the lordship, elbows her way in, aiming to conquer the castle. Fortunately, a couple of good ol' boys from back home bust a move to blow her cover. Morose moods aside, what whacks away at the modern viewer's funny bone is the cast's brittleness. Everyone's too cut and dried, too black or white, either beaming beatifically or incapable of cracking a smile. Still, don't count this version out if you're a big Burnett fan, or if certain children in your family display drama queen or king tendencies. -Tammy La Gorce

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