Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tween Angst: Kathleen (1941)

I admit it. I really like Shirley Temple movies of the 1940s. They are safe. They are predictable. They are the antithesis of the kinds of movies I normally like (pre-code or screwball with lots of subtext and edge). So sue me. I'm not consistent and I don't bloody care.

I realized a couple of things while thoroughly enjoying this slight little movie. One: Shirley Temple was a really good actress. You just don't notice her acting. Most of the time she's called on to be an adorable, precocious tween which must not have been much of a stretch. In a few scenes she may be required to do dramatic acting, as well, and she handles it like a pro. The trickiest thing she does though is to appear slightly stupider than she really was. Nothing is so difficult as playing dumb in a convincing way.

Two: many of the 1940s reproduction outfits sold to us by Stop Staring and its ilk and often modeled by women with many tattoos, are actually based on outfits that Shirley Temple wore when she was 12. If you find this fact disturbing, then you are not alone.

While Herbert Marshal was the reason I watched this movie in the first place, his performance is fairly forgettable. I did like the fact that the majority of his lines in the first 40 minutes were mostly monosyllabic grunts. "Hmmm. What? Oh hello there. Hmmm. Well. Humpf." He disappears for another 20 minutes or so, and, when he resurfaces, he is wearing a hilariously ugly plaid jacket and bow tie that I was unable to screencap because my computer is acting up. Dang. Well, anyway those are the HM highlights for Kathleen, such as they are.

Lorraine Day gives a solid performance as Temple's only-in-the-movies, live-in psychiatrist. Day is likable, caring, and plucky, and she makes the perfect foil for Gail Patrick's vamping. Since Patrick was born to play the wicked stepmother type, it's great to see her excelling at it here. Herbert Marshall is torn between the two and reacts by grunting. Go, Herbert. You grunted your way into my heart in Riptide. There's no reason you should stop now!


Broadway Baby said...

Love Lorraine Day. Love Herbert Marshall. Love Shirley Temple. And I am not ashamed.

Jennythenipper said...

Woot! Sing it BB!

Nora said...

Bart was a man to be reckoned with both on and off screen. With or without his leg. And I join the club adoring Shirley Temple as a tween. Sorry the plaid jacket blew up your computer!

vagabondshoes said...

no shame and liking a little fluff! great post!

Jennythenipper said...

Nora! Ha, well the plaid jacket was awful, but I think my computer was dying before that. Maybe the plaid jacket was the death blow.

Vagabondshoes: word, sista.