Thursday, February 28, 2002


This is the kind of movie (horses, racetracks, kids) that I usually avoid, but I watched it because it features Ann Sheridan in a fairly early starring role. It's a horse-racing story reminiscent of a Damon Runyon tale. Little Janet Chapman plays an orphan who dreams at night of a father; the other orphans make fun of her (I kept expecting her to break out into a rousing chorus of "Tomorrow"), so she leaves one day to find her dad. Gambler John Litel winds up claiming her in order to get out of a speeding ticket; he, the girl, his buddy (Frank McHugh), and their neighbor (Ann Sheridan) become a kind of impromptu family, though the whole time Litel just wants to ditch the kid, but because it seems that she brings him luck at the horse races, he keeps her around. Eventually, of course, there's a happy ending when Litel has a change of heart and decides to keep Janet for good.

Sheridan is very good and so is McHugh, who I always like. Chapman is certainly no Shirley Temple or Margaret O'Brien, and her career went nowhere. Her line readings seem rather amateurish, even compared with the other bit-part orphans. But Litel is the real "weakest link" in this movie. He played lots of supporting parts in the 30's and 40's, most notably perhaps as Nancy Drew's father, but obviously he was not cut out for stardom. He looks uncomfortable around not only the kid, but Sheridan as well, although he and McHugh work up some comic chemistry. There were a couple of strange scene transitions where it seemed as though the last line of a scene was missing, even though I saw this on TCM which usually shows complete prints. It's nice and short, so it doesn't wear out its welcome, and Sheridan made it worthwhile.

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