Wednesday, April 25, 2007

REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM (20th Century-Fox 1938) Fox Home Video

Allan Dwan has another Shirley Temple classic with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), an adroitly scripted comedy of errors that has the angelic Temple cast as Rebecca Winstead. Placed in the care of her uncle, Harry Kipper (William Demarest), Rebecca is entered in a radio contest to be the next spokes-person for a popular entertainment program. Instantly, Rebecca is a hit.

Unfortunately, a clerical mix-up by Orville Smithers (Jack Haley) has Rebecca being rejected by the radio sponsors – a move that forces the penniless Kipper to send Rebecca to live with her stern, but kind at heart Aunt Miranda (Helen Westley) and her cousin, Gwen Warren (Gloria Stewart) in the country.

Never at a loss for good wholesome fun, Rebecca dances up a storm with farm hand, Aloysius (Bill Robinson), puts some color back in her cheeks with good honest work, and ends up chasing a piglet across the property to an adjacent farm.

Meanwhile, discovering the station’s error much too late to do any good, radio promoter Tony Kent (Randolph Scott) embarks on a vacation to the country to clear his head of work related stress. His hiatus on the property adjacent Miranda’s farm leads to a fortuitous meeting with Rebecca and, a burgeoning romance with Gwen.

There’s really not much more to the film’s paper thin plot – but Dwan keeps all the elements in play long enough to make his audience forget the obvious and settle in for a pleasant enough time. Temple is quite simply ideal for this part. She exudes the sort of unspoiled natural tenderness that so many of today’s child stars lack. This is wholesome family entertainment at its very best.

Fox’s DVD contains both a restored B&W transfer and their patented colorized version that is shamelessly tacky and bears no further investigation in this review. The grayscale on the original B&W is very clean and smooth with good solid contrast and a considerable amount of fine detail evident throughout. 

Several brief scenes bear the hallmark of being sourced from less than stellar print material, but overall, the quality is quite acceptable for a film of this vintage. The audio has been re-channeled to stereo. The original mono is also included. The former is no great improvement. There are NO extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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