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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

THE LITTLE MINISTER (1934)


This ‘olde’ fashioned play from PETER PAN author James M. Barrie was supposed to help Kate Hepburn recover from recent catastrophes on film (SPITFIRE/’34) & stage (THE LAKE/’34). It didn’t. You can see the possibilities in its story of a young minister (John Beal) who falls for Kate’s mysterious rabble-rouser. She’s unhappily affianced to the mill owning Laird, but roams the High Lands in ‘gypsy’ disguise to warn his striking laborers of trouble. (The tale’s terrrrribly Scotch, don’cha know?) For the story to work, the tone has to be consistent and the romance enchanting, but Richard Wallace megs without the vision or technical skills to hold it all together. You won’t turn it off though, good things keep popping up amidst the coy, corn & studio crud. Hepburn’s stage idol, Maude Adams, triumphed in a clutch of Barrie plays (PETER PAN, A KISS FOR CINDERELLA, WHAT EVERY WOMAN KNOWS, plus this & QUALITY STREET, which Kate also filmed). But Adams was tiny, tough and apparently played against the sentiment. She let the audience do the weeping. Kate, at this time, was a beautiful, bending willow, and she cried at the drop of a hat. The audience were left dry-eyed.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: It doesn't seem to have reached the home market, but 'BBC Play of the Month' did a production of this in 1975 with Helen Mirren. Sounds promising!

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