When Every Mother's Dream Was a Curly Locks Boy
Little Lord Fauntleroy a Classic Told and Retold
|Illustration Art for the Novel by Reginald Birch|
|Nameless Youth Bears Burden of Fauntleroy Fashion|
|Mary Pickford Essays a 1921 Fauntleroy ...|
|... and Plays Mother "Dearest" As Well.|
I bought a copy off E-Bay, cheap as in nearly free. What a world the Internet has left us, where books have so little currency. My copy was clean, a reprint from 1943, and had a former owner's name written inside. Someone treasured this once. In fact, it was a Christmas gift. Can transferred ownership of a book also pass down luck or fate of a previous owner? Enough of that: Part of wanting this edition was color plates by illustration artist Reginald Birch, who had done pen-and-ink for the 1886 publication, and was called from obscurity to draw color updates for a 30's, and later, this '43 edition. Birch created the visual image of Fauntleroy, author Frances Hodgson Burnett having vividly, and lovingly, described the character in her text, but it was the illustrator that made a fashion plate of young Ceddie to delight of mothers who'd dress mortified boys in Fauntleroy outfits for decades to come. Orson Welles cited the fashion fad in The Magnificent Ambersons, where little Georgie Minifer, tricked out in Fauntleroy duds, is teased by a toughie ("Look at the girly-curly") and has to fight his way out of the insult.
|Freddie Bartholomew Makes Boyish Merry On the Selznick-International Lot|
Burnett (and Birch) created a paragon child, flawlessly mannered, "with the mop of yellow love-locks." The author's was an era when children were seen more, heard less. It was joy to dress them up like little dolls. Ceddie wouldn't wait long to be pilloried. By time movies came, his image needed butch makeover, a boy wise to the streets and much more a fish out of water once taken to
|Director John Cromwell Goes Over Production Design with 1936 Staff|
Reading Little Lord Fauntleroy roused fond memory for many well into a next century. 1880's setting was what Pickford called (in an introductory title) "the era of Mother and Father." Her 1921 audience would have looked back to then as we would to the late 70's, so yes, the story yielded nostalgia for simpler time, whatever its dated literary aspects. 1936 however, when David Selznick's remake appeared, was that much further out, and this audience would not countenance a Ceddie with curls of gold. Selznick and updating writers scrubbed influence of Reginald Birch art to look instead at recent hit that was DOS's own for MGM, David Copperfield, a boy-meets-world recount that worked and didn't seem old-fashioned beyond an also period setting. To further link his chain, Selznick borrowed Freddie Bartholomew from Metro. The project was class in all ways, Selznick knowing this first as an independent would sink him, or not, among majors he was set on competing with. Cost climbed to $585K, some said higher, this a-plenty, but got back thanks to $1.7 million in worldwide rentals. Selznick liked literary adaptations with his name affixed; it bespoke quality he'd want the new company to represent. To much of patronage, Little Lord Fauntleroy seemed like an MGM picture in all but logo.
|A New Fauntleroy Day: Now The Fashions Are For Women|
|Dolores Costello Is Back and and Selznick's Got Her|
Selznick liked to use names others had laid aside. Dolores Costello as Dearest brought a Madonna quality untapped when she came to, then went from, Warner specials at dawn of talk. Bartholomew is obliged to take up fists and do minor mischief in accord with 30's expectation, whatever a break this was from Ceddie in the book. There was not a lot of action to the narrative, mostly talk to help opposing figures find common ground. Selznick would have noted slack in the rope, but felt the property good enough, beloved enough, to go ahead. 1936 was near a last year