Saturday, December 20, 2014

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Little Lord Fauntleroy; drama, UK, 1980; D: Jack Lord, S: Ricky Schroder, Alec Guinness, Connie Booth, Eric Porter

New York, 19th century. The 10-year old Cedric lives with his American mother Errol, ever since his father, a British citizen, died. Cedric never met his grandfather, Earl of Dorincourt, because he was always ashamed that his noble son fell in love with an ordinary American woman. However, since all his other sons died, and Cedric is the only heir to the family, the rich Earl summons him to England. However, Cedric's mother is not invited and she must live in a house outside the Earl's castle. However, the cheerful and charitable Cedric quickly softens the Earl's cold heart and persuades him to help the poor, for instance by improving the living conditions of the tenants. After a suspicious woman claiming to be the mother of Earl's rightful grandson and heir is discredited, Cedric is acknowledged as the rightful heir and the Earl makes up with his mother, who is invited for Christmas.

Jack Lord's "Little Lord Fauntleroy" is one of the most popular film adaptations of the famous and beloved eponymous novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and steadily built up quite a reputation - for instance, it is regularly shown on German TV almost every year for Christmas, thereby turning into a trademark for the holiday season - and is, despite its hype, a sweet and lovable, unassuming little film. The opening 20-30 minutes are rather slow and need time until they get going, whereas a few flaws can be easily detected by more serious film critics (for instance, the schematic presentation of a few messages; a few mechanic moments; a simplistic presentation), but overall, this is one of the most positive, emotional and well meaning films of the 80s, a wonderful story about a kid with a heart of gold who manages to ignite a spiritual transition of his grandfather's character from an extreme misanthropy to an extreme philanthropy. The viewer's hearts are definitely swayed in the scene where Cedric is riding on a pony, but spots a poor child walking on one crotch due to his disabled leg, stops and offers him a ride to him home - and to buy him another crotch. Even though more of his positive charitable actions should have been shown, instead of just three, it is enough to get the "bigger picture" and for the viewers to realize the deeper theme about the abolition of prejudice and stubborn selfishness. Ricky Schroder probably gave the role of a lifetime as the title kid, but Alec Guinness is great as the slowly transforming grandfather, as well, thereby strengthening the storyline.


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