My first childhood crush was on Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous (1936) with Spencer Tracy based on Rudyard Kipling's novel of a brattish rich little boy who falls off an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing boat. Unable to convince the captain to return him to land or that he is actually very wealthy he is forced to take a low paid job on the fishing boat to earn his passage back to land. Under the tutelage of Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracey) he 'becomes a man' and realises that his old ways of whining, bragging and lying are just not a good model for the future. Sadly, he loses his surrogate father in a fishing accident. Boy did I cry!
Freddie was one of the most popular child actors in Hollywood. Born in Ireland he was abandoned by his parents as a baby and bought up by an aunt in London. He first found fame in 'David Copperfield' and went on to star in many prestigious films. You may remember him as Little Lord Fauntleroy. His new found fame soon flushed his parents out of the woodwork and with their eye on his fortune they started a protracted legal battle to regain custody of him. Most of his fortune went on legal fees. Some things never change. He retired from films in the 1940s and had a successful career in advertising. He even has a non-alcoholic 'mocktail' of ginger ale and lime named after him.
I was about 10 when I developed my Freddie crush. By that time he was probably a 50 years old man. Eeewww!
|A publicity shot for 'Captains Courageous'|
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The other film I remember vividly from my childhood was 'Whistle Down the Wind' with Hayley Mills. Ahh, Hayley. She and I were twins separated at birth, well and truly separated as she is 20 years older than me! But as a child she was my idol. I wanted to be like her.... no, I wanted to be HER! Inside this shy, retiring child was Hayley Mills just waiting for her moment. In my bedroom I was an Oscar winning actress but in public, the height of my success was reading 'The Magnificat' at my primary school Christmas concert when I spent the whole time convinced that my skirt was tucked into my knickers. I read the Magnificat like Jim McGrath commentating on the King George V Cup. Oh, and a brief moment of fame as 'Mary' in our French nativity play. Never made Mary in the mainstream one.
Whistle Down the Wind is based on the book by Mary Hayley Bell (good old nepotism) about three children in Lancashire who find a Blakey, a runaway murderer (Alan Bates in his first film) in their barn. Injured and exhausted, he responds to their question about who he is by saying 'Jesus Christ' before passing out.
In their innocence, they believe that this is the Second Coming, a mistake he doesn't put right when he realises that Kathy (Hayley Mills) is determined to protect him from the local police who are hunting him. Gradually word gets out to other local children that Jesus is in their barn, until eventually Kathy's father hears about it and calls in the police. All the local children converge on the barn and Kathy slips round the back to talk to Blakey through the wall. She apologises for letting him down and persuades him to give himself up. He forgives her and throws out his gun before being arrested and taken away. At the end of the film, two young children approach Kathy and ask if they can see Jesus. She tells them they have missed him this time but he'll be back again. Those with a keen eye may spot a certain young Richard Attenborough as 'man with sack' in one of the background scenes. He also directed the film.
|Kathy (Hayley Mills) and Charles (Alan Barnes) with|
Blakey (Alan Bennett)
Image courtesy of filmreference.com
Of course when I was 8 I didn't give a toss about any of this, I just wanted to be Hayley Mills.