Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


LIFE WITH HENRY (1941). Producer/director: Jay Theodore Reed.

"Ever since I was a kid everybody discouraged everything I wanted to do."

Jackie Cooper returns as high school student Henry Aldrich in this sequel to What a Life. At the end of the previous film Henry was planning to go to art school, and his girlfriend was Barbara, but the art school business has been dropped and Barbara is nowhere to be seen. Instead Henry has special feelings for Kathleen (Leila Ernst) and now has both a sister, Mary (Kay Stewart), an Aunt Harriet (possibly Mary Akin?), a best pal Dizzy (Eddie Bracken), and for the first time we see his father, played by Fred Niblo. [Hedda Hopper is back as his mother.] Rod Cameron is cast as an older man who befriends Henry and gives him advice, and Pierre Watkin is the aforementioned Kathleen's disapproving father. The storyline has Henry desiring to go on a trip to Alaska that is being put together by a wealthy businessman, Sattherwaite (Moroni Olsen) looking for boys with initiative who can raise a hundred dollars. Mr. Aldrich fears the whole thing is a scam, but Henry cooks up a scheme to raise the cash by selling a soap that's so toxic it destroys most of the buyers' clothing! While the opening title presents the film as an "Aldrich Family" adventure, Henry is still very much the star. Life with Henry is well-acted and amusing, and is in some ways a paean to an independent spirit and unconventionality. Edith Evanson, who plays the Aldrich maid, also appeared in Journey to the Center of the Earth as an inkeeper, was another maid in Woman of the Year, and Joan Crawford's mother in The Damned Don't Cry.

Verdict: More fun with Henry. ***

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