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

Thursday, April 21, 2011


WHAT A LIFE (1939). Producer/director: Jay Theodore Reed.

Based on a play by Clifford Goldsmith, this film introduced the character of Henry Aldrich -- in this played by Jackie Cooper -- who appeared in several more films in the forties. High school student Henry has trouble living up to the standards set by his [unseen] father, a Princeton graduate, as he isn't doing so well academically and gets into even worse hot water when his cheating leads him to being accused of the theft of musical instruments. In the meantime fellow student Barbara (Betty Field), who has a big crush on Henry, finally gets her braces removed and after a makeover at the beauty parlor has Henry eating out of her hand -- as well as his handsome nemesis, nasty George Bigelow (James Corner). [George gets competition in nastiness from a couple of 1939-style "mean girls" who make fun of Barbara's braces.] Cooper and the others are fine, and Hedda Hopper scores as Henry's mother, as does Vaughan Glaser as the principal Mr. Bradley. Dorothy Stickney, Janice Logan and John Howard also give notable performances as some sympathetic teachers. The screenplay for this was by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett!

Verdict: Amiable and essentially warm-hearted. ***.

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