Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Skippy (1931)

Directed by: Norman Taurog

Starring: Jackie Cooper and Robert Coogan

Plot: A young lad makes trouble both in his well-to-do neighborhood and the shantytown where he likes to play.

Thoughts: I'm not entirely sure why the Academy considered Skippy to be Best Motion Picture material. It's a little more polished than Hal Roach's Our Gang shorts (commonly referred to as The Little Rascals), but feels a bit empty after seeing a film like All Quiet on the Western Front.

The film is based on the Skippy comic strip that ran in newspapers from 1923 to 1945. It was the prototype for strips like Dennis the Menace and Calvin and Hobbes. Playing the eponymous role was Jackie Cooper, who was already becoming a rising star in Hal Roach's Our Gang shorts. This film catapulted the young Cooper to the forefront, where he would be the go-to child actor for years. Despite the film's success, Percy Crosby, the comic strip's creator hated the film (not unlike Alan Moore's dislike of V for Vendetta and the rest of the films based on his works).

Seeing Skippy is somewhat difficult. Although Paramount owns the film, Universal holds the television broadcasting rights. IMDB notes legal complications keeping the film from being shown for several years, which would also explain why it was never issued on home video. The recording I have was from one of the Starz channels. To my knowledge, Turner Classic Movies has never shown it.

Skippy garnered a Best Director award for Norman Taurog. Jackie Cooper received a nomination for Best Actor and remains the youngest nominee for that category. The film's screenplay earned it a nomination for Best Writing, Adaptation, for Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Sam Mintz's work in bringing the comic strip to life.

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