Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Take an arrow too while you're at it

Another movie that I watched off my DVR because it's available on DVD is Baby, Take a Bow, which can be found on one or another Shirley Temple box set.

Shirley doesn't show up for a while due to the structure of the story. Kay (a very young Claire Trevor) in on her way to Niagara Falls with a stopover at Ossining. The later is the town that gave its name to the notorious Sing Sing prison, which is where Eddie (James Dunn), Kay's fianc├ę, is finishing up his sentence. Unfortunately, on the train up to Sing Sing Kay meets the obnoxious Welch (Alan Dinehart), an insurance investigator who is responsible for putting a lot of people behind bars. About to start a stretch in Sing Sing is Eddie's friend Larry.

Years pass. Eddie and Kay have a five-year-old daughter Shirley (that, obviously, is Shirley Temple), and Eddie has a good job as a chauffeur to a wealthy industrialist. And Larry is about to get out of Sing Sing and join his wife Jane. Eddie is planning to teach Larry the chauffeur gig so that Eddie can take an apparently better job in the industrialist's factory. I'd think the chauffeur job is better, but what do I know. At any rate, both men have kept their noses clean, despite the predictions of Welch.

There's a third convict who's about to make a mess for everybody. Trigger (Ralf Harolde) steals a necklace from the home of Eddie's boss, and when it's discovered that Eddie had a criminal past, well, there goes his job. This even though we know he's innocent. And Trigger is going to make things an even bigger mess by trying to get Eddie and Larry to fence the necklace, something they have no desire to do. When that doesn't work, Trigger finds little Shirley and gives the necklace to her.

Welch comes along looking for the necklace, absolutely certain that he's going to find it in Eddie's apartment and send Eddie and Larry back to prison, something he seems overly anxious to do. Can they keep Welch from finding the jewelry, and would anybody believe Shirley's story? Thankfully for Shirley, events overtake her and it becomes obvious that Trigger is the man behind the heist.

Baby, Take a Bow came out before Bright Eyes (indeed, it was before the merger with 20th Century, so the print FXM showed had no Fox fanfare), so Shirley doesn't get to do any singing, and only has one short dance scene as a dance student of Jane. Temple is fine and charming enough, except for a few points where the script lets her down. And to be fair, at that point the script lets everybody down. When Welch shows up looking for the necklace, everything screeches to a halt, as Eddie and Larry keep making up ridiculous lies to throw Welch off the scent. It's supposed to be funny but winds up wildly unfunny and obnoxious.

Overall, Baby, Take a Bow is something that would play well as a quality B movie of the era, but which, if it's remembered at all, is remembered for being an early Shirley Temple vehicle. That's a bit unfair because the movie is better than that. And for the price of the Temple box sets I saw, you can't really go wrong if you do pick it up.

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