Fox Home Entertainment presents
Professor: But you don't understand. This watch belonged to Napoleon! Pawnbroker: It did, eh? Well that makes it secondhand.- Frank Morgan, Arthur Aylesworth
Stars: Shirley Temple, Frank Morgan
Other Stars: Robert Kent, Helen Westley, Astrid Allwyn, Delma Byron, Stepin Fetchit, Berton Churchill, Paul Stanton, Julius Tannen, John Carradine, Arthur Aylesworth
Director: William A. Seiter
MPAA Rating: G for (racial insensitivity)
Run Time: 01h:18m:22s
Release Date: 2002-01-29
DVD ReviewIn Old New York, circa 1848—an earlier time of economic depression—Eustace Appleby, aka "The Professor," lives with his granddaughter, Sylvia, affectionately called "Dimples." Exactly what he is a scholar of, we never quite learn, but he does profess many things, including the virtues of honesty, humility, and honor; traits he, himself, does not possess. Somehow, he manages to gather a gang of talented street urchins to perform for passing change. The older kids recognize he is a bit of a swindler, but his doting little Dimples refuses to believe it, until she catches him red-handed.While performing in the parlor of a "swell house," Dimples' talent for endearing herself leads Carolyn Drew, a woman of means, to offer the girl shelter and a "better life." Conveniently, Mrs. Drew's nephew, Allen, is staging Uncle Tom's Cabin and just happens to still need to cast the role of Little Eva—Dimples, of course, is the perfect match. When the Professor is himself swindled out of the show's purse, events turn to melodrama that is faithfully rectified in the end.While Miss Temple appears to have been a bottomless well of effervescent charm, it seems Fox was producing vehicles faster than anyone could write them; this story is sutured by discordant threads to make use of her many attributes. Circumstances force her grandfather to consider "selling" her to Mrs. Drew, affording her the usual tearful pouting for which she was most beloved. Allen's scandalous involvement with a stage actress is written in just to provide a device for Shirley to perform the death scene of Little Eva, but the fickle actress dumps him the moment the money is gone. Every scene is awkward and contrived, but I doubt Depression-era audiences noticed; they loved their little ringleted ragamuffin no matter how Hollywood served her up.Frank Morgan of course, is best known for his multiple roles in 1939's The Wizard of Oz; one imagines he made a career of his natural verbosity. Here, his loquacious and conniving Professor seems the perfect audition for Professor Marvel, aka "The Wizard." And just like those more famous characters, Eustace Appleby has a tender heart after all, especially toward his young charge. Stepin Fetchit plays the derisive stereotype, Cicero, the Professor's "man," and John Carradine has a very minor role as a gentlemanly conman. While he does not appear on screen, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is credited as the production's choreographer. Dimples can easily be enjoyed by Miss Temple's true fans—all but those who might take offense with some of the era's insensitivities: the children are referred to as "street Arabs"; an overweight boy is nicknamed "Skinny"; and the use of blackface in the theater abounds.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
|Aspect Ratio||1.37:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: As with its two other recent releases of Shirley Temple films, Fox includes two complete versions: the original black & white picture as well as an odious "colorized" affair. While not as aggressive as in the Heidi transfer, there is obvious edge enhancement, and various print flaws have been overlooked. Worse here is the graininess of the image, the result of which is an overall darkness and therefore a greater loss of even mid-level details. The "colorized" transfer is completely unacceptable; even if you are a fan of the process, the picture is so dark that much—including characters' faces, at times—is obscured. Shame on Fox, capable of so much more, to have apparently pushed these titles out so carelessly.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: Both Dolby Digital mono and 2.0 stereo tracks are offered for each of the two versions provided. Dialogue comes across more clearly in the stereo track, spreading things out and therefore smoothing over some of the roughness and distortion heard in the monaural transfer. However, neither dismisses the hiss and tinny effects of age.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: Individual menu systems can be accessed for the black & white and colorized versions that play what amounts to a musical blip when first accessed. Bereft of even a trailer, Dimples is allotted just 24 chapter-stops.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsFar from the best of vehicles for the biggest little star of Hollywood's Golden Age, Dimples does provide Shirley Temple with all the right scenes to present her talent set. Recommended for the star's collectors, The Wizard of Oz completists, or perhaps those with a fascination for the archaic repulsion of actors and the theater.
debi lee mandel 2002-03-14