Child Bride (1938)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Social Problem Film  |   Run Time - 75 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein

Released in typical "roadshow" manner with tag-lines such as "Where lust was called just!" and "A throbbing drama of shackled youth!", this exploitation melodrama set in Appalachia was ostensibly an outcry against the outmoded mountain custom of grown men marrying teenagers. The local schoolmarm (Diana Durrell) and her district attorney boyfriend (Frank Martin) work feverishly on the governor to raise the age of consent. Their efforts, however successful, are too late for young Jennie Colton (Shirley Mills) who is forced into an unseemly union with blackmailing Jake Bolby (Warner Richmond), a man close to thirty years her senior. The girl is saved in the nick of time by her age appropriate boyfriend Freddie Nulty (Bob Bollinger) and an ostracized dwarf, Angelo. The latter shoots and kills Bolby "in the act," so to speak. Despite impoverished production values and atrocious acting by the majority of the cast members, Child Bride at least appears to take its drama serious. Until, that is, two-thirds of the way through when producer Raymond Friedgen and veteran director Harry J. Revier finally show their hands. The sequence, a sort of coming-of-age scene between the prepubescent Mills and Bollinger, culminates in a completely gratuitous nude swim by Mills, made lurid by cross-cutting to villain Richmond, lustfully leering at the girl from a cliff above. The scene was obviously Child Bride's main selling point and the reason for its longevity on the exploitation circuit. Despite all that, little Shirley Mills, who earlier had played Ruth Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), actually makes a very appealing little heroine and her acting is flawless throughout. Mills, Warner Richmond and veteran Hollywood dwarf Angelo Rossitto (who for unknown reasons is billed "Don Barrett") appear to be the sole professionals among the cast members, some of whom are almost too realistic-looking for comfort. Typical for low-budget affairs such as this, Miss Mills' last name was misspelled "Miles" in the credits and in the usual outrageous art-work. Needless to say, the film was banned outright in many places -- a fate it shared with the later similarly themed Lolita -- not only because of subject matter and the gratuitous child nudity but also because Rossitto appeared to literally get away with murder.



child-bride, Appalachia, marriage, teenagers, District-Attorney, dwarf, schoolteacher, boyfriend, blackmail