Synopsis by Hal Erickson
David O. Selznick's first independent production upheld the producer's tradition, established at Paramount, RKO and MGM, of bringing the "classics" to the screen. Adapted by Hugh Walpole from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Little Lord Fauntleroy is set in the late 19th century. After establishing Freddie Bartholomew as a likeable Brooklyn boy who can handle himself in a scrap--with the assistance of his roughneck pal Mickey Rooney, of course--the film introduces us to Bartholomew's mother, played by Dolores Costello-Barrymore (though divorced from John Barrymore, Mrs. Costello-Barrymore was still billng herself by her married name). Costello-Barrymore is the widow of a titled Englishman, whose father, the aristocratic Sir C. Aubrey Smith, detests all Americans with equal fervor. Upon discovering that Bartholomew is the rightful heir to his fortune, Smith demands that Costello-Barrymore deliver the boy to his sprawling English country estate. Now addressed by one and all as Lord Fauntleroy, Bartholomew chafes at the restrictions imposed upon him by his station in life. The boy's good nature and forthrightedness wins his grandfather's respect-and, eventually, the old man's love. When pasty-faced Jackie Searl, a false claimant to Bartholomew's title, shows up, Bartholomew's American pals, led by Rooney, set things right. His hard heart softened at last, Smith stage-manages a happy reunion between Bartholomew and Costello-Barrymore. Expertly sidestepping the "sissy" onus that has been unfairly placed upon the original Burnett novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy scored well at the box office. Other versions of this venerable tale have starred Mary Pickford (as both Fauntleroy and his mother) and Ricky Schroder.
boy, class [social], grandfather, heir, mother, friendship