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Penrod And Sam 1923
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Released: 18 Jun 1923 Director: William Beaudine Writers: Louis D. Lighton, Hope Loring, Booth Tarkington (novel) Actors: Ben Alexander, Joe Butterworth, Buddy Messinger, Newton Hall Genres: Comedy, Drama
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Penrod And Sam Reviews:

Movie buffs know William Beaudine from the cheapie schlock that he directed in the sound era and television, but he was quite a talented director in the 1920s. PENROD AND SAM (1923) was the first of three versions of Booth Tarkington's novel; the another two being filmed with sound in the 1930s. Hal Roach's Our Gang series had started a year before this series, and this movie has a related feel. Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson from this movie soon made it into the Roach gang.The kid actors in this movie are all perfect, with Ben Alexander (later of DRAGNET) as Penrod. Buddy Messenger plays the mean bully Rodney Bitts, and his sister Gertrude plays the only woman that is mates with the kids. Except for their tattered clothing which shows that the two African-American children are poorer than the others, the two black children are presented as just regular children and are not stereotyped at all. Rockliffe Fellowes and Gladys Brockwell were stars in the teens. Here they enjoy two loving parents who don't everytime understand Penrod. Mary Philbin has a tiny part as Penrod's sister, and Gareth Hughes is her embarrassed boyfriend. Both would go on to much bigger roles. Cameo the dog is an necessary hero in this film, and she has the most heart-breaking scene. (She would repeat her role in the remake.)Penrod and Sam are two greatest mates who have their own clubhouse on the vacant lot next to Penrod's house. They receive into all kinds of problem getting back at the local bully Rodney Bitts (Buddy Messinger). They also tease prissy Georgie Bassett (Newton Hall) because his mother dresses him in coordinating outfits and because Georgie doesn't like to receive dirty. Rodney's mean father insists that his son be allow into the gang, while Georgie's mother pleads that he be allow in also. The children make an terrible initiation for Georgie, but the parents stop it before he is treated too badly. (And note that after this Georgie does become a member of the gang.)The bully Rodney won't be great to anybody in the gang and cannot be agreed into it. His rich father (William V. Mong) buys the lot next door from Penrod's father. Penrod realizes that Buddy and his father have taken his dog and his clubhouse from him. He and his mates gotta act to reclaim their clubhouse and their fun. While there are sentimental scenes in the film, there is plenty of comedy and the movie holds up perfectly nearly a hundred years later.


As a child, I found two of Booth Tarkington's books, "Penrod" and its sequel "Penrod and Sam", to be the funniest I had read. Those two eleven year old men and their dog, around 1900 AD, were getting into the most hilarious of mischievous scrapes. UNFORTUNATELY, the writers for this movie focused primarily on those episodes where Penrod and Sam were getting their revenge on Georgie Bassett, a "goodie-goodie", so it treats the bullying of Georgie as funny and as a positive. "Bullying" is in the spotlight today with a unique focus on how destructive it can be - even leading to suicide by the victims - those episodes, which composed the bulk of the film,did not seem very funny. I found it most disappointing. To be fair, the kid actors were nice and the director got the right flavor for the non-bullying incidents so had the film been primarily on those types of scrapes, I would have rated this film at the top of the scale rather than at the bottom.



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