- Movie Rating -

Little Miss Marker (1980)

| March 21, 1980

Little Miss Marker is a remake of a pretty good 1933 picture starring Shirley Temple and based on a Damon Runyon story and, almost as a knee-jerk reaction, I am inclined to dismiss it for merely being a remake.  It’s cute, it’s sweet, its sentimental, it pulls at the heartstrings from time to time, but there is something too modern here.  I never felt that I was in Runyon’s world of gamblers and hustlers and gangsters.  Filmed in crisp, bright colors it feels less like Runyon’s arena and more like actors playing dress-up.

Director Walter Bernstein is desperate to capture the gruff charm of Hollywood’s classic screwball comedies.  His efforts are admirable.  He doesn’t succeed, but he knows the value of what he has in his corner, namely Walter Matthau as a grumpy old crank whose grinchy heart is slightly melted by the appearance of an adorable little girl that he would just as soon just “scram.”

He plays Sollowful Jones (I love that name), a bookie who is forever on tenterhooks with a local gangster named Blackie (Tony Curtis) that he has known since childhood.  It’s a hard-knock life and so one day when a man who can’t pay off his debt leaves his six-year-old daughter as collateral, Sorrowful finds himself playing host to this pint-sized kid.  Obviously, he would rather the kid not be in his care but time spent with The Kid means that eventually the kid will melt his heart.

The story gets even more complicated, not only for the money owed to Blackie, but to Sorrowful’s relationship with a society dame played by Julie Andrews (what’s she doing in this movie?!) who owns a thoroughbred race horse and the unfortunate fate of The Kid’s father.

All of this is set up for a great comedy, the problem is that Bernstein dials down a lot of the pacing so that we never feel the zing of a great ‘30s screwball comedy.  It’s too slow.  The dialogue is too laid back.  The story is too labored.  Yeah, there are some great moments with the kid but Little Miss Marker is too little of not very much.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized