Friday, March 20, 2020
Captain January (1924)
The silent film era was a fertile one for child stars. You had swaths of great talent, and some of them didn't have a miserable time doing it either! Mickey Rooney was one of the big examples, although he's mainly known for his later stuff. Then there was dear Jackie Coogan, known equally for his cherubic turns in films such as The Kid, and of course as the beloved Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. Then there was Baby Peggy, only recently deceased at the grand old age of 101! She was an especially prolific =
6 years ago, old sailor Jeremiah Judkins found a baby washed up on the shore of his lighthouse. Apparently the victim of a shipwreck, he names the baby girl Captain January, and raises her as his own. Taught at home on a steady diet of Shakespeare and the Bible, as well as her 'Daddy Judkins' good old fashioned know-how, she enjoys her life, and fills a void in the man's heart. Outside forces begin to try and change things though, first when an old enemy of Judkins tries making excuses for why he's an unfit parent, and then a more pressing concern when Captain January's aunt and uncle find her, and want their long-lost relation back home...
Captain January is a very enjoyable family picture. As a = film it may not be to everyone's liking, but speaking as someone who doesn't watch such films too terribly often, I liked it quite a lot. It's a very sweet movie, but thankfully never saccharine. It balances very well, and the cuteness never feels forced or overdone.
The plot moves along at a decent pace, and while some plot points end up being less important than they were built up to be, there aren't any really missteps. Everything you expect to happen happens, but never is an annoying or = way. It's the good kind of predictable, where you look forward to what's happening even if you know it.
Something I like about Captain January is that while it is sad at times, it's never awkward. You're never screaming at the screen "THAT'S SO UNFAIR!" while your heart breaks into a million pieces. This is a relief, as I hate frustrating and awkward moments in stories. This does lead into a problem the film does have though, in the form of an abandoned plot point. The character of = bears a serious grudge against Judkins, and is all set to make things difficult for him and the Captain, but then he just unceremoniously fails and is never seen or mentioned again.
The long lost aunt and uncle are likeable enough characters. While they don't have as much screentime as others, we get to know them decently well, and they come across as genuinely caring. They don't just yank their niece out of Judkins' care with a wave and a grin, but instead do feel for the guy. And they recognise what Captain January wants too.
The remainder of the cast are all pretty good, and serve their roles well. Some are good, a couple are bad, and none feel superfluous.
The acting in Captain January is a high point. Baby Peggy is cute, and handles a wide range of emotions. She's happy in some scenes, sad in others, and she's got simply the most adorable anger I've ever seen/seen in ages! She's quite physical too, hopping from place to place. She's a real talent. Hobart Bosworth is likewise very good as the = Daddy Judkins, and while I feel they maybe made him up to look a bit too old (it kinda dampens the fantasy a little if he looks like he'll drop dead in a year or two!), he otherwise impresses. The rest of the actors all deliver fine performances, and there isn't much overacting present.
The secluded lighthouse setting adds a lot to the film, and gives it a romantic feel of adventure. I wouldn't wanna live there with weather like that, but it sure does make you wanna try.
This story was later adapted into a 1936 Shirley Temple film, and while that film does get labelled as somewhat saccharine, the general consensus is that it's otherwise a = =. And besides, it's got Shirley Temple and Guy Kibbee! What's not to love. Both movies are based on the same source material, a novel by Laura E. Richards. Strangely enough the girl is named Star in both of those, while Captain January is the name of the =! So what's the story with this version then? I'm not sure, but as strange of a name as Captain January is for a girl, I do think it adds a unique something to the =.
Captain January is a good example of silent cinema. It's emotional, cute, dramatic, and funny at times. Definitely well worth a watch...