A legendary newspaper columnist and author, Damon Runyon’s biggest contribution to film is his short story “Little Miss Marker.” It was first filmed in 1934, then remade as a Bob Hope vehicle Sorrowful Jones (1939), reworked as a Tony Curtis movie, 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962), and finally remade again as Little Miss Marker starring Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews. The 1934 version is the arguably the best, which featured Shirley Temple in one of her earliest starring roles.
Just six years old at the time, Little Miss Marker allows Temple to show off her considerable talents as a child. The film also features Adolphe Menjou and the tragic Dorothy Dell who died in a car accident at nineteen, just days after the release of Little Miss Marker.
Owner of the racehorse “Dream Prince” and a compulsive gambler Big Steve Halloway (Charles Bickford), lets it be known he’s bet $10,000 on “Dream Prince” to win even though he knows the horse will lose without the use of speedballs. Told the horse will die if he uses speedballs again, Steve refuses to do it. When the horse loses, he commits suicide. Bookie Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou) had taken Steve’s little girl (Temple) as a marker. His first thought is to take “Little Miss Marker” to the police, but first he decides to use the girl in a scheme to win a fixed race. The downside, Jones must take care of the curly haired moppet for a week, with some help from his stable of boxers, crooks and gangsters. Bangles (Dell), a girlfriend of a business partner, lends a hand too.
Menjou is excellent as a tough bookie with a heart of stone, slowly softened by this adorable little girl. A cute film, Little Miss Marker isn’t trying to be anything more than the sweet confection that it is. Some of the best scenes in the film feature the pair together, such as when he’s trying to get her to go to sleep, but she wants a story about King Arthur. Sorrowful reads the only thing he has available, a racing form, and replaces a horse’s name with “King Arthur.” “Yesterday King Arthur ran the mile in….”
Little Miss Marker was a box office hit. Shirley would go on to star in a total of forty-four films as a child, from 1931 to 1940. Given their chemistry, its unfortunate that Temple and Menjou only made one film together.
Presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks very good despite no remastering. Yes, there is some print damage, but its not nearly as noticeable as you might imagine. A few scratches and marks rarely take away from the action. Surprisingly good contrast results in a well-balanced image. Blacks are strong throughout and whites are rich. A strong level of grain adds to a film like appearance. Facial closeups are sharp and shadow delineation is effective.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track supplies a surprisingly effective listening experience. Fidelity is limited, but that’s to be expected given the films age. The music score by Ralph Rainger, fills the room nicely, as do the songs sung by Dorothy Dell and Shirley Temple. Dialogue is clean clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary by Film Critic/Author Lee Gambin and Costume Historian Elissa Rose: The duo discusses the films themes and how they connect to social issues of today, Shirley Temple’s appeal and Adolphe Menjou’s sense of style. Informative, yet easy going, this is worth a listen for fans of the film.