Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) – By James L. Neibaur

Ten years ago, this writer had the pleasure of interviewing Mickey Rooney in connection with a personal appearance he was making nearby. When asked about Freddie Bartholomew, Rooney stated, "he was the best actor of all of us." It was such an honest, powerful, yet concise statement, I have used it myself to describe those whose work I find inspiring and impressive. Both Bartholomew and Rooney appear in Kino-Lorber’s high definition blu-ray release of LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY (1936).

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel is adapted here by Hugh Walpole with David O. Selznick producing and John Cromwell directing. The story deals with the title character’s being heir to an Earl’s fortune, but family conflicts and imposters threaten to thwart his entitlement.

While effete manner of the title character and the stuffiness of the surroundings may translate poorly to contemporary sensibilities, its historical accuracy, impressive set design, and outstanding performances make LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY an impressive production during a particularly fertile period for cinema. The cast is rounded out with welcome veterans like C. Aubrey Smith, Guy Kibbee, E.E. Clive, and Dolores Costello. Jackie Searl is at his bratty best as the lower class imposter whose mother is using in an attempt to secure wealth that is not rightfully theirs.

The high definition master, from a 35mm nitrate print preserved by the George Eastman House, lives up to Kino-Lorber’s typically wonderful efforts. The sharpness in some scenes is especially impressive in that the blu ray transfer allows for a more defined image.

Extras are at a minimum with only period trailers as an addendum, but the feature itself is a very nice look at Freddie Bartholomew at his most effective, and Mickey Rooney exhibiting his usual vitality during a time when he was on the cusp of superstardom.