A Mascot Picture
Produced by Nat Levine
Directed by Phil Rosen
Durkin . . . . . . . . . .
. . . Franz
Frankie Darro . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dan
David Durand . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nat Blake
Dickie Moore . . . . . . . . . . . . . Demi
Tad Alexander . . . . . . . . . . . . Jack
Richard Quine . . . . . . . . . . . . Ned
Tom Bupp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tommy Bangs
Ronnie Cosbey . . . . . . . . . . . Rob Bhaer
Bobby Cox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stuffy
George Ernest . . . . . . . . . . . . Emil
Buster Phelps . . . . . . . . . . . . Dick
Dickie Jones . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dolly
Donald Buck . . . . . . . . . . . . . Billy
Eddie Dale Heiden . . . . . . . . . Teddy Bhaer
Erin O'Brien Moore . . . . . . . . Jo Bhaer
Ralph Morgan . . . . . . . . . . . . Professor Bhaer
Cora Sue Collins . . . . . . . . . . Daisy
Jacqueline Taylor . . . . . . . . . Nan
Phyllis Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary Anne
Hattie McDaniel . . . . . . . . . . Asia
Gustav von Seyffertitz . . . . . Page
Margaret Mann . . . . . . . . . . . Nurse
Based on the popular sequel to Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, Little Women, this screen version of Little Men is simply charming and a wonderful showcase for Frankie's charismatic talent, as well as that of many popular child actors of the time.
The film starts with Nat Blake arriving at the Plumfield School on a cold and wet night. As Nat waits, he witnesses more than just a school . . . it's a home filled with love, laughter and plenty of boys! He is spotted by one of the younger boys, and the others gather around to see the "new boy." Meanwhile, Jo reads the letter of referral Nat has brought Mr. Lawrence, explaining how he found Nat on the street and will pay his tuition if they'll take him in. Professor Bhaer has his concerns and wants to speak with the boy first. After talking with Nat and finding out he has no parents and no home, Jo wants to take him in. Her husband reluctantly agrees. At dinner, Nat is welcomed warmly by everyone. At the sing-a-long later that evening, Nat is so happy he's moved to tears.
At school, Nat is behind the other boys. He is caught drawing a picture of Professor Bhaer and is made to write lines on the chalkboard. Jo comes in to offer him milk, cookies and encouragement. He goes to practice the violin in the hopes of being allowed to play at Mr. Lawrence's birthday party the next month. The scene shifts to that party in which Nat does play. Nat is even paid some money by Mr. Lawrence for his service, who is impressed with his progress at Plumfield.
As Nat is being driven home, he excitedly explains the party to the driver, Silas. On the street, Dan is selling newspapers. Dan jumps aboard the buggy to try to sell a paper and is surprised to see his friend Nat. Dan rides along with them and hears all about Plumfield. Nat encourages Dan to try it, and suggests to Silas they take Dan with them and ask Jo and Professor Bhaer when they get home from the party. Silas agrees and drives them home.
Nat and Dan wait up for Jo and the Professor. Nat goes out to meet them and ask if Dan can stay. Overhearing Professor Bhaer say it's out of the question, Dan starts to leave but is stopped by Jo, who offers to let him stay the night so they can talk in the morning. Again Professor Bhaer is skeptical, pointing out that they can take in all the poor boys in the world. Jo says they can at least try him for week.
Dan is a much tougher boy than Nat, and scoffs at the night gown he's given to sleep in. After Nat has settled down to sleep, Dan puts on the night gown anyway. Jo wakes them the next morning and tells Dan she wants to talk to him, so he needn't go to church. She suggests he take a good bath. After Dan is bathed and dressed he finds Nat playing with Dick and teases the boy about playing with dolls. Dick explains that because he is sickly and has a bad back he can't do regular chores, so he fixes toys. Nat offers to help. Feeling bad about his teasing, Dan offers to help as well. Dick gives him a teddy bear that needs a new eye sewn on. Dan fumbles with it, so Dick shows him how it's done.
Jo enters and tells them they've agreed to let Dan stay. She tells Dan she expects him to set a good example since he's older. Tommy comes in and asks Nat if he wants to go sail kites and they invite Dan, who says he's too old for that kid stuff but that he'll watch. After they leave, Dick is sad he can't go out and play as well. Jo reminds him of how many poor children he makes happy at Christmas with the toys he fixes, and that he's a good soldier. Out in the barn, Tommy and Nat show Dan their business tally for selling eggs and what they're saving up for, then admit they've only made twelve cents.
While out flying kites, Dan meets Nan and they take a shine to one another. Nat accidentally runs through Emil's garden patch by mistake. The next day at school, Dan is called upon to read the motto of the day on the black board. Dan admits he can't read very well. Jack laughs at him and Dan says he can lick anyone there. Professor Bhaer insists there is no fighting allowed in the school and tells Jack to read the motto, which is "Though shalt not bear false witness." When the Professor asks Jack what it means, Stubby says, "He ought to know! He's always tattling." Stubby has to sit in the corner with a dunce cap on.
Silas comes into the classroom to explain how someone ran over Emil's garden patch and ruined his plants. Professor Bhaer asks who did it. Jack gets Emil's attention and motions to Nat. Professor Bhaer notes that Nat was flying a kite in the meadow but Nat denies doing it. The Professor asks Tommy if he knows who did it, but Tommy doesn't want to squeal on Nat. The Professor says he wants the guilty one to confess and doesn't press Tommy for an answer. Dan urges Nat to confess which Nat finally does and begs not to be punished. Nat is sent to his room and Professor Bhaer meets him there and explains how he used to tell lies as a boy and that his grandmother used to wash his mouth out with soap. The Professor then hands Nat a ruler and says he must punish him instead. Wracked with guilt, Nat promises he'll never lie again. Jo tells Nat that he and Tommy need to get some eggs for Asia's lemon pie. As Nat goes downstairs, Jack taunts him by calling him a liar. Dan gives Jack a swift kick in the behind.
Later, the boys put on a circus outside the barn. Dick is able to watch from his window. They put on an animal trainer act and an acrobatic act. Dan says he can do better and is called upon to prove it. He performs some backflips and cartwheels. Tommy asks if Dan will show him how to do a handspring, too. Dan asks what Tommy will give him if he does. Tommy offers his pocket knife but Dan says he already has one. Tommy offers a couple of toys and Dan takes them, then tells him to "Just keep trying 'til you learn." Franz confronts Dan and they get into a fight. Professor Bhaer breaks it up and warns Dan that if he breaks the rules again he'll be sent away. Nat gets angry at Dan as well for causing trouble and urges him to behave.
Later, Franz is tutoring Dan at math, which Dan is grateful for. Afterwards, some of the boys are in their room talking about Thanksgiving dinner and what a feast they'll have. Dan suggests they have a powwow like in the book he's reading. He pulls out a pipe and starts to smoke it. Nat watches worriedly but they take turns smoking it anyway, pretending to be Indians. The other boys start to get sick. When they hear someone coming, Dan hides the pipe under his pillow. Dan falls asleep and the pipe smolders. Jo and Professor Bhaer are in their room when they hear a commotion. Dan's bed is engulfed in flames and he is trying to put it out. The boys help each other escape while Franz and Professor Bhaer extinguish the fire.
They find the pipe under Dan's pillow. Dan is confronted by Jo, who says how disappointed she is in all the trouble he has caused. Dan says Jo's wasting her time on him, that he's just a bad lot. Jo asks what would have happened if someone had been hurt in the fire. Dan says he would have killed himself. Jo explains the Professor wants to send him away, but that they'll give him one more chance. Dan is grateful, saying Plumfield is the only home he's ever had. He wishes he were Jo's son and she says he is . . . her oldest son.
Later in the barn the boys are playing at wrestling. Tommy comes in and shows he has four quarters that he's saved up. They hear a chicken clucking and scatter to find the egg. Tommy puts his money in a tin cup. A moment later we see a hand reach in and steal the money. Some time later, Professor Bhaer has the boys together and wants to know who stole the money. The boys deny it, then end up looking at Nat, who lied before. Nat claims he never even saw the money, but Tommy insists he did. Even Dan tells Nat he'd better confess. Nat insists he didn't take it. The Professor says they won't speak of it again until there is evidence.
Some time later, Tommy tells Nat they can't be partners any more. Nat begs to be given a chance, but Tommy refuses. Two of the boys dunk Nat's head in the water trough, trying to get him to confess. Dan shows up and rescues Nat. Demi says he wishes Tommy would get his money back so they could have fun again. Nat also wishes someone would put the money back. That night, Dan sneaks out to shine shoes and sell newspapers on the street again. When Dan comes back, he is caught by Professor Bhaer and warned never to go into town alone again.
Dan sneaks the money into Tommy's cup but Ned sees Dan do it and tells. Dan confesses to replacing the money but denies stealing it in the first place. Professor Bhaer says he must send Dan away to Page where the discipline is stricter. Jo talks to Dan and tells him she doesn't believe he's a thief, but that he's wrong to try to cover for someone else. Jo begs Dan not to disappoint her and Dan asks her to leave him alone, that he's just a bad lot, that he's tried and wanted to please her but that he can't tell her the truth (he still thinks his friend Nat took the money and doesn't want him to get into trouble). Jo urges Dan to go to Page and take his medicine so that he can return. She says he is still her eldest son.
Nat offers to go with Dan, but Dan tells him to stay put and makes him swear never to lie again. Dan goes to say goodbye to Teddy and Dick in a heartbreaking scene. Dick gives Dan his toy soldier to remember him by. Jo tries to talk her husband out of sending Dan to Page but he won't be swayed. He takes Dan to Page, believing it is truly the best thing for the boy. No sooner has Professor Bhaer left Dan at Page, it's clear the headmaster is a sadistic and scary man. The food is inedible, Dan is made to work hard and is beaten without provocation. And one night the schoolmaster finds that Dan has the toy soldier and demands it, but Dan breaks it in half instead and is struck. Dan runs away from Page.
When Professor Bhaer finds out that Dan has run away, he suggests that if he returns to Plumfield he should be sent back to Page. Jo cannot believe her husband could be so heartless. They disagree so strongly about it, Jo takes the boys and leaves. Everyone is depressed with Jo and Dan gone. Dick is sick and keeps asking for Jo, so the Professor goes to bring her back. The boys are concerned that Dick will die and discuss what happens when you die. Demi says you go to heaven. Jack asks what happens if you're bad and Demi says "Then you catch it like fury." Jack acts guilty and goes off by himself, crying. Jo returns and the boys tell her how much they've missed her. She goes to see Dick, who asks her to tell him about the dragonfly, and she tells him about an ugly little creature which became a beautiful butterfly. Dick says he'll miss her . . . and dies.
At Dick's funeral, Jack is overcome with grief. He goes to his room and leaves the money and a note confessing he stole it then leaves. After the boys find the note, they run to tell Jo that Dan is innocent. When Professor Bhaer finds out, he promises he will do everything within his power to find Dan and bring him back. Dan, meanwhile, is on the run, not sure where to go. Professor Bhaer comes home and tells Jo he couldn't find him. It is Thanksgiving Day and Teddy and Rob are outside playing ball. The ball rolls over by a haystack and as they search for it they end up pulling out a foot instead. Dan says he doesn't want anyone to know he's there, that he just came to bring Teddy a surprise. He pulls off his cap to show a big frog.
Silas overhears the little ones and runs over. Silas calls in that Dan is there. Everyone rushes out to meet him. He says he won't go back to Page, but Jo insists they want him to stay with them. Tommy says they know who took the money and Jo assures Dan it wasn't Nat. Professor Bhaer apologizes to Dan, who accepts. They carry Dan inside on their shoulders and all share a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, singing Auld Lang Syne.
This was Frankie's first film in which he co-starred with David Durand. David, who would later appear in some of the East Side Kids films, would co-star with Frankie in the 1939 film Boys' Reformatory.
It's interesting to note that Dickie Moore made a brief appearance in the 1933 serial The Wolf Dog starring Frankie Darro and Rin Tin Tin Jr.
There were two book
versions of the film released. Above is the front and back
covers of The Big Little Book release, which included many photos from the movie.
Below is the dust jacket for a the novel which was released to promote the film.