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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Driftwood is a quaint slice of 1940's nostalgia, with a very young Natalie Wood playing the role of a precocious, scripture-quoting little orphan girl. One of the main characters smokes a pipe, and there are a few scary moments, like when a plane is falling from the sky, a grandfather seems close to death, and a collie is threatened with the death penalty for allegedly biting the backside of the mayor's bratty son. But on the whole, Driftwood is as much a family film as it is a study in how people related to one another in small towns in the 1940s.
What's the story?
Jenny Hollingsworth (Natalie Wood) is a precocious, scripture-quoting little girl living with her minister great grandfather in an otherwise abandoned Nevada town. When he passes away, she sets off to find a new home. She comes across a dog who has survived a plane crash, and together, they meet Dr. Steve Webster (Dean Jagger), who takes her in. Initially, Jenny's brutal honesty doesn't endear her to Webster's girlfriend Susan (Ruth Warrick) and others in the town, but as she learns social graces, those around her succumb to her charms. Everyone, that is, except the conniving mayor and his bratty son, who conspire to have Jenny's dog executed after accusing the dog of biting the boy's backside.
Is it any good?
For better or worse, they don't make movies like DRIFTWOOD anymore. Some will consider it corny and others will consider it quaint, but at the end of the day, the movie is an enjoyable slice of gosh-wow nostalgia, or at least a glimpse into How Things Used to Be. The days of malt shops, of neighbors knowing neighbors, of women feeling it's necessary to get married lest they turn into old maids, of spotted fever outbreaks among children.
A very young Natalie Wood plays the role of the precociously honest cute child to the hilt. The courtroom scene is hilarious -- intentionally and unintentionally. The ending, naturally, ties up everything in a fairly tidy and completely happy bow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how one of the main characters in the film, Jenny Hollingsworth, is an orphan. How is the orphan character portrayed, and how is this portrayal similar and different to ways orphans are conveyed in films in more recent eras?
What do you notice in the ways women and men, adults and children, and fellow townspeople relate to one another in this film? How is this different compared to today?
If Driftwood were remade for today, in what ways would it be much different than the original?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.