A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Just Around the Corner is an old-fashioned, feel-good Shirley Temple movie (with music and dancing) about a little girl who is an uplifting force-of-nature, making everyone around her happy and more optimistic. It takes place during the American Depression in New York City; most of the rich people are portrayed as snooty and uncaring; the poor work hard and make the best of a bad situation. Expect a couple of cartoon pratfalls -- an uptight villain is sent down a laundry chute, a brief brawl between poor street kids, and a scene showing police with guns. The only non-white characters in the film (as was typical in a movie made in 1938) are African-American dancing doormen.
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What's the story?
In the opening moments of JUST AROUND THE CORNER, Little Penny's (Shirley Temple) comfortable world is about to change. It's the height of The Great Depression. Jeff (Charles Farrell), her architect dad, has lost his job and, along with it, their tony New York penthouse and his ability to pay for his daughter's private boarding school. Penny, never discouraged, sees an opportunity instead of a crisis. Now she and her dad can spend a lot more time together, and she can take wonderful care of him. Soon, however, Penny learns that everyone has been affected by the country's downturn. And when she mistakenly discerns that a playmate's rich Uncle Sam is every American's conceptual "Uncle Sam," she sets out to help the billionaire-curmudgeon restore the USA. Love blossoms; miracles happen; and, Shirley and company help the cause by putting on a show.
Is it any good?
Notable because it was the last of the four movies in which Miss Temple danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, this is a delightful, heartwarming story filled with colorful featured players. (Look for Bert Lahr, who the next year became the iconic Cowardly Lion; and Joan Davis, an early female movie and TV comic.)
While the film has a predictable plot with predictable one-dimensional characters, it's always fun, entertaining, and good-hearted. Selfish people learn lessons about compassion; mean people get their comeuppance; and the world is a better place for having Lucky Penny and her dad in it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie was made in 1938. Find some examples of the ways in which movie-making has changed over the years. Think about character and story as well as the obvious differences (i.e. black-and-white).
What sights and sounds do the filmmakers use to show the difference between the rich kids and the poor kids in Penny's world?
Sometimes movies that are not traditional fairy tales are called fairy tales. What makes this movie a "fairy tale"?
- In theaters: November 11, 1938
- On DVD or streaming: July 25, 2006
- Cast: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Charles Farrell, Shirley Temple
- Director: Irving Cummings
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 70 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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