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  Child Bride The Worst Wedding
Year: 1938
Director: Harry Revier
Stars: Shirley Mills, Bob Bollinger, Warner Richmond, Diana Durrell, Dorothy Carrol, George Humphreys, Frank Martin, George Morrell, Angelo Rossitto, Al Bannon
Genre: Drama, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Miss Helen Carol (Diana Durrell) is a pioneering schoolteacher in the Thunderhead Mountain region of the United States, an area blighted with poverty and a lack of education which she, having come from there and returned with a mission, hopes to improve. However, there will be opposition to her plans from the local menfolk, especially the more conniving, criminal types who particularly dislike her plans to promote the abolition of child marriage, where grown men wed young girls as there is no law to order them not to...

Child Bride was one of a spate of movies of the nineteen-thirties that were effectively torn from the headlines, a cheap way of drumming up interest in the productions of filmmakers with one eye on the box office, as after all the more sensational the subject matter the more likely the public would be to take an interest. But the matter in hand here was not something the major Hollywood studios would often touch, as by 1938 the Production Code had been implemented which forbade the depiction of taboos such as paedophilia in mainstream works.

Although Helen is ostensibly our heroine, we actually see the world of this, for want of a better word, hick community through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jennie (Shirley Mills, who would be best known for the far more respectable The Grapes of Wrath if it were not for this). It is she who becomes the child bride of the title, much against her will and those of her mother and boyfriend Freddie (Bob Bollinger), who understandably do not wish to see her wasted on the scoundrel who has manipulated events to his own favour. He is Jake Colby (Warner Richmond), the heavy in our story, and he intimidates everyone around the mountains.

So not only does he see a steady income through his illegal moonshine stills, and the maintainers of those have to hand over their profits to them whether they want to or not, but he has his own gang of thugs to assist. Early on they try to discourage Helen by abducting her from her bed and dragging her to be tarred and feathered, and it's only the intervention of the more heroic characters that saves her: it was presumably no coincidence to give the bad guys Ku Klux Klan style hoods to wear. Notably among those good guys was diminutive actor Angelo Rossitto, who for a change gets to play a major role in saving the day, although he does get thrown around for his trouble.

Actually Angelo was the most famous face here, but he's not the reason Child Bride remains controversial. So far it sounds as if director Harry Revier was seriously right on, doesn't it? So why did he include a sequence that many have worried about since, where Mills goers skinny dipping with Freddie? A body double may have been used for the swimming shots, and strategically placed branches and ripples cover most of the girl's modesty, but it calls into question exactly whose side the filmmakers were on and makes the melodrama that follows suspiciously prurient. The fact remained that Revier was including everything he could to pull in an audience, and some of his choices put him on a par with the dirty old men who constitute the villains who murder Jennie's father to ensure she has to marry Jake. Fortunately, age has rendered much of this ridiculous with its amateurish stylings, but a promising feminist angle is sabotaged by having men as the deus ex machina for both Helen and Jennie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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