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“Lord Jeff” follows a thieving orphan being taught how to be a Merchant Marine. Mickey Rooney trains the British orphan into becoming a better sailor and what amounts to the most bizarre kids’ film of 1938. Most of the film takes place at sea, even when Jeff’s friends return to turn him back into a crook. You have to consider that the titular character is a plucky young teen during all of this. For a movie that doesn’t crack 90 minutes, that’s a pretty tall order.

Peter Lawford made his American debut in the film as a fellow Merchant Marine cadet. Why bring that up? Well, sometimes you have to resort to trivia to pad out discussing a film that’s as paper thin as a rice paper door. If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood, it’s fun to see what Sam Wood was directing before “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”. Other than that, it’s a minor Mickey Rooney film. We’ll be back to modern stuff tomorrow, kids!


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The Plot Thus Far

Following the huge success of Captains Courageous, Freddie Bartholomew again plays a snobby brat reformed into a sturdy young man by seamanship training and the friendship of Mickey Rooney (in the fourth of their five screen teamings). The combination works again. In the title role of Lord Jeff, Bartholomew is a defiant orphan arrested after engineering a jewel theft with bad companions (Gale Sondergaard and George Zucco). With the scenarist’s nod to the venerable British children’s charity Barnardo’s, the scheming scamp is sent to Russell-Cotes mercantile marine school, where Terry O’Mulvaney (Rooney) takes him in hand and provides a crash course in personal honor. But can Geoffrey’s ex-partners undo the good work of school patriarch Charles Coburn, instructor Herbert Mundin and fellow cadets Peter Lawford (in his American debut) and Terry Kilburn? Director Sam Wood (soon to head to England for Goodbye, Mr. Chips with Kilburn) steers it home straight and true – on the Queen Mary, no less! – manned by a smart, snappy crew.

These DVDs are Manufactured on Demand (MOD).; to order, fans must visit The Warner Archive Collection (www.wbshop.com)


Troy Anderson is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of AndersonVision. He uses a crack team of unknown heroes to bring you the latest and greatest in Entertainment News.

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