The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) Poster

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10/10
Excellent Golden Era Film
Ron Oliver12 April 2002
`In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, on THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE,' a young woman discovers love, but no respite from the violent feud which has torn apart two families.

Full of good performances & boasting excellent production values courtesy of Paramount Studios, this fine drama brings to its viewers a not-so-subtle message of peace & tolerance. The vividly depicted consequences of mindless, violent behavior give the film a real punch.

The film's romantic triangle consists of barefoot mountain lass Sylvia Sidney, her decent, uncomplicated cousin Henry Fonda, and mining executive Fred MacMurray, who, as a newcomer to the backwoods, rebels against the traditions of violence & revenge he finds there. All three deliver compelling performances, with a slight advantage going to the gentlemen, as their roles do not require as much shrill, fickle behavior as does Miss Sidney's.

The marvelous character actress Beulah Bondi appears as Miss Sidney's mother, one of the first in a decades-long line of stubborn, proud old women she would play; her eyes tell of the world of trouble her character has seen on the mountain. Cuddly Nigel Bruce is MacMurray's associate - gruff & grumbly, but with a heart of gold.

Special mention should be made of seven-year-old Spanky McFarland, who plays Miss Sidney's little brother. Already the star of numerous OUR GANG comedies, the tiny tyke here displays the talent that placed him in the front rank of child movie stars. Precocious & poignant, Spanky's character is quite unforgettable.

Fred Stone & Robert Barrat play the heads of the two feuding clans, one gentle - the other fierce. Movie mavens will recognize Clara Blandick as a frightened landlady and Samuel S. Hinds as the Gaptown sheriff.

The film is stitched together by the evocative, nostalgic singing of Fuzzy Knight, who introduces ‘Twilight On The Trail' & ‘A Melody From The Sky,' (both by Louis Alter and Sidney D. Mitchell). The tune for the chorus of ‘The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine,' by Ballard MacDonald & Harry Carroll, can be briefly heard during the opening credits; viewers will need to watch Laurel & Hardy's WAY OUT WEST (1937) to hear this fine old song actually sung.

Famous as the first outdoor film produced in full Technicolor, THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE benefits greatly from its location filming near Cedar Lake, in California's San Bernardino Mountains.
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10/10
my comments are sincere
jsd2825 January 2004
It's a wonderful movie - good story - well written & well acted by a better than ordinary cast. Spanky Mac Farland was a jewel in his role & Fred MacMurry & Henry Fonda performed well. Buelha Bondi proved to be a surprisingly good (to me, at least), actress. She carried more than her share of the movie. The scenery, the filming of that beautiful area, the first movie, shot outside, in color, should have won an Oscar. I'm still disappointed that it didn't. if you haven't seen it - SEE IT!!!
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7/10
Feuding, A Blood Sport
bkoganbing10 February 2007
This sound version of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is actually the fourth and to date last version of this story. There were three silent films made from this novel by John Fox, Jr., including one done in 1916 by Cecil B. DeMille.

It's the story of a couple of Appalachian Mountain families who've had a decades old feud in which no one can quite recall how it all got started, but they sure do remember the latest outrage by the other crowd. There's a great temptation to treat this all humorously and it certainly has been done, I can recall Abbott and Costello's Comin' Round the Mountain with the same plot premise. But whole people's and whole nations act this way, who are we to judge the Tollivers and Falins of this story.

Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda are two Tolliver cousins, kissing cousins as they say in the mountains, distant enough to contemplate marriage. Into the picture comes railroad man Fred MacMurray who wants to build a railroad through the properties of both families. He interests Sylvia who starts to see that there is a whole world away from her family and their feud.

Of course when her little brother is killed the whole ugly business starts up again and it leaves tragedy again in both families.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine has its place in film history as the first outdoor as opposed to studio film shot in three strip technicolor. Color which is now standard was a big gimmick back in the day and Paramount raked in good box office.

Fuzzy Knight plays another rustic character, kind of a Tolliver satellite and he sings a couple of songs written for the film by Louis Alter and Sidney Mitchell, Twilight on the Trail and A Melody from the Sky. The latter got an Academy Award nomination for Best Song, losing to The Way You Look Tonight. The former however got a recording by Bing Crosby. This is a perfect example of the connection of film, and radio, and the recording industry. Bing was Paramount's number one box office attraction and the Paramount executives no doubt prevailed on him to record the song and sing it on his brand new Kraft Music Hall Radio Show in the interest of publicizing The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

Fred MacMurray and Sylvia Sidney were also with Paramount at the time and Henry Fonda was at that time under contract to producer Walter Wanger who filmed this story. Those were the days way before agents and stars being their own producers. Such cozy arrangements as these were more easily done then.

This last to date version of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine probably is too old fashioned for a remake. Still I think today's audiences might still enjoy it.
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8/10
A landmark Technicolor film that is still effective.
cclanetemp10 May 2009
THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (1936) is a landmark color film of considerable dramatic power that has been neglected in Hollywood history. It was the second full-length feature to be produced in the newly-developed 3 strip Technicolor process. The first Technicolor feature, BECKY SHARP, had opened the previous year (1935) but did not find audience favor. There is strong evidence to suggest that THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE was the film that really popularized color.

Aside from the superb color photography, the film has much to recommend it. There are very strong performances, particularly that of Sylvia Sidney as the backwoods mountain girl - a very convincing portrayal. She is supported by two handsome newcomers, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray, plus veterans such as Fred Stone, Beulah Bondi, and Spanky MacFarland. The story line is very compelling and there is the strong direction of Henry Hathaway (LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER, KISS OF DEATH, TRUE GRIT). In its original release, audiences reportedly burst into applause while viewing some of the color scenes. The film was a box office smash for Paramount, playing to packed houses in both large and small towns. (This is well documented.) It remains compelling entertainment today. The high-quality color photography was very much in evidence in the VHS tape that MCA released in the Nineties. It is to be hoped that the same high quality will be seen in the projected 2009 DVD release of this beloved film.
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10/10
This is the best tear-jerker of them all
diviv12 August 1998
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is a beautiful tear-jerker.The characters are simple and honest. The setting is in hill-billy country. The simple folk there are trying to prevent a railroad running through their area and upsetting their way of life. To add to their stress is a continual family feud. In this movie we see the best and the worst in people. The acting is top-notch. A handkerchief is a must for this movie.
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Don't Let the Obscurity Fool You
dougdoepke24 March 2014
The movie's an affecting tale of feuding backwoods families, who must also make adjustments to encroaching modern world. I was expecting a Romeo-Juliet situation with the families, but that's surprisingly not the case. Instead June (Sidney) has to decide between her cousin Dave (Fonda) and outsider Hale (MacMurray). Tradition favors Dave, but her heart favors Hale. At the same time, railroad developers are crossing land owned by each family, and neither the Tollivers nor the Falins wants to accommodate their hereditary enemy. They'd rather shoot each other if they get the chance. And who knows how the enmity started, except now it's part of both families' tradition. If the movie's flawed, it's with the use of of popular backwoods stereotypes.

Apparently this was the first outdoor Technicolor feature (IMDB), but you'd never know it. Visually the film is quite striking, with a lot of beautiful outdoor compositions. Also, you'd never guess these were filmed just 35-miles east of LA in the San Bernardino mountains. The acting too is first-rate—a soulful Sydney, an ornery Fonda, and an underrated MacMurray. Then there's Sherlock Holmes' favorite Dr. Watson, Nigel Bruce, in a non-comedic role. Needless to say, that took some adjustment for this old Sherlock fan. In fact, there're a couple other unexpected cast members, as well: Little Rascal Spanky McFarland and comedic Fuzzy Knight. And, of course, mustn't forget everyone's favorite hard-scrabble mom, Beulah Bondi, as the long-suffering ma Tolliver.

I like the way the movie works the culture clash between tradition and modernity into the plot. The railroad company pays big money for land use, and that along with a railway to service the expected coal deposits, is bringing the backwoods into the modern age, as June's evolution shows. Of course, not everyone's supportive of change, particularly dad Tolliver (Stone). The movie has some uncommonly poignant moments, especially that final sequence, which conveys an extraordinary emotional power. As a kid, I recall bawling at it, and even now as a geezer, it brought a tear to the eye. As I see it, Fuzzy and his dog are mourning not only friends but the passing of a simpler way of life.

All in all, the movie is surprisingly good, with a strong story, commanding visuals, and a thoughtful subtext. So don't pass it up because of a relative obscurity.
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8/10
Good, But Nothing Like The Book
WillisRohrback9 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
John Fox Jr.'s novel "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" was an enormous best seller in the early years of the 20th Century and was made into a movie several times, but I think this was the last version, way back in 1936. The fact that it was made 4 times (I believe) within a little over 25 years of the book's publishing date and hasn't been redone in the almost 80 years since would seem to indicate that the story is dated. Also, that this once very popular novel is not read anymore.

Well, actually, I read it and I think it still holds up well. It's an affecting piece of fiction, very well written, but there's one big problem with it for modern audiences. The main relationship in the story is a close friendship between a grown up man and a young hillbilly girl. I'm not quite sure what the girl's age is at the beginning of the story, but I'm guessing it's around 12 years old. You could tell such a story innocently in 1908, but you can't now. It would simply be impossible. And you couldn't film it as it's written in the book. In the book, the relationship is completely innocent, without a hint of anything sinister, but modern audiences would read a sinister motive behind every action of the story's hero.

The film, however, is actually nothing like the book. The filmmakers take the names of the characters and the setting and situation of the book and make a completely different story out of it. I'm sure this is highly irritating to those who love the book (if anyone still does), but it doesn't ruin the movie, at least not for me. Maybe because I saw the movie before I read the book. I look at them as two completely different entities that happen to share superficial similarities.

In the film, the girl is played by Sylvia Sidney, who is certifiably an adult from the beginning. This not only changes the story, but eliminates anything sinister modern audiences might find in her friendship, and later romance, with the hero, played by Fred MacMurray. Both these roles would seem oddly cast. Sylvia Sidney, a native of the Bronx, is hard to imagine as anything other than the city girl, which she usually played, in films like "Dead End" or "Street Scene" or City Streets". Yet ignoring what you know of her usual roles, and your expectations based on this knowledge, she does a good job in the part. Same goes with MacMurray. This was early in his career, before he had become known as a light comedian and occasional heel. His character actually has a lot less to do in the movie than in the book, and MacMurray does well with what he has.

I'm not a Henry Fonda fan, finding him often preachy & whiny, but as this was early in his career, before he made films a political platform, I thought he did very well with his part, and made what was a secondary character in the book really the male lead in the picture. But his character is nothing like the same-named character in the book, who is younger, meaner, ignorant, inarticulate— almost a villain. The supporting cast was very good. Robert Barrat, one of my favorite character actors, who almost always had very small parts but always made them pay off, is terrific in a couple of short scenes. Same goes with Alan Baxter. Spanky, from Our Gang, has a big part in the picture, and it's peculiar to see him playing serious, but he pulls it off OK. Also, from the Our Gang angle, I could swear one of the other hillbilly kids is Mary Ann Jackson. She is in a couple of very brief shots and you'll miss her if you don't look quick. She is not listed in the cast, nor is this film listed in her filmography. if it's not her, it's a girl who looks exactly like her and there couldn't be two faces like that! Also must give a mention to famous vaudevillian Fred Stone as head of one of the feuding hillbilly clans. Stone, on stage, was known as a comedian and eccentric dancer, but in pictures he seemed always cast, as in this film, as a put-upon old man carrying heavy burdens and on the edge of tragedy (for example, Alice Adams). He acts his part well and even gets to do a stunt with a wagon wheel that called on his old time dexterity as a physical comedian.

It's sentimental, but without being hokey. The color is fantastic for what was really an experimental film. I recommend it, but don't expect it to be anything like the book.
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8/10
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine features fine performances by Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Sylvia Sidney, and Spanky McFarland
tavm28 May 2009
Just watched this Technicolor Paramount feature (The first of the kind that was shot outdoors) on YouTube. While it had stars like Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda, and Sylvia Sidney, the main reason I was interested in this movie was because of one Spanky McFarland, who at the time was still a member of "Our Gang". This was a compelling story of a couple of feuding families and one outsider played by MacMurray who's trying to build a railroad around both respective groups' areas. There's also a romantic rivalry between Fonda and MacMurray for Sidney. Also appearing were Beulah Bondi, Nigel Bruce, and Samuel Hinds as the Sheriff. (If anyone is familiar with me, they know my favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life and I like noting actors in that movie in other films like Bondi and Hinds who were married in the latter) Then there's Fuzzy Knight who's a charmer as something of a Greek chorus singing songs like "Twlight on the Trail" and the Oscar-nominated "A Melody from the Sky". Incidentally, while Knight sings the latter, Fonda whistles and Spanky hums and this was a couple of years before Spanky's "Our Gang" co-star Alfalfa sung part of this tune in the short The Little Ranger (which McFarland doesn't appear in). Anyway, this was a fine showcase for the Technicolor photography as kudos to director Henry Hathaway for making every scene count as this was a most entertaining drama with a couple of touching, though tragic, scenes at the end. So on that note, I highly recommend The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
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Great early color movie
JK-1229 June 2000
I saw this movie when I was 15 years old and never forgot it; I now have a copy of it and watch it often and enjoy it as much as when it first came out in 1936.
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9/10
Trail of vendetta, tears, truce and hope among mountain folk
weezeralfalfa19 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
First, I would like to note the striking similarities of the plot of this film with that of the later "The Big Country" western. Both dealt with a running feud between two extended families, involving illiterate backwoodsmen near the border of VA and KY in the present film, and two cattle-ranching families in the Wild West in the other film. Although not hinted in either film(probably to avoid offending significant portions of audiences), one of the families had an Irish-derived name, while the other had an English or Scottish-derived name, suggesting that ethnic and religious bigotry was the root of their traditional hatred for each other. In each film, the story dealt mainly with the non-Irish family, while the Irish family is characterized as the more uncouth. The English or Scottish family is the recipient of an enlightened outsider, who becomes romantically involved with the most eligible daughter of the clan. The outsider finally forces the feuding families to cooperate to some degree(over water rights in one case, and over building a railway to carry out coal in the present case), and to end their vendetta cultures, but not until after further bloodshed instigated by the outsider's presence.

A young Henry Fonda plays the tragic Dave Toliver who, near the beginning of the film, is laying down with a Falin bullet in his shoulder and ends the film laying down with another Falin bullet or two in him.Through most of the film, he represents a young generation of hotheads who want to continue their life of backwoods primitiveness and clan feuding. In contrast, coal mining engineer Jack Hale(Fred MacMurray) represents the enlightened outside world. He wants to open coal mines and build a railroad to take it out on lands of both clans, requiring the grudging cooperation of the clans. At first, most don't like it, but eventually both families sign an agreement, despite the continued disapproval of some. Meanwhile, Hale interests Dave's cute girlfriend, June Toliver(Sylvia Sydney) in getting an education in far off Louisville. Clearly, she is gradually warming up to him as a possible alternative to Dave. Also, her much younger brother Buddie(Spanky MacFarland) is much interested in the machinery involved in building the railway and announces he wants to become an engineer. Tragically, someone(presumably a Falin) blows up the steam shovel he is playing on. Was this meant as sabotage?, murder? or both? Everyone emphasizes the murder aspect, which leads to a new round of threats and shootings. Hale feels indirectly responsible. He, Dave and a devastated June vacillate as to whether to go shoot some Falins in retaliation. The elderly sheriff of the nearby village of Gaptown, and Melissa(Beulah Bondi), Daves mother, voice their strong advice that the young folk not go hunting Falins to shoot. The dramatic last 15 minutes of the film brings some resolution to the major plot conflicts, but I was disappointed with the finale scene.

Strangely, despite occasional songs sung by the eccentric Tater(Fuzzy Knight), the established song "Trail of the Lonesome Pine", is barely included, as one of several background pieces in the opening credits. The lyrics begin 'In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia'. Well, the story location, as well as the officially designated Trail of the Lonesome Pine, are quite west of the actual Blue Ridge Mountains, which form the eastern-most significant mountain range along the southern Appalachians. There's no coal in those mountains. Their rocks are geologically much more related to those of the Piedmont, to the east, than to the sedimentary rocks found on the Appalachian Plateau, where this story takes place, as well as those in the intervening Valley and Ridge geographical region.Evidently, the lyricist for this song was ignorant of or didn't care about the actual geographic regions of SW Virginia! Thus, the song in the film "When it's Twilight on the Trail" is perhaps a more appropriate theme song.

You may find the attitude of the Gaptown sheriff toward the killings and sabotage disturbing. Along with Melissa, he felt that attempts to retaliate against the Falins for Buddie's death by killing them or arrests would merely provoke more violence. This is an age-old problem, with no simple answer than works out well in all situations. It is still quite relevant in the US today, to say nothing of the rest of the world, especially as relates to organized criminal gangs, domestic disputes and violence, and to growing and trafficking illegal drugs. Unfortunately, governments don't recognize private wars as being legally equivalent to wars waged by governments. Thus, killers and avengers are treated alike as murderers, not as heroes or victims. Our prisons are filled with criminal gang members who continue their wars there. The sheriff clearly didn't agree with this policy.

A gorgeous Paramount Technicolor production, reportedly the first three-strip outdoor Technicolor film.
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6/10
Read the book instead
overseer-313 December 2002
I bought a video of this film on Amazon.com after reading the 1908 novel by John Fox Jr. and enjoying it very much. I waited 4 whole months for Amazon to locate a copy and ship it to me. Then I settled down to watch it and almost fell asleep. I was disappointed after all that wait.

Sylvia Sidney and Fred MacMurray were terribly miscast as the leads June and Jack, Fred more so than Sylvia. Henry Fonda was very good as Dave, although his lines were hokey. The script was not true to the book at all; that was the main problem. All the protective tenderness the lead male Jack felt for the girl June, so beautifully portrayed in the novel, was totally missing in Fred MacMurray's performance. And then to top it off they had little Spanky from the Our Gang series in it as the little brother of June, his chubby face and coy demeanor were distractions from the main action of the story. The songs that were sung were annoying too; had no place in the story. It would have been better if they had spent money on a better musical soundtrack without characters singing all the time, especially in dramatic scenes. What were they thinking? (no doubt, of sheet music sales). Some outdoor scenes were beautiful filmed in color but that alone cannot hold the viewer's interest in the movie. Even the significance and symbolism of the Pine Tree in June and Jack's relationship wasn't portrayed in the film as it should have been.

Anyway, my advice here is to skip the film and just read the book and enjoy it. Since this story is in the public domain it could really be updated today and make a nice film. Maybe someday some studio or independent filmmaker will consider it. There were 4 silent versions and an animated version made prior to this film, so obviously the story is a classic one that can be enjoyed by new generations, if told well and with sensitivity and faithfulness to the book by John Fox.
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6/10
Historical Curiosity
kenjha22 September 2009
Based on a celebrated novel, this Western focuses on a love triangle against the backdrop of feuding families. This has the historic distinction of being the first Technicolor film shot outdoors. It looks great. Unfortunately, the script is weak and preachy and the acting is uneven. Hathaway would go on to make some fine films but here the pacing is lethargic and, despite the good cast, much of the acting is over-the-top. Sidney and Bondi are especially guilty of over emoting. Fonda's is a one-note performance. MacMurray does OK. McFarland is cute as Sidney's little brother. Fonda and Sidney would fare better the following year in Fritz Lang's "You Only Live Once."
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7/10
Movie has charm, drama which still works today!
movie-viking4 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The film, shot mostly outdoors, starts out a bit dated. (Sylvia Sydney and family come across slightly comic...) But then...one gets caught up in the real agony of these fictionalized Hatfield and McCoy families... They've feuded and murdered each others...for years. Beulah Bondi (the mom) is the visual barometer of this murderous situation. She, almost like an inner city mom of a teen male, expects the bullet which will take out her beloved family member (young Henry Fonda). SPOILER: Spanky McFarland is the charming little boy who is the center of attention...and his later death sparks the agonizing actions of the main characters.

Recommended: Suitable for family viewing...for any film buffs of old time quality color movies---and for schools/homeschools where they wish to discuss a quality film about unforgiveness, unresolved hate, and the damage it does to later generations.
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10/10
When a family feud goes too far.
mark.waltz29 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are more than just two families in each mountain valley, and for two families to have a violent, open feud proves to be a tragedy to everybody. One family matriarch (Beaulah Bondi) desperately wants to see the feud end, giving birth to youngest son Spanky McFarland during a shoot-out. When a lumber company comes into the area, more violence is erupted thanks to a relationship that grows between pretty Sylvia Sidney and company foreman Fred MacMurray.

Excellent color photography adds atmosphere to the outdoor settings, so beautifully captured here. Henry Fonda plays Sidney's other brother who turns to violence to protect what is his.

Beaulah Bondi gives a quiet, wise performance that has her appearing to be actually older than her years. Fred Stone is her concerned husband, fighting a feud for reasons he isn't quite sure of. MacFarland proves himself to be quite a talented young actor. You may see his Our Gang character of Spanky there, but you sure won't feel he is that character.

This is a tragic story of family pride taking over their souls as they loose each other thanks to a misguided hatred where revenge has no other effect than begetting more violence.
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8/10
A war Between Tollivers x Falins Spanky stolen the Show!!
elo-equipamentos16 August 2018
A true gem from the thirties,this marvelous picture about a endless hatred between two families around high mountains of Virginia,an unsolved matter told in this famous movie color,the trio Fonda,Macmurray and Syilvia Sidney are a sub plot of a love triangle,the fine actor Nigel Bruce shines like always as a remarkable funny character,but who stolen the show was the little boy Spanky as a smart one,the both feuds in clash here even know when it started and how it will end neither, terrible things gonna happen,the coal extracted of these mountains will be a triggerering event to restart such animosities again, the resoundind final scenes should be a subject matter of cinema's study for forthcoming generations of filmakers, TheTrail of Lodesome Pine was and still has a nostalgic charming even after almost a century!!!

Resume:

First watch: 2018 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8.5
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Great outdoor color.
Rich-2279 September 1999
My mother saw this movie when she was twelve and wanted to see it again. I bought it and we both watched it. The story line and action, along with the beautiful color was well worth the price. If others did not know, this movie was the first full length feature film in color.
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Sidney and Fred reunited in a 1980's sitcom
korevette24 August 2015
Only yesterday i was watching an old sitcom "My 3 Sons' starring Fred. I noticed that the teacher's role was played by Sidney...and right away I made the connection to this film, when my big sister took me to the movies. It was my first viewing of a Technicolor movie and as a kid I was anxious to see "Spanky". It was too grown up for me at 8 years old to absorb the story line. I was more taken with the color, Spanky and the song they kept playing throughout. I liked the song and recall, the theater showed a Popeye comedy which was in color also, and the hit song that was played in it was "Did You ever see a Dream Walking, well I did"...I also noticed that my sister and her boyfriend were smooching on sneaks...LOL
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