1930/31 / Best Actor / Best Director / Best Picture

Film #23: Skippy (1931)

When I saw the name of one of the early Best Picture nominees was Skippy I immediately conjured up images of a bush kangaroo. However, the Skippy of the title is instead a mischievous scamp who was the protagonist of a popular American comic book.

The comic book films we are used to today are often superhero fare like Spiderman or dark graphic novel stuff like Sin City but there’s nothing dark about Skippy he makes Dennis the Menace look like Charlie Manson. The basic premise is about the rich and poor divide whereas Skippy and his obnoxious friends – a brother and sister are quite privileged (Skippy’s father is a businessman of some distinction) there is also a look into the shanty town life of the 1930s. While not a graphic portrayal this is still the darkest and most interesting part of the film especially when Skippy strikes up a friendship with Sookie a lad from that area. The main story sees Skippy try and raise money to help Sookie try and get his mongrel dog back from a horrible pound worker. Most of the film is quite light and actually reminded me a lot of the Just William series of books although they were set during the Second World War the characters are very similar.

The main problem I had with this film was for the most part I was bored rigid, I couldn’t connect with really any of the characters. The younger characters were all quite horrible Skippy in particular was very petulant and I just wanted to give him a slap, in fact Sookie was the only likeable kid in the entire film but even his likeability started to wane. The story was very thin and didn’t stretch to the 90 minute runtime. I have to wonder how this film got nominated for four Oscars and actually won Best Director. Meanwhile the screenplay was also nominated but Jackie Cooper’s juvenile performance was possible the least deserving of the lot. Although a child star Cooper went on to become a successful director on TV as well as numerous acting appearances most notably as Perry White in the Superman movies. Overall this was just quite a dull family film which I don’t think deserved to be on the list but I’m yet to watch this year’s winner Cimarron but the only other nominee I’ve watched from this year, The Front Page, was miles better. A family film about an obnoxious child today may only make straight-to-DVD and certainly wouldn’t be on the Academy shortlist, how times have changed.


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