AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Bright Eyes
Director: David Butler (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Dec 1934
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 20 Dec 1934
Production Date:   early Oct--10 Nov 1934
Duration (in mins):   83
Duration (in feet):   approx 7,741
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Shirley Temple (Shirley Blake)  
    James Dunn (Loop [James] Merritt)  
    Jane Darwell (Mrs. [Elizabeth] Higgins)  
    Judith Allen (Adele Martin)  
    Lois Wilson (Mary Blake)  
    Charles Sellon (Uncle Ned Smith)  
    Walter Johnson (Thomas)  
    Jane Withers (Joy Smythe)  
    Theodor von Eltz (J. Wellington Smythe)  
    Dorothy Christy (Anita Smythe)  
    Brandon Hurst (Higgins)  
    George Irving (Judge Thompson)  
    Crilly Butler (Aviator or mechanic)  
    William Moore (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Gaylord Pendleton (Aviator or mechanic)  
    John McGuire (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Harry McKee (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Paul Schwegler (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Fred Crawford (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Tom Murray (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Phil Marshall (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Robert Burgess (Aviator or mechanic)  
    Rodney Hildebrand (Driver death car)  
    Selmer Jackson (Attorney)  
    Paul McVey (Attorney)  
    Wade Boteler (Detective)  
    Sam Labrador (House boy--airport)  
    Sunny Ingram (Airplane passenger)  
    Earle Foxe (Bond man)  
    James Flavin (Pilot)  
    Pat Flaherty (Aviator)  
    Russ Clark (Aviator)  
    David Field (Aviator)  
    Robert Dalton (Aviator)  
    Gardner James (Radio operator)  
    Frank Moran (Truck driver)  
    Ann Bupp    

Summary: Five-year-old Shirley Blake, whose father, an aviator, died in a crack up, lives with her mother Mary, a maid in the home of the snooty nouveau-riche Smythe family. She spends much time with aviator Loop Merritt, her father's best friend and her godfather, who lives nearby at the Glendale Airport. The Smythes would like to fire Mary, but they cannot because they must remain in the good grace of their Uncle Ned Smith, a crabby, wheelchair-bound old man who made a fortune in sewers. Uncle Ned likes Shirley but despises the Smythe's daughter Joy, who is a spoiled brat. On Christmas, Adele Martin, Mrs. Smythe's cousin from New York, arrives as the aviators give Shirley a party in a taxiing plane. Mary rushes to take a cake to her, and she is hit and killed by a car. Adele earlier had broken her engagement to marry Loop, and when they meet, he snubs her. Adele then breaks the news of Mary's death to Loop, who thanks her for her concern. He takes Shirley up in the plane to explain that her mother has joined her father in heaven. Uncle Ned, who calls Shirley "Bright Eyes," refuses to allow the Smythes to place Shirley in an institution, and they give in to his demand that she continue to live with them. Loop grudgingly agrees to the setup for now, but plans to make enough money for Shirley to live with him. Shirley is happy that Adele will live with her. When Loop overhears Joy cruelly tell Shirley that her parents have said she is "charity," he offers to take Shirley, but Uncle Ned, who wants to adopt her, threatens a court case. Adele sides with Loop. On a stormy night, Shirley overhears the Smythes complain about her and runs away to Loop. The next day, when air traffic has been halted by the worst blizzard in years, Loop accepts $1,000 to fly a package to New York. He sends Shirley back to the Smythes, but she surreptitiously climbs in the baggage area, and after he hears on the radio that he is suspected of kidnapping, she appears in the cockpit. They have to parachute out when the gas line breaks, and once they land, they are nearly blown off a cliff. In the subsequent custody battle, Shirley tells the judge that she would like to live with Loop, Uncle Ned and Adele. The judge then dismisses all the lawyers and arranges for Adele and Loop to talk alone. When Loop decides that he wants to marry Adele, Ned reveals to the Smythes that he will now live with Loop, Adele and Shirley. When Joy remarks she is happy that she and her parents do not have to be nice to Uncle Ned anymore, Mrs. Smythe slaps her, and she is dragged crying out of the courtroom. 

Production Company: Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Fox Film Corp.  
Director: David Butler (Dir)
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel (Prod)
Writer: William Conselman (Scr)
  David Butler (Story)
  Edwin Burke (Story)
  Henry Johnson (Contr on spec seq)
Photography: Arthur Miller (Photog)
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer (Art dir)
  Albert Hogsett (Art dir)
Costumes: Royer (Gowns)
Music: Samuel Kaylin (Mus dir)
Sound: S. C. Chapman (Sd)
Dance: Sammy Lee (Numbers staged by)
Production Misc: Bob Blair (Aeronautics adv)
Stand In: Opal Ernie (Stunts)
  Duke Green (Stunts)
  Bruce Randall (Stunts)
  Garland Weaver (Stand-in for James Dunn)
  Marilyn Granas (Stand-in for Shirley Temple)
Country: United States

Songs: "On the Good Ship Lollipop," music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Sidney Clare; "Silent Night, Holy Night," music by Franz Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr, English lyrics, anonymous; "The Flying Trapeze," original melody by Gaston Lyle.
Composer: Sidney Clare
  Franz Gruber
  Gaston Lyle
  Joseph Mohr
  Richard A. Whiting
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Fox Film Corp. 28/12/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP5234

PCA NO: 427
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Youth
Subjects (Major): Aviators
  Child custody
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Automobile accidents
  Death and dying
  Glendale (CA)
  Nouveaux riches
  Skydivers and skydiving

Note: According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, early in 1934, writers Gene Towne and Graham Baker, who had been loaned to Fox by Twentieth Century Pictures, were approached by Fox studio official Colonel Jason Joy, who said that the studio was badly in need of a story for Shirley Temple. They wrote a synopsis for a story entitled "Meal Ticket," and after Joy submitted it to producer Al Rockett, the studio purchased it and planned to have Temple and Spencer Tracy play the leads. During this period, Edwin Burke had been developing a story of his own with director David Butler, which also was planned for Temple. According to an unidentified news story in LAHE , it was announced that Temple would appear in no other films with "gangster backgrounds," in response to the demand for "clean pictures." The Burke story, which included an airplane sequence, was then discarded because of its "crook element." Butler subsequently submitted an original idea entitled "The Little Mother" for Temple, but it was not accepted by Joy and Julian Johnson, of the scenario department, because of its similarity to "Meal Ticket." Butler then was assigned to direct Meal Ticket , and he spent a week going over the script with Rockett. According to an unidentified news item dated Jun 1934 in the M-G-M Story Department card files at the AFI Library, Helen Twelvetrees was scheduled to be in the film along with Temple and Tracy. Towne and Baker were not given screen credit for the film, and in 1935, Twentieth Century-Fox produced This Is the Life , starring Jane Withers, which was based on Towne and Baker's story. As they did receive screen credit for the latter film, and as the stories of the two films are dissimilar, it is possible that little of their story was used in the final version of Bright Eyes , or that the subsequent writers on This Is Your Life changed that story substantially.
       After the film was produced, an attorney for Paramount wrote to Fox to inform them of his concern that a film they were preparing, based on a Marguerite Roberts story entitled "Born with Wings," contained a situation that occurs in both stories, namely that a child becomes a stowaway in a climactic flight. Because both films were planned for a Christmas release and the Roberts story had been submitted to Fox earlier than the story for Bright Eyes , the Paramount attorney suggested that Fox "may find it advisable and proper to eliminate the stowaway situation" from their film. Joy decided that because characterizations, motivations and "business" were "entirely dissimilar" between the two stories, that neither company had grounds for a lawsuit based on plagiarism. The Fox legal council concurred that eliminating the portions of Bright Eyes that seemed similar to the Roberts story was not necessary. The Roberts story was never produced by Paramount.
       According to news items, because of "good fan reception" to the team of James Dunn, Shirley Temple and Claire Trevor, who starred together in Baby Takes a Bow (see above), Fox cast them again in this film; however, Trevor was pulled from the film when she was cast in a bigger role in another picture. Mary Brian was then cast to replace her, but she was replaced with Judith Allen. This was eight-year-old Jane Withers' first large role in a film. Critics praised her performance, and NYT noted, "There were those among the critical gentry who came right out and said that her performance topped that of little Shirley." Withers went on to star in her own films for Fox, and although her starring roles were in "B" pictures, she became the number two child star in terms of box office receipts, and in 1937 and 1938 placed in the top ten in the MPH survey of top money-making stars. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   17 Sep 34   p. 4.
Daily Variety   24 Sep 34   p. 2.
Daily Variety   2 Oct 34   p. 2.
Daily Variety   10 Nov 34   p. 3.
Daily Variety   22 Nov 34   p. 13.
Film Daily   11 Dec 34   p. 6.
HF   6 Oct 34   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 34   p. 3.
Liberty   12-Jan-35   
Motion Picture Herald   15 Dec 34   p. 40.
New York Times   21 Dec 34   p. 31.
New York Times   3-Feb-35   
Variety   25 Dec 34   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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