Movies and Television Productions Depicting Fauntleroy Suits


Figure 1.--Ricky Schroder's TV portral of Little Lord Fauntleroy was one of the better costumed versions.

Little Lord Fauuntelroy suits have been depicted in a great many movies and television programs, including several productions of the book itself. The accuracy of the production of the suits and other fashions predicted has varied greatly. This is in part because in several instances well-established child starts such as Freddy Barthomew were used and they had some say in how they were costumed. The child stars in particular seem to have drawn the line at ringlet curls. In addition, because of the image of the book, producers have often sought to downplay the sissy image of velvet suits, lace collars, and long sausage curls.

Classics

Some producers like to adapt classic titles to modern times. This has occurred to a large number of classics. One of the major adaptations has been to update or alter the clothing styles in order to make the classic more appealing to the audience. In no classic has this been more true than Mrs. Burnett's Little Lord Fauuntleroy. This fashion of movies based on classic novels was especially pronounced in the 1930s and included many films about classic novels, several having children as main characters. Many of the films were vehicles for popular child stars like Shirley Temple, Freddy Bartholomew, and Roddy McDowell. Interestingly many recent adaptations of Little Lord Fauntleroy have been made in recent years. I'm not sure why studios have decided to remake Mrs. Burnett's book so many times in recent years.

Parodies

Writers in the 1950s began to use Little Lord Fautleroy suits as comic paradody to highlight juvenile appearances. Probably the most famous show to use a type of Fautleroy suit was the much-sindicated The Munsters (196?) which now appears on television all over the world. Eddie Munster was about 10-years old and sent to an ordinary American elementary school in a short pants velvet suit. Fashion designers have even taken to incorporating elements of Fautleroy suits into high fashion clothes for society women.

Productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy

There have been several movie and television productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy, begginning with the 1936 Freddy Barthlomew film. Little Lord Fauntleroy suits have appeared in many movies besides actual productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy itself. In fact some of the representations of the fancy velvet suits have been more accurate in movies other than Little Lord Fauntleroy. This is in part because the boys involved were not stars and these other films did not labor under the preceived necesity to moderate Little Lord Fauntleroy's sissy image.


Figure 2.--Little Lord Fauntleroy, Cedric Erol, was usually played by boys, but some actresses like America's sweetheart, Mary Pickford, also played him.

Many popular stage productions followed the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1886. Many movie and television productions have also been made of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Some of the earliest productions (plays and early movies) had girls are even well-known theater and movie actresses play Cedric, such as the Mary Pickford production (1921). Subsequent productions have stared famous boy actors such as Freddy Bartholmew (1936) and Ricky Schroeder (1980). Actual productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy include:

Little Lord Fauntleroy (US, 1921): Plucked from the sloppy streets of 19th Century New York to live in a mammoth English estate, young Cedric finds himself swaddled in the trappings of wealth. He inocently proceeds to teach his dour and miserly grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, to once again embrace life and happiness. Film legend Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart, plays both Little Lord Fauntleroy and his mother, in this early silent version. A double-exposure camera trick allows Mary Pickford to play two roles in this 1920s classic. I believe that this was the first film productions, at least the earliest one I know of. It was not unusual for a girl or young woman to play Little Lord Fauntleroy in many theatrical productions. This is the only film production, however, that I know of with Cedric played by a girl or woman. The costuming was quite close to that depicted by Reginald Birch in the first edition of Mrs. Burnett's book, long curls, elaborate lace collar, lace wrist trim, and sash. Mary's velvet pants were not kneepants, but worn above the knees. None of the latter films with boys playing the role had such elaborate costuming. Interestingly, Mary by this time was tiring of playing sickely-sweet little girl movie roles. I'm not sure what she thought of the Fauntleroy role.


Figure 3.--This is an poster for the 1936 Freddy Bartholomew version of "Little Lord Fauntleroy". It pictures Freddy in a Fauntleroy suit with an enlarged lace collar. In the movie, however, he rarely wore the suit.
Little Lord Fauntleroy (US, 1936): This is the classic version of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Freddy Bartholmew played Little Lord Fauntleroy in this black and white film. The producer clearly sought to downplay the hero's sissy image. Hollywood evidently did not strive for period accuracy in this film. Freddy does have a velvet suit with lace colar. I have seen studio stills of it. He does not appear in it extensively in the film. He has several differentbsuits which he commonly wears, including a Norfolk suit. He does wear a velvet suit, but mostly with a less Fauntleroy looking Eton collars.

Little Lord Fauntleroy (UK, 197?): The BBC produced a TV version of Little Lord Fauntleroy. It was carried on PBS's Masterpiece Theater in the United States. The producers made a virtue of not putting Cedric in a sissy velvet suit, but as a touch of irony the boy who later turns up as an impostor wears a classic velvet Little Lord Fauntleroy with elaborate lace trim, having been put in it by his scheming mother in an effort to make him appear more aristocratic and impress the Earl. This was classic Sunday "teatime serial" of the 1970s. As to the casting I can only remember Connie Booth (then married to John Cleese) playing Cedric's mother.

Little Lord Fauntleroy (UK, 1980): Ricky Schroeder played Little Lord Fauntleroy. Alec Guinness played his grandfather. Excellent TV remake of the 1936 classic film about the impoverished New York boy who inherits an enormous estate. The superb photography won an Emmy Award. Cedric's velvet suit is a dark blue and the costuming is accurate. There is even one scene where his mother holds up the suit which she is sewing and exclaims how much Ceddie is going to dislike it. Cedric has longish hair, but no ringlet curls.



Figure 4.--This is the 1995 BBC version of "Little Lord Fauntleroy." Michael Benz wears a very accurate Fauntleroy suit and hair style, but he only wore it for one scene.
Little Lord Fauntleroy (UK, 1995): The BBC produced another version of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Ironically the same young American actor, Michael Benz, that played in the Mike and Angelo Fauntleroy spoof described below, played Cedric in the newest BBC dramatisation. However, he only wore his plush blue velvet suit for only one scene, a party at the castle. It was quite an elaborate blue Fauntleroy suit with an delicate lace collar with several points rather than a rounded design. In addition, his hair was styled more like a boy might actually have worn his hair than any other major version of Mrs. Burnett's classic. Otherwise, however, he wore more manly tweeds. This is typical of most Little Lord Fauntleroy productions to play down the costuming. This film was condensed from the BBC television miniseries.

(Il) Piccolo Lord (Italy, 1997?): A modern-day adaptation of the celebrated novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. Modern clothes are worn in this updating of the classic story. A cold-hearted tycoon decides to groom his poor young grandson to become his heir. With his infectious cheer and good spirits, the boy not only wins over the motherly housekeeper, but also gradually melts the old man's heart. Little Lord Fauntleroy is played by Mario Adorf.

Other Productions

Some other films and television productions which have depicted Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Some of these depictions were classic Fauntleroy suits of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Other depictions were elaborate short pants suits in the 1920s and 30s. These suits were often used for boys playing spouled brats. Some of these depictions include:

Big Jake: (US, 198?): The movie opens with a boy in a velvet Fautleroy suit with white stockings practicing a piano. His family ranch is suddenly and brutally attacked by bandits and he is kidnapped. The film is set in the turn of the century west, perhaps Airizona. Little Jake wears a Peter Pan collar rather than a lace collar. The bandits make a big mistake, however, as Big Jake, the boys' grandfather is John Wayne.

Cententianl (US, 198?): This TV production of James Michner's sweeping epic novel about the taming of the Colorado frontier, encompassesc200 years of land wars, family schisms, love affairs, political corruption, profiteering, cattle drives, and revolution. One of the novel's main characters is a boy in a family of disreputable actors stopping in the Colorado town of Centenial, I think during the 1880s. The boys is pictured in long, but not curled hair, a black velvet suit, lace collar, long white stockings, and strap shoes. This is somewhat inaccurate as the boy, especially an older boy at the time would probably not have worn white stockings and strap shoes-- especially when traveling. Black stockings would have been more likely. Expensive patent leather strap shoes would not have been worn on rough, unpaved western streets. Notice that aalmost all of the available photographs of American boys in Fauntleroy suits wear awkward looking button high top shoes that look like boots.

Citizen Kane (US, 1941): Charles Foster Kane was pictured as a child in a Fauntleroy suit in this black and white classic. In a brief scene, he wears his Fauntleroy suit at home before moving east to begin his education and inherit his fortune. It was a velvet suiit with a modest lace collar. He has to leave his sled (Rosebud) behind. The film was directed by Orson Wells as is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made.


Figure 5.--Harlan, the younger boys in "Life with Father" wore a variety of outfits. Here he wears a lace collar and velvet Fauntleroy jacket with a kilt. I understand he wasn't too happy about his costumes.
Day of the Locust (US, 1975): This film depicts a child in Hollywood who in an effort to make him look cute, is dressed up in a Fauntleroy-like suit. The film was based on a book published by a playwrite in 1939 about his experiences in Hollywood. Like many boys wearing Fauntleroy suits in this era, he was a terrible brat.

Donovan's Reef (US, 1963): This John Wayne film dealt with racism and inter-racial marriage in a light-hearted way. Comic relief is provided when a doctor's snooty grown daughter arrives from Boston. The movie is set in French Polonesia after World War II. Three children play a prominent role, including one boy. He usually wore play short s and a baseball cap, but for a formal event, he is dressed up in a Fauntleroy suit--much to his disgust. He keep his baseball cap in the back pocket of his velvet shorts.

Life with Father (US, 1947) This film is set in 1880s New York. It is quite a well done film about a large New York family in the 1880s. The youngest boy, Harlan, had quite an impressive wardrobe. I understand he was not to pleased with the outfits he had to wear, especially the kilts. He wears a kilt suit, a Fauntleroy jacket and lace collar with a kilt, and kneepants with a Fauntleroy blouse. He has an enormous broad-brimmed sailor hat with streamer to wear with his Fauntleroy blouse. The only outfit he did not wear was a sailor suit, but h is olde r brother wore a simple one. It is interesting that he wore both kilts and keepants.



Figure 6.--This boy appeared in a 1997 ITV production. Notice that the suit is blue. I'm unsure how common such colored suits were as opposed to the basic black suit. British productions, however, often give considerable attention to such details, although this particular show was a spoof. Click on the image for a picture of the actor, Michael Benz, in his 1990s clothes.
(The) Magnificent Ambersons (US, 1942): Like Citizen Kane, this was another Orson Wells masterpiece, The main character is pictured in both a kilt and Fauntlroy suit with long ringlet curls and a large-brimmed sailor hat. He is the spoiled son of the town's wealthy family. Interestingly he wears both velvet kneepants and kilts. This black and white film was briliantly shot by Wells, but the end produc compromised by studio editing.

Mike and Angelo (UK, 199?): A British TV seies on ITV had a kid series named Mike and Angelo about an A me rican boy living in Britain. In one episode he thinks he has inherited a Lordship and, playing a clueless American to the hilt, he began dressing in an elaborate Little Lord Fauntleroy suit as appropriate for his new status. It was played for laughs. Mike Benz who played the American had some previous experience, having actually appeared in an BBC production of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Interestingly, Mike must be the best known American that Americans had never heard of.

(The) Munsters: (US, 1964-66): Perhaps no character is more associated with a velvet Fauntleoy suit than Eddie Munster who has appeared countless times in sindication all over the world. The comic premise of the show was the Munsters at 1313 Mockingbird Lane considered themselves as normal and American as apple pie. The neighbors and viewers, however, saw them as a bid odd. Eddie Wolfgang Munster's costume was a good example of this. American television rarely put boys in short pants, let alone a velvet suit. But as the show was done for comic relief, it apparent was alright. The actor, Butch Patrick, was a little shy about wearing his costume, but he never got teased about it as part of the plot lines.

Pampered Youth (US, 1928?): This was the silent version of Booth Tarkington's popular novel The Magnificent Ambersons, which Oscar Wilde was later to turn into a film classic. The main character, George Minifer, is pictured in long ringlet curls and velvet suit with a huge lace collar. This is probably the most elaborate Fauntleroy suit ever worn by an older boy in film history. George is played by American child star Ben Alexander.



Figure 7.--This is a photograph of Collin, the invalid boy in the 1970s BBC production of The Secret Garden He wears a velvet Fauntleroy suit, lace collar, and white silk stockings.
(The) Secret Garden: (UK/US, 19??): I think there have been several American a nd British productions og Frances Hodgson Burne tt's classic, The Secret Garden. Mrs. Burnett of course is the authoress of Little Lord Fauntleroy. The BBC produced a version of The Secret Garden in the late 1970s The invalid boy Colin, who was mistakenly confined to his sickbed, finds a new lease of life in the garden found by Mary, the orphan returned friom India and a boy working on the estate, Dickon. Naturally Collin is outfitted in his best velvet Fauntleroy suit and delicate lace collar worn with white silk stockings. No such costume is featured in the Dean Stockwell movie of the late 1940s or the more recent British film. There is also a Broadway musical version in which a Fauntleroy suit is used.

Song of the South (US, 1947): This landmark Disney film combining animation and live action made a big impression on me as a child. I can still remember some of the songs. Jonnny in the film was brilliantly played by Bobby Driscol. He wore a forrest green velvet Fauntleroy suit with white stockings. His suit had a lace collar that he wasn't too happy about having to wear. The other boys teased him about it. It was a very progressive film for its day, but has been criticised by some Civil Rights group. The major problem is simply that it was set in the 19th century South.

Other films: Boys appeared in Fauntleroy suits in a wide range of other movies. Sometimes even established child actors wore them, like Jacki Searl, but usually in their younger years before they were well established. Some of these films depict Fauntleroy suits in the classic era. Others show suits worn in the 1920s and 30s. Often these were fanciful outfits. One image of Jacki Searl shows him in a Fauntklkeroy suit with black socks, shortpants, and a sash. These were unlikely combinations. Sashes were worn with kneepants and stockings with classic suits, but rarely with the short pants suits worn in the 1920s and 30s. Interestingly, the boys depicted in these outfits, especially in American films, are usually bratty kids. The image was that rich wealthy kids were pampered, spoiled kids and often dressed this way.


Figure 8.--This is a picture of child star Jacki Searl. I think the picture was taken about 1929-31, although I'm not sure what film he was appearing in. He often played brats, such as Cousin Sid in "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Fin".







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