Cast & Crew
Timothy Dennis, a talented high school football player, dreams of following in his late father's footsteps by playing at Notre Dame. Tim's dreams are shattered, however, when his little sister Jane informs him that their mother, Winifred, has just married Englishman Roger Carlton and has sent for her children to join her in England. Seething with resentment toward his new stepfather, Tim sets sail for London with Jane. En route, he has a shipboard romance with teenage vamp Flossie Sampson. Upon arriving in England, Tim learns that his mother has arranged for him to attend boarding school at Eton. When Tim objects, his mother pleads with him to give the school a six-month trial period and promises that once he completes prep school, he can go to Notre Dame. Jane, meanwhile, is won over by Roger's menagerie of dogs and horses. At Eton, Tim sneers at the boys' uniform of top hat and tails, but is befriended by a small boy bearing the title the Earl of Weeld whom Tim promptly dubs "Inky." When Ronnie Kenvil, an imperious upperclassman, bullies Inky, Tim objects and a fight breaks out between the two boys. Peter Carlton, Roger's son and the head boy of the house, breaks up the brawl. A strong believer in the American principle of equality, Tim objects to the hierarchy governing the upper and lower boys. Exercising his sense of American ingenuity, Tim decides to establish a committee of lower boys to buy the items required by the upper boys at a discount, then sell them to the upper boys at a profit. When Justin, the headmaster, discovers the plan, he deems it a disgrace worthy of punishment. Although Tim accepts total responsibility, Kenvil decides to pit the lower boys against him by exempting Tim from a caning. Soon after, Tim goes home for the holidays and is surprised to find how well Jane has adjusted to her new life. When Tim invites Flossie to a big party at the Carlton house, Flossie flirts with Peter, thus incurring Tim's jealousy. After Peter refuses Flossie's request to ride Bonnie Warrior, the Carltons' prize horse, she tricks Tim into taking her to see the horse. Spooked by Flossie's white dress, Bonnie Warrior gallops into a wall, forcing Roger to shoot the fatally injured horse. Remorseful over the death of the animal, Tim decides to run away back to America, but is intercepted by Roger, who escorts him into the family chapel and shows him the grave of Bobby, his young son. Roger then forgives Tim and assures him that he is not trying to replace his father. Encouraged by Roger to return to Eton, Tim experiences a dramatic change of attitude and begins to apply himself to his studies and participate in school sports. After winning a Rugby match for the team, Tim is awarded a cap bearing the school colors. Thus emboldened, Tim determines to beat Kenvil in the steeple chase. On the night before the race, Kenvil steals Justin's car to keep a date with Flossie. Noticing a figure breaking into the car, Peter hurries outside and watches helplessly as the vehicle speeds away. After Peter returns inside, Tim spots the handkerchief that he dropped lying on the ground and, assuming that Peter stole the car, sneaks outside to conceal the evidence. When Justin finds Tim wandering the grounds, he assumes that he stole the car and when Tim refuses to defend himself, confines him to his room. After a night of drinking with Flossie at the Willow Club, Kenvil climbs into the car, drunk, and drives off the road. While out motoring the next day, Jane spots the overturned car and hurries to Eton to talk to her brother. When Jane urges Tim to tell the truth, he confers with Peter and discovers that Peter dropped his handkerchief while witnessing the car theft. Determined to expose the thief, the boys hurry to the Willow Club to question the bartender. After a brawl ensues between the uncooperative barkeep and the boys, the barkeep agrees to identify the culprit and they all rush back to Eton, arriving just at the start of the steeple chase. When the barkeep informs Justin that Tim is innocent, Tim rips off his clothes and joins the race. As the runners streak toward the finish line, the barkeep identifies Kenvil as the car thief and Tim wins the race. All ends happily when, at the end of the term, Peter is accepted at Notre Dame and Tim replaces him as head boy at Eton.
Clive Brook Jr.
Daniel B. Cathcart
John W. Considine Jr.
Clyde De Vinna
Hon. Cecil Howard
Edwin B. Willis
A Yank at Eton
Frequent Rooney costar Freddie Bartholomew is on hand as the Mick's teen-age brother-by-marriage, who teaches him the ropes at Eton and helps him learn to appreciate the British way after his initial defiance of the rules and regulations. Rooney eventually learns to fit in, of course, just as he did at Boys Town, and becomes a star runner. Although set a few years before the actual time of this wartime film, there's a strong underlying message of the importance of the two countries understanding and supporting each other. (One Eton tradition that Rooney's character now seems justified in objecting to is the physical beating of lower grade boys.)
The supporting cast includes a number of engaging British actors including Edmund Gwenn as Rooney's puckish house master, a young Peter Lawford as a bullying upper boy, Alan Mowbray as an addled old Etonian and Raymond Severn as Rooney's new best pal -- plus, in uncredited bits, Minna Phillips, Billy Bevan, Terry Kilburn, Aubrey Mather and Alan Napier. On the American side, Juanita Quigley shines as Rooney's bratty kid sister. Lawford had made his American film debut a few years earlier in another Rooney/Bartholomew movie, Lord Jeff (1938).
Rooney, then age 22 and married to fellow MGM contract player Ava Gardner, still had the youthful looks and energy to play a prep school student -- although his stature and short legs make for rather questionable casting as a track star. The song sung by a chorus over the opening credits and heard later in the film is the "Eton Boating Song," although the students are never shown boating!
Norman Taurog directed from a story by George Oppenheimer. Original plans had been for MGM to film A Yank at Eton in England as it had A Yank at Oxford, but World War II dictated that it be shot in the States, with exteriors in Pasadena, Calif., and Connecticut. Some sequences were filmed at El Segundo, California High School. The actual location is given away in some scenes by glimpses of cars being driven on the right side of the street, while Brits of course use the left side.
In his 1991 book Life Is Too Short, Rooney recalled that studio head Louis B. Mayer had pushed up the production schedule and whisked him off to Connecticut because Rooney's marriage to Gardner was on the rocks and she was resisting his overzealous efforts to reconcile: "One night I tried to break her door down, which compelled Ava to call the studio and ask that something be done about me. Next thing I knew I was on a train to the East."
Producer: John W. Considine, Jr.
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: George Oppenheimer, Lionel Houser, Thomas Phipps
Cinematography: Karl Freund, Charles Lawton, Jr.
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Film Editing: Albert Akst
Cast: Mickey Rooney (Timothy Dennis), Edmund Gwenn (Headmaster Justin), Ian Hunter (Roger Carlton), Freddie Bartholomew (Peter Carlton), Marta Linden (Winifred Dennis Carlton), Juanita Quigley (Jane 'The Runt' Dennis), Peter Lawford (Ronnie Kenvil).
BW-88m. Closed Captioning.
by Roger Fristoe
A Yank at Eton
Although a March 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Carolyn Lee was being considered for a featured role and that Johnny Walsh had been cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a March 1942 New York Times news item, the picture was originally written as a companion piece to the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5522.) Like that film, it was to be shot at the M-G-M studios in England, but the project was shelved in 1939 because of World War II. When the picture finally did go into production in 1942, a decision was made to set it in 1936 and make no mention of the war. Clyde De Vinna shot some exteriors in Pasadena, CA, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. This was the last of a number of films in which Mickey Rooney and Freddie Bartholomew co-starred. The first was the 1936 Selznick film Little Lord Fauntleroy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2517).