Cast & Crew
In London, young Geoffrey Braemer works with thieves Doris Clandon and Jim Hampstead by posing as a spoiled rich boy, then swindling jewelry stores out of expensive merchandise. Although Doris and Jim manage to evade arrest, Geoffrey is caught during one of the robberies and is sent to Dr. Barnardo's home for orphaned boys. Geoff scoffs at the discipline of the school, which is a mariner's academy, even though the other boys are happy there. He constantly fails at his attempts to become "sea-worthy" and frequently is at odds with his peers. One day, Mrs. Briggs, the kindly wife of the school's headmaster, Captain Briggs, invites Geoff to take "liberty" at a party in their home. During the party, Geoff tells Albert Baker, a younger boy who has befriended him, that he is planning to run away. After he leaves, Albert asks Terry O'Mulvaney, one of the school's leaders, to find Geoff so he won't be sent to reform school. Terry reluctantly goes after Geoff and makes him come back, but only after hitting him first. As the boys re-enter their dormitory, Terry is seen, but he refuses to inform on Geoff and so is told that he will not be allowed to go on a student cruise on the Queen Mary . Geoff is then "sent to Coventry" by the other students, who refuse to speak to him. Some time later, when patron John Cartwright offers a trophy for the winner of the annual lifeboat race, instructor "Crusty" Jelks, who has become fond of Geoff, makes him his coxswain. After they win the trophy, Geoff feels remorse over having let Terry be punished for his offense and secretly tells Captain Briggs the truth. Geoff is just beginning to grow attached to the home, when Jim and Doris, pretending to be neighbors, offer to give a party for the boys and secretly try to convince Geoff to come back with them. Geoff refuses, and says that he wants to stay and sail on the Queen Mary , but as he leaves, they put some stolen jewels in his pocket. Mrs. Briggs later finds the jewels and asks Geoff about them, but he refuses to talk. Eventually he does confess everything, however, and the boys help him to apprehend Doris and Jim. Finally, Geoff knows that he really has found a home and looks forward to the cruise on the Queen Mary with Terry and Albert.
C. Montague Shaw
Patrick J. Kelly
Frank E. Hull
James Kevin Mcguinness
Edwin B. Willis
Lord Jeff marked the fourth time that Mickey Rooney and Freddie Bartholomew worked together. The two young actors had met while making Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1936 and become friends. Bartholomew had been the biggest male child star in Hollywood for several years by the time Lord Jeff was made. Rooney's career, however, was just getting started. Having made a memorable impression in such films as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and A Family Affair (1937) in which he first played the iconic character of Andy Hardy, Rooney's star was on the rise.
Even though Mickey Rooney's part in Lord Jeff was clearly a supporting role to Freddie Bartholomew's lead, MGM granted the boys equal billing on the film. It was the first and only time that this happened. The equal billing was a sign of Rooney's growing popularity and the studio's faith in his long-term potential at the box office. In just a few years, it would be Rooney's name alone above the title in the last film that he and Bartholomew made together, A Yank at Eton in 1942. By that time, Bartholomew's star was fading. By the 1950s, he would retire from the acting business entirely. In 1992 Bartholomew said of Rooney, "I will say this...about Mickey: of the whole group of us, my personal opinion is that he was the very best actor of the group. He could do anything. Tear your heart out, make you laugh, sing, dance, juggle, play any instrument you could name. To this day I have a feeling of awe about his talent."
A strong supporting cast elevates Lord Jeff with fine character actors including Charles Coburn as the kind Captain Briggs, Gale Sondergaard as one of the jewel thieves, and the adorable Terry Kilburn as Albert, one of the young students. A teenage Peter Lawford also makes one of his earliest feature film appearances in a small role as Benny Potter, one of the boys' schoolmates.
The opening of Lord Jeff bears a dedication to the memory of Dr. Thomas John Barnardo. He was the physician whose network of Dr. Barnardo's Homes for destitute children throughout Great Britain, including the Russell-Cotes Nautical School depicted in the film, helped inspire the film's story.
Producers: Frank Davis, Sam Wood
Director: Sam Wood
Screenplay: James Kevin McGuinness; Bradford Ropes, Endre Bohem, Val Burton (story); Frank Davis, Walter Ferris, Sam Wood (all three uncredited)
Cinematography: John Seitz
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Edward Ward
Film Editing: Frank E. Hull
Cast: Freddie Bartholomew (Geoffrey Braemer), Mickey Rooney (Terry O'Mulvaney), Charles Coburn (Captain Briggs), Herbert Mundin (Bosun 'Crusty' Jelks), Terry Kilburn (Albert Baker), Gale Sondergaard (Doris Clandon), Peter Lawford (Benny Potter), Walter Tetley (Tommy Thrums), Peter Ellis (Ned Saunders), George Zucco (James 'Jim' Hampstead), Matthew Boulton (Inspector Scott), John Burton (John Cartwright), Emma Dunn (Mrs. Briggs), Monty Woolley (Jeweler), Gilbert Emery (Magistrate), Charles Irwin (Mr. Burke), Walter Kingsford (Superintendent).
by Andrea Passafiume
Screenwriter James Kevin McGuiness placed an ad in the Hollywood Reporter titled "Facts" breaking down the writing credits for the script by number of lines, as follows: McGuiness - 853; Walter Ferris - 51; Sam Wood - 17; Frank Davis - 20; Ferris, Val Burton, Enre Bohem and Bradford Ropes - 37; Ropes, Burton and Bohem - 48; Ropes and Burton - 4 for a total of 1,030 lines of dialogue.
The film opens with a written dedication "to the memory of Dr. Thomas John Barnardo." Barnardo was the founder of homes for orphans in Great Britain, similar to the one featured in the picture. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Frank Davis took over as producer of the film from Nat Levine. A full-page ad that appeared in Hollywood Reporter on May 24, 1938 was paid for and notarized by screenwriter James Kevin McGuinness and was headed by the word "Facts" in large type. In the ad, McGuinness lists the total number of lines of dialogue in the film, 1,030, and lists the writer of writers responsible for each line. McGuinness, according to the ad, wrote 853 lines, Walter Ferris 51, director Sam Wood 17, producer Frank Davis 20, Ferris, Val Burton, Endre Bohem and Bradford Ropes collaborated on 37 lines, Ropes, Burton and Bohem collaborated on 48 and Ropes and Burton collaborated on 4. The ad also states that McGuinness was responsible for two-thirds of the story construction, although he claimed no credit for it, and Ferris, Burton, Ropes and Bohem were collectively responsible for one-third. The ad was apparently part of a Screenwriters Guild dispute involving credit for the film. Screen Achievements Bulletin correspondence was unavailable to further document the dispute. Lord Jeff marked the American motion picture debut of British-born actor Peter Lawford.