Cast & Crew
Little Orvie Stone yearns for nothing in life as much as a dog, but his mother Clara values her furniture over her son's happiness, and forbids him to have a canine companion. In spite of the parental edict, Orvie adopts Tiger, a stray dog, for the day, but the pooch brings him nothing but problems when it retrieves a ball batted through neighbor Mrs. Welty's window by another boy and delivers it to Orvie. Orvie's troubles mount when his cousin Freddie throws a ball through a grocer's window and Tiger dutifully gives it to Orvie, who then returns home to be confronted by the angry neighbor, the grocer and his perplexed mother. Clara orders Orvie to take the dog to the pound. Orvie obeys, but when the pound attendant predicts that Tiger will be electrocuted, Orvie takes the dog back home and blackmails Corbina, the family cook, into keeping Tiger by threatening to expose her secret marriage to his disapproving mother. Having rid himself of Tiger, Orvie meets Patsy Balliser, who has four puppies to give away. After helping Patsy dispose of three of the pups, Orvie takes the last one, Ralphie, home with him and hides him in the basement. When the pup gets sick and Orvie finds a bottle of poison in the basement, however, he blames his parents for the dog's illness and decides to run away to a farm where he can have a dog. On the way, he stops to visit the Balliser house where he has left the ailing Ralphie, and Mrs. Balliser notifies the Stones, who gratefully retrieve their son and promise that he can have a dozen dogs if he wants. Their promise turns into prophesy when Orvie and Ralphie return home and Corbina returns Tiger, who has given birth to a litter of pups.
J. Roy Hunt
Van Nest Polglase
J. Dewey Starkey
Sheffield's first credited movie appearance was as Boy in 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son!. In quick succession he then appeared in the non-Tarzan films Babes in Arms (1939), Little Orvie, Lucky Cisco Kid (1940), Knute Rockne All American (1940, in which he played young Knute), and Million Dollar Baby (1941). But from then on, it was all "Boy" until he left the Tarzan series in 1947, and then all "Bomba" in another series that lasted from 1948-1955, when Sheffield retired from the screen. Sheffield died in 2010 at the age of 79 from a heart attack following a fall from a ladder in his garden.
Eight-year-old leading lady Ann Todd (later known as Ann E. Todd so as to avoid confusion with British actress Ann Todd) would go on to a more successful screen career. While she, like Sheffield, also left Hollywood in the early 1950s, she was able to rack up an array of credits as interesting and varied as How Green Was My Valley (1941), Pride of the Marines (1945), Margie (1946) and Cover Up (1949). She ended her career on television, acting in over 100 episodes of The Stu Erwin Show (aka Life with Father) (1950-55). Todd, however, had never wanted to be an actress and instead was pushed into the career by the maternal grandparents who raised her. Still in her early 20s when she left show business, she earned a masters degree in music history and started a new career as a teacher and music librarian, raising a family and retiring to northern California.
The director of Little Orvie, Ray McCarey, was the younger brother of director Leo McCarey. Like Leo, Ray started at Hal Roach studios and directed Oliver & Hardy films, but he never achieved the fame and success of his older brother, instead moving on to make B features at various studios. Little Orvie co-writer Frank Fenton was at this time cutting his teeth on several quite decent Falcon and Saint movies; later, more A-level credits would include Station West (1948), His Kind of Woman (1951), River of No Return (1954) and Untamed (1955).
Despite the middling box office, Little Orvie scored some fine reviews, with Variety calling it "a charming comedy drama of boyhood which preserves the full flavor of Booth Tarkington's genius in probing the heart of adolescent youth... The picture can't miss as entertainment... Ray McCarey in this his first job of direction for RKO scores a solid success, handling the childish heart tugs and comedy with rare discrimination and in complete accord with the Tarkington mood... John Sheffield is a lad of decidedly fine talent. He plays naturally and appealingly and will be a favorite with the women."
Producer: William Sistrom
Director: Ray McCarey
Screenplay: Robert Chapin, Frank Fenton, Lynn Root; Booth Tarkington (novel)
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Music: Paul Sawtell
Film Editing: Theron Warth
Cast: Johnny Sheffield (Orvie 'Orvie' Stone), Ernest Truex (Frank Stone), Dorothy Tree (Clara Stone), Ann Todd (Patsy Balliser), Emma Dunn (Mrs. Welty), Daisy Lee Mothershed (Corbina), Fay Helm (Mrs. Balliser), Virginia Brissac (Mrs. Green), Paul E. Burns (Angelo, Grocer), Dell Henderson (Mr. Brown).
by Jeremy Arnold
The title card in the screen credits reads, "Booth Tarkington's Little Orvie." According to Hollywood Reporter pre-production news items, Little Orvie was originally set for production in 1938 with Bob Burns and Peter Holden starring. The film was to be the first in a series of "Orvie" films, all based on the Tarkington novel, but no other films were produced by RKO. A Hollywood Reporter news item notes that the decision to make a series out of the "Orvie" story depended on the reception of Little Orvie. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts list actors Edward Ellis, Kathleen Howard, Scotty Beckett, Willie Best and Juliette Compton in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.