Five Little Peppers and How They Grew


58m 1939
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Brief Synopsis

A case of measles gets a working class family mixed up with a blustering businessman's clan.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Aug 22, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (Boston, 1881).

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Synopsis

Wealthy investment broker J. H. King is adamant about securing fifty percent ownership in a copper mine apparently owned by the family of its discoverer, the late John Pepper, a copper mining engineer. Pepper's widow and her five children, unaware of the worth of the property, are waging a battle against poverty with the little money the matriarch earns by sewing. Eldest daughter Polly organizes the others,Ben, Joey, Davie and Phronsie,in preparations for their mother's birthday celebration. A dress knitted by Polly is to be sold for $1.50 to purchase ingredients for the cake. Polly and Joey's efforts to locate the dress's buyer lead them to the King mansion, where Jasper, King's grandson, agrees to give his new friends the necessary makings. Joey and Polly invite Jasper to ride on the "Black Pirate," their "boat," a modified go-cart, and the three race down the long driveway and through the streets to the Pepper home. After helping the Peppers repair their stove, Jasper departs. At dinner, all the Peppers pretend to like Polly's tasteless cake; while at the King residence, Jasper celebrates his birthday with his grandfather, who barely notices Jasper until he learns that his new acquaintances are the same Pepper family who inherited the mine. When Mrs. Pepper has to leave for a few days to work at an overall factory, Polly becomes the head of the household. Jasper returns to the Peppers with a kitten and a songbird as gifts, and the cold-hearted Mr. King ingratiates himself in the household to try to convince Polly, the heir to the mine, to sell her share. After presenting the family with a new stove the next day, they celebrate with a dinner of beans. When Phronise becomes a victim of the measles, King and Jasper are quarantined with all the Pepper children. King gradually develops an admiration for these exceptional children, as one by one they are struck down by measles and Polly valiantly struggles to be nurse, cook and housekeeper. When Polly, exhausted from worry and work, falls seriously ill, King sends for his doctor and the girl's mother. Polly's illness leaves her temporarily blind. Informed by the doctor that Polly's recovery depends on rest, quiet and good food over the next several weeks, King bundles the family into his car and takes them to his mansion, where he grows very fond of the Peppers as Polly recuperates. Barker, his business assistant, is surprised to learn that King is no longer interested in swindling, let along buying, the mine. A week later, as the family celebrates the return of Polly's vision, Mr. Thompson of the Amalgamated Mining Company visits with King to discuss a bid for the mine. Polly, hidden from their view, overhears the men and misinterprets King's interest in her family. Believing that he is trying to wrest control of the property from her, Polly forces her family to leave the King residence. Jasper is sent by King to beg the Peppers to listen to his grandfather's explanation, and Mrs. Pepper agrees that this is warranted. In his study, King offers the Peppers an honest justification of his motives and confides that their visit with him has given him the greatest pleasure he has had in years. Polly, in awe of being presented with a $75,000 check for her half of the mine, refuses to sell, instead agreeing to become King's partner in the mine. The family is then invited to move into the King household on a permanent basis.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Aug 22, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (Boston, 1881).

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6 reels

Articles

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew


Literature for children sold well after the American Civil War. A magazine story written in 1878, "Polly Pepper's Chicken Pie," launched a lucrative book franchise. New England author Harriet Mulford, pen name Margaret Sidney, wrote her first "Peppers" book with the stated goal of providing a morally uplifting family story in Louisa May Alcott mode. Family values prevail as the impoverished Pepper family of Gusty Corners tries its best to stay intact during hard times. The books remained in print, and 60 years later in 1939 Columbia Pictures picked up the rights to the 12 Peppers books and adapted the first entry as the feature film, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939). Sidney's original story was brought up to modern times, discarding a few unsavory details: in the first book the youngest Pepper girl is kidnapped by an organ grinder, a presumed evil immigrant. The widowed and sickly Mrs. Pepper (Dorothy Peterson) scrapes by thanks to her eldest daughter Polly, played by the tiny Edith Fellows, the first child actor ever put under contract by Columbia. Almost as in a fairy tale, Polly's virtue and good spirits are credited with saving the entire family, aided by the fact that they own a copper mine and don't know it. When Mother falls ill, the resourceful Polly runs the household and raises the spirits of her younger siblings. She also befriends Jasper King (Ronald Sinclair), a wealthy boy with good manners. Polly falls sick with a malady that temporarily blinds her. The crisis provides a cue for Jasper's greedy father (Clarence Kolb). The most important man in town, Mr. King helps out in the hope that he can get control of the Pepper Mine. Instead, the cute kids and the spunky Polly inspire a change of heart in the miserly Mr. King, and the entire Pepper family moves into his mansion on the hill. Critics didn't mind the simplistic plotting and praised the series as wholesome family entertainment. The mini-franchise launched three more Peppers adventures. For the record, the five Pepper children are Ben, Polly, Joey, Davie and little Phronsie.
Five Little Peppers And How They Grew

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Literature for children sold well after the American Civil War. A magazine story written in 1878, "Polly Pepper's Chicken Pie," launched a lucrative book franchise. New England author Harriet Mulford, pen name Margaret Sidney, wrote her first "Peppers" book with the stated goal of providing a morally uplifting family story in Louisa May Alcott mode. Family values prevail as the impoverished Pepper family of Gusty Corners tries its best to stay intact during hard times. The books remained in print, and 60 years later in 1939 Columbia Pictures picked up the rights to the 12 Peppers books and adapted the first entry as the feature film, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939). Sidney's original story was brought up to modern times, discarding a few unsavory details: in the first book the youngest Pepper girl is kidnapped by an organ grinder, a presumed evil immigrant. The widowed and sickly Mrs. Pepper (Dorothy Peterson) scrapes by thanks to her eldest daughter Polly, played by the tiny Edith Fellows, the first child actor ever put under contract by Columbia. Almost as in a fairy tale, Polly's virtue and good spirits are credited with saving the entire family, aided by the fact that they own a copper mine and don't know it. When Mother falls ill, the resourceful Polly runs the household and raises the spirits of her younger siblings. She also befriends Jasper King (Ronald Sinclair), a wealthy boy with good manners. Polly falls sick with a malady that temporarily blinds her. The crisis provides a cue for Jasper's greedy father (Clarence Kolb). The most important man in town, Mr. King helps out in the hope that he can get control of the Pepper Mine. Instead, the cute kids and the spunky Polly inspire a change of heart in the miserly Mr. King, and the entire Pepper family moves into his mansion on the hill. Critics didn't mind the simplistic plotting and praised the series as wholesome family entertainment. The mini-franchise launched three more Peppers adventures. For the record, the five Pepper children are Ben, Polly, Joey, Davie and little Phronsie.

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The first chapter of the Margaret Sidney book originally appeared in the January 1880 issue of the magazine Wide Awake. Although onscreen credits list Charles Lamont as the director, Screen Achievements Bulletin and Call Bureau Cast Service sheets erroneously credit Charles Barton as director, and reviews credit Charles Bolton as director. Similarly, although Daily Variety credits Frances Hyland with story, she is not credited on the screen, in Screen Achievements Bulletin or in other reviews. This was the first in Columbia's Pepper family series. The series ran from 1939-40 and consisted of four films based on characters created by Sidney. Edith Fellows, Dorothy Ann Seese, Charles Peck and Tommy Bond appeared as members of the Pepper family and Ronald Sinclair appeared as "Jasper King" in all four films. Jimmy Leake, who played "Davey Pepper" in this film, was replaced by Bobby Larson in later films.