It's a Small World


1h 14m 1950
It's a Small World

Brief Synopsis

A little person becomes the dupe of a criminal gang.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Release Date
Jun 1950
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Motion Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,170ft (8 reels)

Synopsis

In Santa Paula, California, young Harry Musk is examined by a physician named Dr. Brown, who tells him that he is a midget and will grow no more. In order to avoid the other students' ridicule, Harry's teacher allows him to finish his studies from the sanctity of his father's farm. Years later, Harry's sweetheart, Janie, has developed into a lovely young woman, but, as predicted, Harry has remained small. For his birthday one year, Janie gives Harry a gold watch and breaks the news of her engagement to another man as gently as she can. When Harry's sister Susie complains that the sight of her stunted brother frightens her suitors, her father agrees to send Harry away with a circus promoter named Jackson. After traveling some distance on the road, Jackson and Harry stop at a café, where Jackson encourages the other customers to stare and laugh at Harry. Harry is so humiliated that he decides to escape through the bathroom window, after which he hitchhikes into town. There, he meets a kindly man named Sam, who offers Harry a partnership in his shoe shining business. The next day, curious customers crowd around, anxious to have their shoes shined by a midget. That evening at home, when he hears her screaming, Harry rushes to apartment of his neighbor, Buttons, who is being beaten by her sweetheart, Charlie. When Charlie leaves abruptly, Buttons persuades Harry to go out drinking with her all night long. The next day, Harry, now in love with Buttons, sees her sitting in a bar with Charlie. Depressed, Harry begins drinking heavily, and when another intoxicated patron mocks his condition, Harry throws his beer into her face. The following evening, Harry goes to Buttons' apartment as arranged, but finds Charlie already there. Buttons and Charlie take Harry to visit an obese woman named Rose Ferris, who makes Harry dress in a boy's school uniform and teaches him how to pick pockets. Initially, Harry resists Rose's instruction, but is later seduced by the easy money. After some time stealing with Rose's gang, Sam visits Harry to see why he has not come to work. When he sees Harry's ill-gotten gains, Sam tells Harry that their partnership is through. Later, Buttons agrees to meet Harry for a drink, but then breaks her plans and meets Charlie instead. The next day, when Harry visits Buttons and confesses that he had hoped that they would one day get married, she laughs at him. Finally, Harry decides to give up his life of crime and phones the police. When the rest of the gang threatens him, Harry shows up for a scheduled payroll heist, but stalls long enough for the police to mount a raid. They are all apprehended, but because of his assistance in the case, Harry is granted leniency. In lieu of prison, the judge orders him to go to Miami, Florida, the winter quarters of the Cole Brothers' Circus, and there he meets bubbly Dolly Burke, a pony trainer who is also a midget. When she learns that Harry will soon celebrate a birthday, Dolly bakes him a cake. After Dolly gives Harry a watch inscribed "Best Friends," Harry and Dolly fall in love and get married.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Release Date
Jun 1950
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Motion Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,170ft (8 reels)

Articles

It's a Small World (1950) -


When a promised A-list assignment failed to materialize at Columbia Pictures, where he had slaved for nearly a decade making programmers for the studio's B-unit under the vulture eye of Harry Cohn, writer-director William Castle asked to be released from his contract. Hiring on at Universal-International for a three-year separation from Cohn (who later hired him back and got him working in Technicolor), Castle also pitched projects to independent Eagle-Lion Films, the American distribution arm of England's J. Arthur Rank Organization. Founded in 1946, the company had absorbed the bankrupt Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation and was by 1948 producing B-pictures to accompany into the cinemas such lofty British imports as Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes (1948) and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948). Seeing the cinematic possibilities in Robert Heinlein's 1947 science fiction novel Rocket Ship Gibraltar, Castle proposed a space exploration film to be titled Destination Moon but Eagle-Lion chief Arthur Krim turned him down, declaring the concept too fantastic. (Producer George Pal latched onto the discarded title and won a 1951 Academy Award for his Destination Moon.) Undaunted, and with no shortage of big ideas, Castle took his sales pitch in another direction entirely.

It's a Small World (1950) was released at a time when Hollywood, its ranks soundly decimated by anti-Communist paranoia and the McCarthy witch hunts, was arguing for greater social tolerance in American society. Films such as Crossfire (1947), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), The Snake Pit (1948), and Home of the Brave (1949) chronicled the lives of "outsider" protagonists and stumped for the acceptance of people of different races and faiths, as well as for those suffering from the stigma of mental illness. Seemingly taking his cue (at least in part) from Tod Browning's notorious pre-Code sideshow shocker Freaks (1932), Castle (and cowriter Otto Schreiber - a possible pseudonym and, tellingly, also the name of a German anarchist who died in a British prison in 1917) tells the tale of a midget (Paul Dale) who, having been raised in isolation by a well-meaning but unenlightened father (blacklisted actor Will Geer), strikes out on his own - only to be seduced by the seeming affections of a woman of conventional size (Lorraine Miller) and inducted into a gang of pickpockets (captained by Steve Brodie). Its narrative arc drama structured in three distinct theatrical acts, It's a Small World allows its protagonist by the final frames to slip the bonds of indentured servitude and find happiness, perhaps surprisingly, as the employee of a traveling circus.

Despite the high concept of its logline, It's a Small World is streets away from the exploitable fare that Castle would be making by the end of the decade. Conspicuous in its absence is the ballyhoo of Macabre (1958), The Tingler (1959), and House on Haunted Hill (1959), the only gimmick being the film's sincerity. Aiding in the cause is the cinematography of Karl Struss, an Academy Award winner in 1929 for F. W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927) and later nominated for his work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Sign of the Cross (1932), and Aloma of the South Seas (1941). (Though not remembered exclusively for his work in genre, Struss would also lens the horror/sci-fi classics Island of Lost Souls [1932] and The Fly [1958], as well as two films for Charlie Chaplin.) Shot in the fall of 1949, It's a Small World was the last credit for composer Karl Hajos (The Story of Temple Drake [1933], Werewolf of London [1935]), who died in February 1950, four months before the film's premiere.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America: Memoirs of a B-Movie Mogul by William Castle (Putnam Publishing Group, 1976)
It's A Small World (1950) -

It's a Small World (1950) -

When a promised A-list assignment failed to materialize at Columbia Pictures, where he had slaved for nearly a decade making programmers for the studio's B-unit under the vulture eye of Harry Cohn, writer-director William Castle asked to be released from his contract. Hiring on at Universal-International for a three-year separation from Cohn (who later hired him back and got him working in Technicolor), Castle also pitched projects to independent Eagle-Lion Films, the American distribution arm of England's J. Arthur Rank Organization. Founded in 1946, the company had absorbed the bankrupt Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation and was by 1948 producing B-pictures to accompany into the cinemas such lofty British imports as Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes (1948) and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948). Seeing the cinematic possibilities in Robert Heinlein's 1947 science fiction novel Rocket Ship Gibraltar, Castle proposed a space exploration film to be titled Destination Moon but Eagle-Lion chief Arthur Krim turned him down, declaring the concept too fantastic. (Producer George Pal latched onto the discarded title and won a 1951 Academy Award for his Destination Moon.) Undaunted, and with no shortage of big ideas, Castle took his sales pitch in another direction entirely. It's a Small World (1950) was released at a time when Hollywood, its ranks soundly decimated by anti-Communist paranoia and the McCarthy witch hunts, was arguing for greater social tolerance in American society. Films such as Crossfire (1947), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), The Snake Pit (1948), and Home of the Brave (1949) chronicled the lives of "outsider" protagonists and stumped for the acceptance of people of different races and faiths, as well as for those suffering from the stigma of mental illness. Seemingly taking his cue (at least in part) from Tod Browning's notorious pre-Code sideshow shocker Freaks (1932), Castle (and cowriter Otto Schreiber - a possible pseudonym and, tellingly, also the name of a German anarchist who died in a British prison in 1917) tells the tale of a midget (Paul Dale) who, having been raised in isolation by a well-meaning but unenlightened father (blacklisted actor Will Geer), strikes out on his own - only to be seduced by the seeming affections of a woman of conventional size (Lorraine Miller) and inducted into a gang of pickpockets (captained by Steve Brodie). Its narrative arc drama structured in three distinct theatrical acts, It's a Small World allows its protagonist by the final frames to slip the bonds of indentured servitude and find happiness, perhaps surprisingly, as the employee of a traveling circus. Despite the high concept of its logline, It's a Small World is streets away from the exploitable fare that Castle would be making by the end of the decade. Conspicuous in its absence is the ballyhoo of Macabre (1958), The Tingler (1959), and House on Haunted Hill (1959), the only gimmick being the film's sincerity. Aiding in the cause is the cinematography of Karl Struss, an Academy Award winner in 1929 for F. W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927) and later nominated for his work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Sign of the Cross (1932), and Aloma of the South Seas (1941). (Though not remembered exclusively for his work in genre, Struss would also lens the horror/sci-fi classics Island of Lost Souls [1932] and The Fly [1958], as well as two films for Charlie Chaplin.) Shot in the fall of 1949, It's a Small World was the last credit for composer Karl Hajos (The Story of Temple Drake [1933], Werewolf of London [1935]), who died in February 1950, four months before the film's premiere. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America: Memoirs of a B-Movie Mogul by William Castle (Putnam Publishing Group, 1976)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Paul Dale was a disc jockey in Des Moines before he made his screen debut in this film, which also marked the motion picture debut of Anne Sholter. An onscreen notation indicates that circus scenes were filmed at the Cole Bros. Circus in Miami, FL.