Cast & Crew
In the Jewish quarter of London, six-year-old Joe chases pigeons outside Avram Kandinsky's tailor shop, where his mother Joanna and bodybuilder Sam Heppner work. Joe and Joanna both worry over the absence of Joanna's husband, who left two years earlier for Africa with a promise to send for his wife and son after he established himself farming. Kandinsky watches over Joe and spins endless tales of magic for the boy, who, upon hearing from the tailor that a unicorn can grant wishes, determines to buy one with his savings of two farthings. Meanwhile, Sam poses for Mr. World competition photos at the local gym, run by wrestling manager Blackie Isaacs. He is accompanied by lovely Sonia, who works in Madam Rita's clothing shop and has been engaged to Sam for four years, all the time enduring the taunts of her coworkers for accepting such a long engagement. Blackie is eager to convince Sam to wrestle for him, and gym assistant Mimi longs to have him around more often, but the young man refuses to endanger his body by entering the ring. In private, Blackie hints to Sonia that the money Sam could make by wrestling would pay for an engagement ring, and she resolves to urge him to compete. Soon after, Sam sees champion wrestler Python Macklin beat up his older sparring partner, Bully Bason, and enraged by the big man's brutality, announces he will fight him. Joe runs to tell his mother, who is at that moment being counseled by Kandinsky to have confidence in her husband. Seeing his mother's tears, and distraught over yet another dead pet, this time a baby chick, Joe wishes again for a unicorn, though Kandinsky warns him that none live in London. Joe searches the street vendors, and upon spying a baby goat with one mangled horn, is convinced that he has discovered a unicorn. After paying two farthings for the kid, Joe almost loses it when it runs away, but finally catches it among the stalls and and brings it to the shop. There, while Joe delineates his new pet's magic qualities, Sam tells Blackie he no longer wants to fight, although Blackie promises to set up a fight against Bason that Sam is "guaranteed" to win. Kandinsky helps Joe prepare a bed for the kid, and when Joe asks him what his wish is, the older man expresses his desire for a steam press to iron the shop wares. Joe wishes that Sam would buy a ring for Sonia, and also for his mother to take him to the movies, and when she offers only to take him to the dentist, he accepts the wish as half fulfilled. Soon after, in response to Sonia's requests, Sam buys a yellowed diamond ring and presents it to her at work. She and the other shop women swoon over the bauble, despite its flaws, but after Sam announces that he will not fight and so cannot afford a wedding yet, Sonia returns the ring in a fury. Sam offers to have a courthouse wedding, but the shop ladies decry such an "improper" wedding, and Sam is forced to promise to fight Python. Before facing Python, Sam battles Bason and wins, and Sonia, not realizing that the fight was fixed, assumes he will easily beat Python. One day, Madam Rita, the male shop owner, procures a new steam iron, and Joe proposes that Kandinsky buy the old one. Kandinsky is thrilled but, with only £12, is unable to make a deal with Madam Rita. Although dejected, Joe continues to believe in his "unicorn." Back at the shop, Joanna, once again depressed, berates Kandinsky for his unflagging positivism, to which he responds that he once lost faith and does not want her to suffer the same fate. Later, Mimi, hoping to cause trouble, tells Python that Sonia is attracted to him, and that night, the huge wrestler awaits Sonia at the local club. She shows up to meet Sam and is forced to push Python away when he tries to grab her. When the kid escapes its pen soon after, Python decides to capture it to use as bait to get Sonia's attention. After Sam leaves her for the evening, Python approaches, holding the kid out of reach so Sonia is forced to pursue him into an alley. There, Python attacks her, but she grabs the kid and runs to Kandinsky's, where Sam defends her in a street fight. A policeman breaks up the fight, and as he leaves, Python vows to destroy Sam. While training nervously for the fight, Sam learns that he has won magazine Body Beautiful 's Man of the Month competition. The night of the fight, the kid grows ill, but Joe begs it for the steam press, a victory for Sam and the return of his father. When he mentions to Kandinsky that Sam will win £25, exactly the cost of the old steam press, the tailor enthusiastically decides to urge Sonia to tell Sam to use the money to become Kandinsky's partner rather than to buy a ring. Although Sonia is not easily convinced, having already spent the victory money on a new bedroom set, she eventually realizes the logic in securing Sam's economic future. As the fight begins, Sam is losing badly to his larger rival. After Joe wishes fervently for Sam to win, however, the bodybuilder finds his second wind and is able to trounce Python in the final round. Kandinsky returns to the shop to find the kid dead, and surreptitiously replaces the body with a coin, which he then tells Joe is a magic talisman the unicorn left before returning to his kingdom. Joe's sadness is forgotten as Sam and Sonia return to the shop, followed by the cheering neighbors and bearing the steam press, which Kandinsky touches with deep joy. Undaunted, the boy spends the subsequent victory celebration clutching a photograph he has found of a one-horned rhinoceros, which he is determined to find and buy.
Brenda De Banzie
A Kid for Two Farthings -
A Kid for Two Farthings -
A Kid For Two Farthings
Screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz's interweaving stories take place amid the cleverly utilized, real-life backdrop of London's predominantly Jewish Fashion Street. Mr. Kadinsky (David Kossoff) is a kindly laundryman who keeps his shop doors open to a variety of locals, all of whom harbor some sort of unattainable dream. Kadinsky, for his part, only wants a steam pressing machine to replace his fire-heated one, but his strongman assistant, Sam (Joe Robinson), continually works his muscles as he aspires to one day become Mr. World. Sam's long-time fiance Sonia (Diana Dors), wants a real wedding, even though she knows Sam couldn't possibly afford one, and Kadinsky's other assistant, Joanna (Celia Johnson), longs to be re-united with her husband, who's working in South Africa and sending fewer letters all the time.
Running through the middle of these plotlines - often quite literally - is Joanna's young son, Joe, who, with Kadinsky's encouragement, believes that he'll be able to make dreams come true if he can only locate a magic unicorn. He finds one, too. More or less. It's actually a goat with a single, misshapen horn, but it brings much-needed hope to Joe. That may sound a little too cute for comfort, and at times it is. But there's a strange sadness underlying much of A Kid for Two Farthings. The characters are all desperate, over-worked laborers, and even the "unicorn" seems pretty beat-up. (Hell, it's actually deformed.) Reed seems to keep everything bustling so vigorously to stave off audience depression, and the finale certainly doesn't help matters. But no one said fantasy has to be lighthearted.
Though Home Vision includes no extra features on the disc, you still get bonuses, so to speak. There's a subplot in which a wrestling promoter tries to get Sam to enter the ring for some quick cash, and the promoter is played by the great character actor Lou Jacobi, a full 20 or so years before Jacobi became a fixture in American movies and TV. Even at such a young age, he had his rumpled shtick honed to perfection. And Sam's massive wrestling nemesis is none other than Primo Carnera, who was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1933-34. It may even add to your enjoyment of the film to learn here that Carnera's nickname was the terrifically descriptive "The Ambling Alp." Or maybe it won't.
A Kid for Two Farthings is presented in 1:37 full frame. Though the quality wavers with a few scratches here and there, the print is crisp and colorful. Cinematographer Edward Scaife did a time-capsule-worthy job of capturing post-War England, and the milieu shines through. The soundtrack, unfortunately, is something of a muddy mess, but Reed (in another Altmanesque touch, before the phrase "Altmanesque" was even invented) was obviously aiming for an multi-source aural ambiance that was then beyond cinema's technical reach. Again, it's an intriguing element of a surprisingly rewarding little picture.
For more information about A Kid For Two Farthings, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order A Kid For Two Farthings, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Tatara
A Kid For Two Farthings
A Kid for Two Farthings marked producer-director Carol Reed's first color feature. Some scenes were shot on location in the Jewish quarter and nearby Petticoat Lane in London. Most contemporary press items remarked on Diana Dors's resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, and within the film, "Mimi" calls Dors's character, "Sonia," "Marilyn." Joe Robinson, who played bodybuilder "Sam" in the picture, was the 1951 world heavyweight wrestling champion.
Released in United States 1956
Released in United States 1956