Cast & Crew
Louise Closser Hale
Miranda and Jane Sawyer offer to take in and educate the daughter of their poor sister, Rebecca Rowena Randall, as an act of charity. As Rebecca leaves her mother's house, she promises to "work her magic" on her aunts and win them over with her sweet disposition and generosity. After Rebecca's bus breaks down en route to her aunts' Maine home, Dr. Adam Ladd offers to drive Rebecca to her destination. While Ladd picks up a prescription in town, Rebecca offers to give rides to several townies, including Jack o' Lantern, the child of atheist Zion Simpson, whom Zion is bringing to the poorhouse. Rebecca arrives and asks her aunts if she may keep young "Jacko," but they are aghast at the suggestion, and Ladd brings the child to the home of bus driver Jeremiah Cobb and his wife. Later, as Rebecca assists her aunts in preparing for the arrival of a missionary society interested in Syria, she goes to visit Jacko at the Cobbs' home. Zion arrives, however, to take Jacko back home to the child's mother Mary, who lives with Zion out of wedlock in a shack. Mary reveals her desire for a wedding ring, but Zion refuses, decrying the iniquities of respectable society and its traditions. Rebecca shows up late to her aunt's Syrian missionary meeting, and then, while leading the assembled group in prayer, castigates them for hypocritically passing judgement on Mary and Jacko. On Christmas, Rebecca agrees to attend the Ladies' Aid Society meeting in place of the ailing Miranda and Jane, and Jane tells Rebecca that a softened Miranda will give money to Ladd's new clinic, an act of charity which she had earlier refused to perform. As Rebecca travels to the charity meeting by horse and buggy, she sees Ladd and offers to take him to the Simpsons' shack, where Mary is having another baby. When Laddie, the horse, breaks its leg, Ladd and Rebecca hike through snow to the bedridden Mary, who gives birth to a baby girl. Rebecca gives a wedding ring to Zion, and the irascible atheist, now reformed by Rebecca's persistence, presents it to Mary. Rebecca arrives home to find that Miranda is very ill, and both aunts are furious that she missed the charity meeting and stayed out all night. Though the dying Miranda is being treated by another doctor, Ladd unethically sneaks into her room and performs a medical procedure which saves her life. During Miranda's recovery, Rebecca and Ladd tell her that they plan to wed as soon as Miranda is well enough to attend the festivities.
Louise Closser Hale
L. B. Abbott
S. N. Behrman
James F. Hanley
The onscreen credits were taken from a screen credit billing sheet in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, and the plot was based on a screen continuity in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, both of which are at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. The play was based on the novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (New York, 1903) and her The New Chronicles of Rebecca (New York, 1907), a collection of short stories, some of which were originally published in Scribner's Magazine (Aug, October-December 1906; January-February 1907). According to information in the legal records, Fox paid The Pickford Corporation $50,000 for the motion picture rights.
According to Variety, this film was originally to star Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. Hollywood Reporter commented that "Fox has made the mistake of increasing the age of Rebecca so that Marian Nixon can pay [sic] the part with ease and conviction. By doing this they have robbed the story of just the peculiar charm that was dependent on Rebecca being a child on the brink of adolescence, but still seeing the world and life and older people through the naive, ingenuous eyes of a child." While the reviewers praised Nixon's performance as "a sincere, conscientious interpretation of a really difficult part," New York Times commented that Nixon "suggests a big girl trying to act as a little girl and succeeding in going quite a bit under that, as a small girl indeed." The Mary Pickford Film Corp. produced a film based on the novel and the play in 1917 which Artcraft Pictures Corp. distributed; it was directed by Marshall Neilan and starred Mary Pickford (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.3648). Twentieth Century-Fox produced a film that was suggested by the novel in 1938 (see below).