The Sunday Intertitle: Child in the Streets
From 1925, William Beaudine’s LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY *may* qualify as the first feature film adapted from a comic strip, except that in a manner sadly familiar, Hollywood decided to completely ignore the source material, which was a newspaper strip
inspired by ripped off from Little Orphan Annie (itself adapted to film first in the thirties). The comic featured an adorable orphan traveling the land with her pet dog. Annie in the movie is 33-year-old Mary Pickford playing 13, a tough Irish street kid with parents and no dog. “Based on a title by” would be a fair way of describing the movie’s relationship to its source.
Still, the movie is enjoyable, opening with a kids’ street battle involving lobbed bricks and bottles, action which would imply a CLOCKWORK ORANGE style horrorshow about juvenile delinquency if portrayed today, but in 1925 was just good clean fun. Children glassing each other is inherently hilarious.
There’s also inappropriate ethnic humour. The little black kid looks from a window, a projectile takes his cap off, and his hair explodes like Mt. Saint Helens.
Then there’s the depressed looking Jewish kid at his tenement window, unhappy because he’s not allowed to join in the pogrom below.
Somehow this is all pretty good-natured, and the upbeat attitude to slum life anticipate the rough-and-tumble of the Warners pre-code era, where the pageant of suffering humanity becomes a carnival of jocular grotesquerie.