Call myself a Cary Grant fan and I have only just seen 1944’s Once Upon A Time which I thoroughly enjoyed and will watch again.
Written surely to cheer up wartime audiences, Cary plays Jerry Flynn ,a New York theatre owner who, despite his firm belief in himself, has had three flops in a row and the bank want the $100,000 he owes them.
Coming out of the theatre one night, he sees two young boys, one who is playing ’Yes sir, that’s my baby’ on his harmonica while the other boy charges a nickel to see a dancing caterpillar in a shoe box!
Yep, that’s what this film is about – a dancing caterpillar – which you never see!
Ted Donaldson is Pinky who owns the dancing worm (called Curly). Pinky lives with his showgirl sister Jeanne (Janet Blair).
Jerry is so impressed by what he sees in the box when Pinky plays that tune , he calls in the press but they aren’t impressed until two scientists are invited to view the evidence. They declare this is a miracle of science!
The scientists examine what’s inside the box.
Of course nothing goes smoothly as Jerry tries to sell Curly to a Walt Disney representative! Poor Pinky doesn’t want to lose his friend and his big sister Jeanne initially doesn’t like Jerry.
In a dramatic scene, Pinky hides Curly just as Jerry is about to get the money to save his theatre. Angry with the boy, Jerry slaps him. Pinky has grown so fond of Jerry, the slap makes him hand over the box and leave. It hits Jerry what he has done and of course all is right in the end.
There is a lovely scene when Jerry sits at the piano and plays the tune Curly dances too. Suddenly a butterfly appears and both Pinky and Jerry see it fly out an open window.
It’s a charming fantasy. The cast includes James Gleason as Jerry’s assistant, William Demarest as a reporter who brings in the scientists to debunk the story.
And is small parts, Iris Adrian, Lloyd Bridges, Jeff Donnell, Pierre Watkin , Ian Wolfe.
Considering Janet Blair was a singer and plays a showgirl in the film, it seems a pity she didn’t get a number to do.
I was impressed by the little boy who played Pinky’s pal, Fatso. Mickey McGuire (1936-1956) was only a few scenes but was very natural . In his brief career, Mickey unfortunately was often given a name like Fatso.
In “The Return of Rusty” (1946) and also with Ted Donaldson, his character name was Porky.
And in “Danny Boy” (1945), he was Pudgie.
Ted Donaldson ( born 1933) can be seen in a You Tube interview in 2019 with Anne-Marie Gatti of the Classic Movie Hub. (www.classic movie hub.com)
Ted had been in a 1943 play,”Sons and Soldiers”, with Gregory Peck, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Karl Malden, Millard Mitchell. ( some cast!)
Ted auditioned for Columbia’s Harry Cohn and got the role of Pinky.
Cary Grant and Betsy Drake attended Ted’s high school graduation, sitting with Ted’s parents.
In 1974, when Ted wrote to Cary regarding the 30th anniversary of the film , Cary called him.
Ted was in films till 1953 including A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1945.
He was in the radio version of “Father Knows Best”, from 1949 to 1954 but said no to the TV version of the show.
Director of Once Upon a Time , Alexander Hall (1894-1968) made a variety of movies including Little Miss Marker, Torch Singer, Here Comes Mr.Jordan, My Sister Eileen.
Ted was one of the many fine young child actors of vintage Hollywood .
During these rocky times, any film that cheers you and makes you smile is great to find. ONCE UPON A TIME does it for me. I’m glad I finally caught up with it.
Another Cary Granter I have yet to see was made two years earlier in 1942, ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON. Reviews on IMDB are mixed. Still, it’s Cary!
We never do get to see that dancing Curly, but we believe he is in that box!!