Picks and Pans Review: Little Miss Marker

updated 05/12/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sorrowful Jones—whose legit name is Walter Matthau—has been saying Little Miss Marker, the Damon Runyon story that helped make a champ of Shirley Temple in 1934, has never been done right before this current job for Universal. This is very puzzling to the boys at Mindy's, since the studio all but picked up the 1934 screenplay, though they changed the older doll's part more than somewhat, turning torch singer Bangles Carson into a lady named Amanda, for Julie Andrews' sake. Sure, it's worth the price of a pasteboard to watch Matthau; he's a very tough Broadway inhabitant indeed, who goes soft for this beautiful little doll left to him as collateral on a bet by her daddy. But is he more right than Adolphe Menjou was in '34? Menjou, who was an elegant gent, made a perfect betting-parlor slob as Sorrowful, and he talked Runyon like a native. Matthau, one of the movies' born slobs, is good, but he don't upset the form charts. (He's in a dead heat with Bob Hope, who placed in the 1949 version with Lucy Ball.) A lot of the Runyon flavor—names like Bonnie the Gouge, Sore Toe, Dizzy Memphis—is missing, too. That leaves Little Miss Marker. To make it work, she has to be the cutest kid you've ever seen. Does Sara Stimson fill the bill? Absolutely, for the younger citizens. But for anyone who's ever seen that Temple filly run, the entries were closed long ago. Shirley will always be the class of the little-doll field. (PG)

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