Jackie Cooper

Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring (1971, Joseph Sargent)

Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring opens with a montage sequence. Sally Field is hitchhiking cross country (supposedly, it’s all California) while audio of her calling home to her parents–after running away to become a hippie–and letting them know she’s all right. The exact amount of time she’s away, where she went, how she left, never gets addressed in the film; probably for the better. But that opening–followed by Field sneaking back into her house and her family going about their morning routine before finding her peacefully asleep in her bedroom–does frame Field as the subject of the film.

Turns out it’s a red herring. Director Sargent, writer Bruce Feldman, and Field have a far more ambitious plan. Sargent, thanks to his actors, Feldman, and particularly editor Pembroke J. Herring, sets about deconstructing the nuclear family. There are frequent short flashbacks–presented as Field’s memories–revealing the family’s history and how it affects Field and little sister Lane Bradbury. Dad Jackie Cooper’s loving as long as no one bothers him and everyone listens to him. Mom Eleanor Parker is underwhelmed too, but she and Cooper have separate beds and he makes good money, so with frequent alcohol, she’s coping. Bradbury, it turns out, is on a similar path as Field took, though with drugs, which apparently wasn’t Field’s problem.

Feldman writes long scenes, which Sargent initially brackets with these uncomfortable panning shots. Maybe is a TV movie and it takes Sargent about fifteen minutes (of its seventy-and-change run time) to get comfortable having to pan to do establishing shots. By comfortable, I mean he stops trying to force wide establishing shots.

Anyway. The long scenes, as the family drama starts to play out, soon reveal just how much Field has changed. The movie’s not about her, the movie’s about this messed up family she’s rejoining. And Field’s performance just gets better and better throughout, as she understands more and more, no longer the teenager, not an adult in her parents’ understanding but certainly from her (and the viewer’s) perspective. Especially once the film gets to her parents’ party with their horrifically shallow friends.

At the same time, Field’s hippie boyfriend (David Carradine in an affable performance) is stealing various work vehicles to get back to her. Most of his character development happens in those flashback scenes, which doesn’t seem like it’s enough but turns out to be just right. Sargent really knows what he’s doing with the pacing of character development. Not just with Field (though, obviously, most with her), but also with Carradine and Bradbury.

Parker and Cooper get established first, which seems like an odd choice given how the emphasis flips, but it too works out. It’s their lives being deconstructed after all. Field and Bradbury are just the victims of their failures.

Cooper’s great, Parker’s great. Nobody’s as great as Field, who asserts herself into the protagonist role without any direct help from Feldman’s teleplay, albeit enabled by Sargent’s spot-on direction. And Sargent and editor Herring establish this choppy, confrontational rhythm to Maybe. Sure, some of the hippie stuff comes off a little washed out thanks to TV and general squareness–and the Linda Ronstadt songs are forced over the action–but Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring works out pretty darn well.



Produced and directed by Joseph Sargent; teleplay by Bruce Feldman; director of photography, Russell Metty; edited by Pembroke J. Herring; music by Earl Robinson; aired by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Sally Field (Dennie), Lane Bradbury (Susie), Eleanor Parker (Claire), Jackie Cooper (Ed), and David Carradine (Flack).

Helping Grandma (1931, Robert F. McGowan)

Helping Grandma gives the impression directing Our Gang shorts for so long, McGowan lost (or never developed) any ability to direct adults. The way he holds shots on the kids, making sure they get their gags done, makes sense… even if it lacks any artistry. But in Grandma, he inexplicably holds shots on Margaret Mann. She’s not doing gags, just poorly delivering dialogue. It’s completely unnecessary.

The story concerns the gang helping Mann at the grocery store. The short actually does distinguish itself in a few ways. First is the racism. The older kids don’t treat Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins any different, but the younger ones do. Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins is constantly abusing Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard and Grandma makes high minded “watermelon” jokes at Beard’s expense.

Second, there’s an anti-corporate sentiment about chain stores. It’s sort of interesting… though it’s eventually invalidated.

Grandma could be worse. But not by much.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by McGowan and Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins (Wheezer), Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard (Stymie), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Mary Ann Jackson (Mary Ann), Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney (Chubby), Jackie Cooper (Jackie), Shirley Jean Rickert (Shirley), Clifton Young (Bonedust), Dorothy DeBorba (Dorothy), Donald Haines (Speck), Oscar Apfel (Mr. Pennypacker) and Margaret Mann (Mrs. Margaret Mack).

Boxing Gloves (1929, Robert A. McGowan)

It’s hard not to like Boxing Gloves’s central sequence—a boxing match between Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney and Joe Cobb—it’s two little fat kids in enormous boxing gloves duking it out. It’s also the sequence where McGowan shows the most directorial zeal. Unfortunately, it’s the place where the short’s particular sound situation (it’s a silent converted to sound and most of the bout is eerily silent) is most damaging.

Overall, the short’s reasonably amusing. It’s my first Our Gang as an adult and there’s a definite appeal to it. More, actually, before the big boxing match, as H.M. Walker’s dialogue sounds more like adult dialogue—and situations—given to deadpan kids.

The treatment of Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins is interesting. He’s black and race is a nonissue; to say it’s uncommon for films of the era is beyond understatement. He easily gives the Gloves’s best performance, balancing charm and self-awareness.



Directed by Robert A. McGowan; screenplay by H.M. Walker, based on a story by McGowan and Hal Roach; director of photography, F.E. Hershey and Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; music by Marvin Hatley; produced by Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney (Chubby), Joe Cobb (Joe), Jean Darling (Jean), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins (Wheezer), Mary Ann Jackson (Mary Ann), Harry Spear (Harry) and Jackie Cooper (Jackie).

Superman III (1983, Richard Lester)

Superman III–deservedly–gets a lot of flak, but it’s actually the most faithful to the comics in a lot of ways. It plays out like a late sixties, early seventies Superman comic–“The Man Who Killed Superman,” turning out to be a bumbling, generally well-meaning guy like Richard Pryor, or “Superman Versus the Ultimate Computer.”

Superman III is also Superman versus the neo-cons (one has to wonder if, while the computer hijinks influenced Office Space, the oil plotting influenced Dick Cheney). The film’s villains are constantly weak, with Robert Vaughn (whose character has some great lines) and Annie Ross turning in dreadful performances.

But it didn’t have to be bad, which is what’s so upsetting about it. The stuff in Smallville with Clark Kent meeting up with his high school crush is often fantastic–it lets Christopher Reeve add a facet to the performance and Annette O’Toole’s great as the love interest. Even better is when she gets to Metropolis–it’s only one scene (she wasn’t back in IV) but the dynamic with her and Margot Kidder seems like it would have been outstanding.

Poor Marc McClure gets a lot of screen time at the beginning… then disappears. But the same goes for Reeve. Once Superman turns into evil Superman, he’s in the movie even less.

Pryor’s good. His dialogue’s weak, but his performance isn’t.

Lester’s direction is mostly good, though the slapstick fails–cinematographer Robert Paynter is a disaster.

But then, disaster is Superman III‘s keyword.



Directed by Richard Lester; screenplay by David Newman and Leslie Newman, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; director of photography, Robert Paynter; edited by John Victor-Smith; music by Ken Thorne; production designer, Peter Murton; produced by Pierre Spengler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christopher Reeve (Superman / Clark Kent), Richard Pryor (Gus Gorman), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen), Annette O’Toole (Lana Lang), Annie Ross (Vera), Pamela Stephenson (Lorelei), Robert Vaughn (Ross Webster), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Gavan O’Herlihy (Brad) and Nancy Roberts (Unemployment Clerk).

This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Superman.
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