“Wealth is often a power for evil – I hope it will bring Cedric no harm.”
Who does not have the dream where some far off relative you have never heard of comes calling and says you have inherited all the money you can think of and a gorgeous huge castle somewhere beautiful in Europe? If you have never had that dream you must be crazy! If someone were to just tell me I could go live in even an apartment somewhere in Europe that I do not have to pay for I would be super happy. The 1921 version of Little Lord Fauntleroy is similar to the dreams we have of being plucked from our lowly lives to wealth in a European castle.
Cedric Errol (Mary Pickford) is a young boy living in New York City in the early 1900s. He lives with his mother (also Mary Pickford) whom he affectionately calls Dearest. He is the pride and joy of his mother’s life. Cedric is the only boy in the neighborhood who has curls. His mother does not want him to cut his curls because that would mean her little boy is growing up. She shows him a picture of his father who also had curls when he was younger. Cedric goes outside to the group of boys who bully him and yells at them that his father had curls and if they insult him they are insulting his father and they get into a big brawl. Cedric has three friends who are adults. One is a grocery shop keeper, another a shoe shine, and one a nice peddler woman.
An old Earl living in a large castle in the English countryside has just lost his son in a riding accident. The son was wild and reckless and had married Cedric’s mother years before. The Earl never wants to speak of Cedric or especially his mother but he has no choice but to follow lineal tradition that the son inherit the title. He sends his lawyer to New York City to bring Cedric to England. Cedric’s mother is upset with the Earl because he ignored his son’s dying request and disowned him. Plus she does not want to give up her only child. The lawyer sits down with Cedric, who will become known as Lord Fauntleroy, to discuss what is to happen to him. Cedric is excited especially about the money because he wants to help out his adult friends. The only thing Cedric is upset over is that he can no longer become the president of the United States.
Cedric and his mother are brought to England by the lawyer. The Earl is cruel towards the mother he will not let her live in the castle she has to live on a smaller house on the estate. He also feels that Fauntleroy will be an American brat. The lawyer tries to explain that Cedric is different he clever than his years. Before dinner that night Fauntleroy and the Earl sit in the library and get to know each other. When dinner is announced the boy lets the old man use him as support. At dinner Fauntleroy asks if he thinks the castle is lonely with just the two of them living there and if his mother can come live with them. The Earl asks his grandson what his mother has said about him and Fauntleroy recalls that all her words about him have been nice.
With Fauntleroy’s youth in the castle the Earl has become a better, healthier man. His gout has dwindled and he even takes up riding again. When Fauntleroy has the estate’s tenants’ children over to the castle to food the Earl is delighted to see them and lets them take food home. The Earl comes to love Fauntleroy. When news comes of another heir from the Earl’s other son who was the oldest the Earl is heartbroken because he has come to love the boy. He demands that the lawyer find a way to correct the wrong. Fauntleroy is not upset with the news he just asks his grandfather if he can always be his little boy.
Meanwhile back in New York Cedric’s adult friends read in the paper about what has happened with this new heir. There is a photo of the woman who is apparently the mother of heir in the newspaper and they all recognize her. They gather together with and get a lawyer of their own to bring the news to Fauntleroy and the Earl. They arrive in England just in time. Cedric and his mother were about to leave the castle that day. The other heir and his mother are there as well. The Earl does not want to see the boy he only wants to speak to the mother. Apparently she had married the son while they were in Italy years ago. While the adults speak Fauntleroy and the other boy do not like each other and get into a fight. The friends arrive with another man. They are brought in to see the Earl with the other man who happens to be the woman’s real husband. They never divorced and she took their son away from him when the boy was a baby. The lawyer has the mother sign a paper rejecting her story of the boy’s parentage.
Fauntleroy still hold his title of Lord. The Earl speaks to his mother and apologizes for his behavior towards her. He invites her to stay at the castle.
In the final scene little Cedric Errol finally gets his curls cut off.
Little Lord Fauntleroy was very good. Mary Pickford I believe does not get enough credit as an actress. I believe she gets more credit as an icon of early cinema rather than as just an actress. She could really play any part, be it comedic or dramatic, and do so very well. I really enjoyed the scenes where Cedric/Fauntleroy gets into a fight. It was so funny to see Pickford fighting kids. She went right for it! I enjoyed Little Lord Fauntleroy because it had a nice story. The boy was thoughtful and truly loved everyone and he was never afraid of his grandfather who was this grumpy old man. His mother did not want him to change when he went to live with his grandfather being surrounded by so much wealth. She wanted him to appreciate the smaller things in life and he did. The scene where he cared for the poor tenants his grandfather neglected was very sweet and showed he did appreciate the smaller things in life. He was a good kid. Little Lord Fauntleroy was a very good silent film that, if you like silent films yourself, definitely give it a watch. It is available to view in full on YouTube.