Carla Van Oven becomes an allied spy in Holland during WW2, although she is suspected of having cooperated with and taken help from the Nazis. Colonel Pieter Deventer of Dutch Intelligence agrees that she may train to join a team in the resistance movement. The team starts to suffer heavy losses after she has joined them. Is she a traitor?
Clark Gable ... Col. Pieter Deventer
Lana Turner ... Carla Van Oven
Victor Mature ... 'The Scarf'
Louis Calhern ... Gen. Ten Eyck
O.E. Hasse ... Col. Helmuth Dietrich
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Gen. Charles Larraby (as Wilfrid Hyde White)
Ian Carmichael ... Capt. Jackie Lawson
Niall MacGinnis ... Blackie
Nora Swinburne ... The Scarf's Mother
Roland Culver ... Gen. Warsleigh
Leslie Weston ... Pop
Christopher Rhodes ... Chris
Although 'The Blue Bird' was not a resounding financial success at time of release, and has always been cited as being a poor imitation of 'The Wizard of Oz', it is an unjustly neglected film. Individual scenes are striking, as for example those depicting the unborn waiting in a kind of heavenly limbo (with billowing clouds) before sailing off to their destination on earth. (You can spot Dickie Moore and Scotty Beckett among the unborn lads.) Shirley Temple and Johnny Russell are tremendously appealing as the young sister and brother searching for the elusive blue bird of happiness. A highlight is Shirley's excursion to the Land of the Past where she visits her dead grandparents and does a charming song-and-dance to a yodel song. The studio would have been wise to incorporate a few more such songs. With added numbers, this might have been a much more successful film. As it is, her role is not strong enough, as written, and yet we can appreciate her by the film's end. She is particularly affecting in the scenes with the unborn children, showing genuine charm and affection and looking radiant in technicolor. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards (Special Effects and Color Cinematography), nominations which were well deserved. The spectacular forest fire is very effective, as are the special effects in general. In the supporting roles, Gale Sondergaard (as Tylette, the cat)has fun with a typical Sondergaard role, mistress of evil. Nigel Bruce and Spring Byington lend excellent support. Summing up, while the whole is not as great as its parts, this is a lavishly photographed film definitely worth viewing. Not a masterpiece, by any means, but there is much to appreciate and it should not be neglected.
An obnoxious girl, unable to find joy in her life, is sent by an elderly fairy into the Lands of the Past & the Future to seek for THE BLUE BIRD of Happiness. Her search will change her life profoundly...
Fantasy is the most difficult genre for film to create successfully. All the elements have to come together just right, and then, more often than not, success is a happy accident. Fantasy is not replicable; note the number of failed sequels. If 20th Century Fox was trying to emulate MGM's THE WIZARD OF OZ (an initial box office flop, it should be remembered), it was not a wise endeavor. Given its troubled production history, OZ should have been a disaster. That it was not still puzzles & delights film historians.
THE BLUE BIRD's ultimate failure is not complete. There are several very good things about it. The main trouble seems to be in the casting of Shirley Temple in the lead role. The greatest child star of them all was now aging, and prepubescent Shirley seems to depend a bit too much on the gracious memories of her devotees. She's still cute, but this time that's just not enough. Also, it must have been awkward acting such a nasty role, one doomed to be disliked by the audience for much of the film.
Gale Sondergaard, as the Cat, has much the same problem. She tries hard, but the role is very unsympathetic & we are never told why her character is so wicked - indeed, capable of murder.
It's interesting to note that both Temple & Sondergaard were important contenders for major roles in OZ, but were instead rejected for Judy Garland & Margaret Hamilton.
There are several cast members that do an excellent job with their material: Spring Byington, tender as Shirley's mother; wonderful old Jessie Ralph as the fairy; Eddie Collins, often very funny as the Dog; Nigel Bruce & Laura Hope Crews, giving ripe performances as Mister & Mrs. Luxury; and dear Cecilia Loftus & Al Shean as Shirley's lonely, dead grandparents.
Some of the minor casting is also very effective, witness Thurston Hall as Father Time, Edwin Maxwell as Old Man Oak & Sterling Holloway, on screen only a few seconds as Wild Plum. That's Scotty Beckett, from the old OUR GANG Comedies, as one of the Unborn Boys.
The use of Technicolor is very eye-appealing, although its initial entry into the film lacks the dramatic punch produced in OZ. The forest firestorm sequence is very well done & the Unborn Children scenes have genuine pathos.
A simply awful version of the wonderful "The Wizard of Oz."
How Gale Sondergaard, an Oscar winner, who turned down the golden role of the witch in "Wizard" allowed herself to be in this film is beyond me. She is catty here, please excuse the pun, and walks around like a "yenta" from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, N.Y. She simply prances around and that makeup job was awful on her.
The film badly attempts to personify vice and virtue. Yes, it's true that a life of luxury isn't the best necessarily but the film does a poor job of describing that.
Spring Byington is miscast as the mother. She is more of an aunt type.
The only thing that this film has going for it is possibly the special effects and other scenic views.
The children in the future segment was ridiculous. They're waiting to go to earth to be born but in the meantime they're teenagers where they are.
Shirley Temple is a little too cute for my tastes here.
The picture attempts to state that you really can't go back to the past. How true.
* Considered Fox's answer to MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939), the film was an expensive failure and marked the end of Shirley Temple's unimpeachable star power. Audiences found the idea of Shirley playing a nasty character hard to swallow.
* Shirley Temple's producer, Darryl F. Zanuck, decided to make this film after he mistakenly took the success of The Wizard of Oz (1939) as a sign that children's fantasy films were popular. With World War II fast approaching, however, audiences had no interest in Temple's unsympathetic character.
* A scene in which the crippled Angela miraculously walks after Mytyl gives her the blue bird was cut from the film. Director Walter Lang recalled, "The finished film didn't make sense at all. One moment Angela is crippled, and the the next minute, without explanation except for Mrs. Berlingot's amazement, Angela is outside her house standing up and talking to Mytyl."
* Sybil Jason decided not to attend the movie's premiere after she learned that most of her scenes, including one in which her crippled character miraculously walks, had been cut from the film.
* Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but she instead chose the role of Tylette the Cat in this film.
* The blue bird of the title was paid $50 a day, and flew away from a Los Angeles aviary soon after the movie was finished.