Tuesday, May 2, 2017

BING'S BIRTHDAY MOVIE: Little Boy Lost (1953)

It's that time of year again when I celebrate one of my favourite entertainers/singers with a birthday salute. There is some minor dispute as to whether Bing's birthday is on May 2nd (IMDb) or May 3rd (family website). It matters not to me. I will have cake on both days.

This year we are going to look at the affecting 1953 drama Little Boy Lost written and directed by George Seaton (Miracle on 34th Street) from a story by Marghanita Laski. The Paramount production was filmed in France giving the proper atmosphere to this post-war melodrama. Little Boy Lost was the recipient of the 1954 Golden Globe for Best Film Promoting International Understanding and George Seaton was nominated for Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Our story is set in 1948 where journalist and former war correspondent William Wainwright (Crosby) is on a quest to find his son. Ten years earlier he was married to a French singer named Lisa (Nicole Maurey) and they were blessed with a little boy. The war separated them with a wounded Bill ending up in London after Dunkirk and Lisa and little Jean remaining in Paris. Efforts to get the mother and son out of France were hampered by time, red tape and Lisa's work with the Resistance. Lisa is killed by the Nazis and the whereabouts of her little boy have remained unknown. Searches through the years have been fruitless, but Bill's old friend Pierre (Claude Dauphin) has new information. Hope is renewed.

The trail through official records and a sort of underground railroad for children during the war lead them to an orphanage outside of Paris. The Mother Superior appears cold and forbidding to Bill. However, she has a genuine concern is for the little boy that may be the lost Jean Wainwright (Christian Fourcade). The nun warns that the little boy's hopes for a family should not be raised falsely.

Little Jean is plagued with rickets, but "thankfully" not tuberculosis, with which a number of the orphans are afflicted. Privations of the war years have done little to promote good health among these abandoned children. The Mother Superior will remind us, and Bill, often of the horrors of the past and the troubles of the present.

Gabrielle Dorziet

Mother Superior:  "What you did just then I have seen happen many, many times. Even mothers who claim their maternal instinct infallible make the same mistake. If there is the slightest resemblance, they will favour the child who is alert, intelligent looking, and personable. I have come to the conclusion that parental instinct is very often confused with conceit."

Bing Crosby, Christian Fourcade

Bill is encouraged to spend time with Jean, perhaps to arouse any latent memories that will prove they are father and son beyond blood type which could match any number of children. They grow closer over the next few days, but hope is shattered by the woman who transported Jean between a priest and the orphanage. In her anxiety that Bill adopt the child she encouraged Jean to lie about his memories. Bill is shattered by this turn of events. Bill even feels slighted by his friend Pierre who accuses Bill of building a morbid museum of his life with Lisa. Bill is forced to face how he treats the memory of Lisa and how he treats the living.

Music is built into the film with songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, including the above light-hearted moment. Song was a big part of Bill and Lisa's life, and a way for Bill to relate to Jean.

Ten-year-old Christian Fourcade is quite touching as Jean and Bing Crosby gives a poignant performance as the lonely writer. If this movie doesn't move you to tears, then I suspect you have ticker problems.

Little Boy Lost is a reminder that the world keeps turning and children are still lost in the turmoil created by adults. Thankfully, there are organizations and people who care enough to do whatever is possible to set things to right. Sadly, it is never enough.

Movie trivia:  Director and writer George Seaton and Bing Crosby would collaborate the following year on The Country Girl for which Bing would garner an Oscar nomination. Bing's leading lady here, Nicole Maurey, will be his leading lady again in the Blake Edwards comedy High Time in 1960.


  1. I haven't seen it in years, but remember it as a really fine movie and was impressed with touches, such as that quote above about parental conceit. A very sober, moving film. Great post, as usual.

    1. Thanks, JT.

      It is a very emotionally real movie. Very moving and gives the viewer much to think about.

  2. I have never seen this one. Will have to add it to the list of need to watch films.

    1. It is currently up on YouTube. The run time of 95 minutes is succinct, but nothing is lost in the very moving story.

  3. Never seen this one, but it sounds wonderful. Another new film I discovered while reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for reading. We are never going to run out of "new" old movies, are we? This is another one that lets us know that times may change, but people really stay the same. The same problems are created for the same reasons.

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