Cricket West. Isn't that a darling name for a darling girl? Cricket is the character 15-year-old Judy Garland plays in 1937s Thoroughbreds Don't Cry. This MGM "young people" showcase is the first film to feature Judy and frequent co-star Mickey Rooney.
Our three main characters are unencumbered by parents. Roger Calverton is played by Ronald Sinclair of the Five Little Peppers movies. Roger is an orphaned rich boy who lives with his grandfather Sir Peter played by C. Aubrey Smith. The Calvertons arrive in America for the racing season with groom Wilkins and race horse Pooka. Searching for the best jockey, they settle on Tim Donovan played by Mickey Rooney. Timmy is a swell-headed kid who is really a softy at heart. A friendship strikes up between the two vastly different youngsters. Roger wants to emulate the jockey he idolizes and Timmy yearns for education and the opportunity to rub off his rough edges.
Cricket is the girl in the middle. She lives with her aunt, played by Sophie Tucker, who runs a boarding house for jockeys. Cricket is someday going to be a great singer or actress, or both! She is given to bursting into melodramatic speeches or into song upon a moment's notice. She stands up to trouble. She sticks up for her friends. And she has a thing for Roger. He rather likes her as well. What could possibly go wrong with this set-up?
Timmy was a kid when his father abandoned him and when that father played by Charles D. Brown shows up in our picture you can bet it means nothing but trouble. The older Donovan uses trickery and sentiment to get Timmy to throw a race. Feigning illness he convinces Timmy that the only way to get needed funds for medical attention is for Timmy to throw the big race. Facing the prospect of his father's life on the line, Timmy agrees. When the Pooka loses, old Sir Calverton dies of a heart attack. Roger is left with nothing and must sell the horse. Not if Timmy has anything to say about it! There are more double-crosses than you can shake a stick at and, as you can well imagine, it all works out in the end following an exciting horse race.
Sophie Tucker is a riot as Cricket's pushy and self-assured aunt. It is a shame and truly a missed opportunity that she didn't have a solo number or even a duet with young Judy. Also outstanding in support as the maid at the boarding house is Helen Troy. Her mile-a-minute stream-of-consciousness routines are very funny.
Judy's big number in the movie is Got a Pair of New Shoes by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. It is played over the opening credits, the closing credits, and in a very cute bit in the film. Everything Judy does in this film is a precursor of the singer/actress we will come to love in countless films over the next decades. Her winning personality and her outsized talent leave no doubt that Judy Garland was on her way to show business immortality.
PS: Look for Elisha Cook Jr. at the dinner table, and George Chandler, Chester Clute, Jack Norton, and even Francis X. Bushman at the track.