The Blue Bird (1940)

The Blue Birdblue bird poster
Directed by Walter Lang
Written by Ernest Pascal and Walter Bullock based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck
1940/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

First viewing/Netflix rental

Daddy Tyl: You can’t be unhappy inside yourself without making others unhappy, too.

Fox’s answer to The Wizard of Oz was a giant flop.  I could easily see why.

Mytyl (Shirley Temple) is a selfish and discontented girl.  She captures a bird in the royal forest.  On her way home, a poor invalid girl asks her to trade the bird for her doll but Mytyl refuses.  Once home, she goes on and on about not being rich.  Mummy (Spring Byington) and Daddy Tyl unsuccessfully try to straighten her out.  Then Daddy is called to go to war.

Mytyl goes to bed and is awoken by the Fairy Berylune (Jessie Ralph) who sends her on a quest to find a blue bird.  (It soon becomes clear that this is the Bluebird of Happiness). She turns the family dog Tylo and cat Tylette (Gale Sondergaard) into human form to assist her and sends Light to guide her way.  Tylette wants to stay human and  does her best to prevent the children from attaining their goal.  Mytyl (and her little brother Tyltyl) look everyhere – in the forest, in the Past, in the land of Luxury, in the future – but fail to find the bluebird anywhere until Mytyl wakes up to find herself in her own bed.  With Nigel Bruce as Mr. Luxury.

blue bird 1

Oh to count the ways the filmmakers missed the entire point of what made The Wizard of Oz a hit.  There is little to no humor and the only song is contained in the clip.  Mytyl is an entirely disagreeable character for three-quarters of the story.  The universe of the film is strangely alien and Germanic.  Everyone has a funny name.  I didn’t even think the surroundings were particularly magical but the print could have been in need of a restoration.  The high point was the Eddie Collins’s performance as the dog.

The Blue Bird was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Color Cinematography and Best Special Effects.

Clip – Shirley Temple sings “Lay-de-o”

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