by Steve Haynes

(originally written for a screening of "Are Parents People?" at Cinevent 33 in Columbus, OH., May 27, 2001)

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A Paramount Production and release
CAST: Betty Bronson (Lita Hazlitt), Florence Vidor (Mrs. Hazlitt), Adolphe Menjou (Mr. Hazlitt), André Beranger (Maurice Mansfield), Lawrence Gray (Dr. John Dacer), Mary Beth Milford (Aurelia Wilton), Emily Fitzroy (Margaret), William Courtwright (Freebody)


Betty Bronson's appearance in ARE PARENTS PEOPLE? marked her first film after her career-making appearance as PETER PAN, and indeed the role called for much of the same charm and sense of mischief, albeit in feminine attire.

Lita Hazlitt is sent away to boarding school when she refuses to live with either one of her feuding parents. It seems that Mr. and Mrs. Hazlitt have decided that they are incompatible and plan to divorce. She does not find this situation acceptable, and decides that the best hope of bringing them back together is to give the something more to worry about than the petty disagreements and annoyances that have driven them apart.

Her first ploy is to get expelled from school by accepting the blame for a rabid fan letter sent to a popular movie star by one of her friends. She then proceeds to find the star on location, where her parents, now alerted to the potential disaster, have arrived to avert it. When the star turns out to be a crashing bore and monumental egotist, Lita determines that more drastic measures are called for and decides to disappear!

The Photoplay reviewer waxed enthusiastic: "Everybody has been anxiously awaiting the release of this picture for two reasons: first, to see if Betty Bronson would measure up to her performance in PETER PAN; second, because this is the first production that the youthful director, Mal St. Clair, has done for Paramount. We could write pages and pages about Betty, but it can be summed up in this: she is a marvelous actress, natural and human at all times. BUT what is foremost is the direction. The picture moves along smoothly with a finesse of touches that are subtle and amusing. See this!"

The New York Times had special praise for the work of André Beranger as Lita's movie-star target, citing his "amusing and interesting performance," but also had praise for others including "Florence Vidor [who] is capital as Mrs. Hazlitt, especially when she is listening [to] and watching the tedious Mansfield."

William K. Everson, in his American Silent Film, cited PARENTS' opening sequence which "starts with an important establishing sequence telling us that a middle-aged couple is rich, sophisticated, and divorcing, but still basically very much in love. All of this information is conveyed visually, and it is not until the plot is well under way - some five minutes into the film - that we get the first title."

Of Bronson, though, Everson believed that "The real tragedy of [her] career is that she arrived on the screen just a few years too late. PETER PAN should have been the zenith of one phase of her career, not the beginning of it. Had she arrived on the scene just ten years earlier, in that age of innocence when honest sentiment, whimsy, fantasy and Cinderella themes were not deemed old-fashioned and out of touch with the times, what a star she could have become." Bronson's career never took flight as did both her character and the film PETER PAN, and she left movies to marry in 1932.

All contents copyright 2001 by Steve Haynes, all rights reserved.