Cast & Crew
Just prior to her death, Mrs. Patterson, little Patsy's guardian, advises her ward to turn to the Bible and pray in moments of trouble. The orphaned Patsy takes her guardian's advice to heart when she is sent back to the orphanage after Mrs. Patterson's death. Looking to the Bible for guidance, Patsy turns the pages at random and sees the passage "...flee to Egypt." Taking the words as divine guidance, Patsy runs away to the town of Egypt, New Jersey, where she meets Tommy Wilks, whose father Red is the town drunk.
Red takes Patsy to his boss, Tom Creighton, the editor of the town paper, who offers the little girl a home with his own wife and children. When Jim writes an editorial criticizing the safety standards of a paint factory owned by millionaire Luther Marvin, however, he loses his job and brings disaster to the entire family. Believing that she is a jinx, Patsy goes to Marvin's house where she softens the heart of the millionaire's valet, Edwards, who grows fond of her. Although Tommy and Patsy have reformed Red, they are unable help Jim until the town is rocked by an explosion at the paint factory. Jim rushes to the scene of the fire and tries to extinguish it by opening a water tank, but he becomes trapped. Only with the help of the children does Jim manage to escape death. For his heroism, Jim is reinstated in his job and legally adopts Patsy as his daughter.
Cora Sue Collins
Toto, A Dog
Albert E. Levoy
Edwin B. Willis
Bad Little Angel
It was a common enough plot - an orphan, Patricia Victoria "Patsy" Sanderson (Weidler), runs away from an orphanage. Patsy lives on the streets, with her bible being her guide, until she befriends a blacksmith (Reynolds) and a newspaper editor (Hunter). It was a role that would have suited Garland a few years before, and MGM made sure to associate Weidler with its other great stars in the trailer for the film. Virginia Weidler's photograph is hung alongside those of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo, theirs, as the narrator intones, "...and now a little girl takes her place with these motion picture greats. A sincere, lovable little lady of inspired talent." The studio used clips from her other films, like Out West with the Hardys (1938) and The Women to remind the public of who she was and why she was being starred in Bad Little Angel. In true, overblown style, the trailer concluded, "If you want human emotions to be human, and heart-lifting thrills to be hearty, then you must see this drama of ordinary people face to face with a miracle!"
The film was released on October 28, 1939 and the critics were impressed with Bad Little Angel and Weidler's performance. Photoplay magazine voted the film among their "best pictures of the month" and Weidler's performances among the "best performances of the month," alongside Claudette Colbert in Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and William Powell and Myrna Loy in Another Thin Man (1939). Robin Coon of The Fayettesville Observer wrote, "Some day producers and public will 'discover' this Weidler child in a big way. Meanwhile, only because she's in it, Bad Little Angel will serve. [...] Laid in a period shortly after the Civil War, the story smacks more than faintly of the Horatio Alger fiction era, with overtones of Elsie Dinsmore. This particular Elsie, however, is a youngster of strong character and determination - and she's played superlatively by the Weidler child."
Bad Little Angel helped solidify 12-year-old Virginia Weidler's career - in 1940, she was voted the top child actress of the year, and she went on to co-star in hits like The Philadelphia Story (1940), but as she entered her teenage years, she had the same problem as other child actors - growing up on screen. She wasn't a raving beauty like Elizabeth Taylor, who never seemed to have had an awkward phase, and she wasn't a great singer like Judy Garland, who was able to make the transition to adult actor with ease. In a few years, Virginia Weidler would leave Hollywood, marry, and raise two sons before her premature death from a heart condition at the age of 41.
Coons, Robin "Hollywood Sights and Sounds" The Fayettesville Observer 11 Nov 39
Fricke, John Judy: A Legendary Film Career
The Internet Movie Database
Photoplay Jan 40
By Lorraine LoBianco
Bad Little Angel
Rex, the dog in this movie, was the same dog who played Toto in Wizard of Oz, The (1939).
Working titles for the film were Looking After Sandy, Patsy and Runaway Angel. According to contemporary sources, the dog in this film, Toto, was the same dog that appeared in The Wizard of Oz (see below).