Cast & Crew
Paddy O'Day, an eight-year-old Irish girl, travels with her dog Tim to New York to live with her mother, a cook working for the wealthy Ford family. At Ellis Island, after the Fords' servant Benton informs immigration officer Tom McGuire that Paddy's mother died a few days earlier, McGuire tells Paddy that her mother is sick and could not come, and although he is pained by the situation, he arranges for Paddy to be sent back to Ireland. Tamara Petrovitch, an immigrant from Russia, with whom Paddy made friends on the boat, learns that Paddy's mother has died and offers to take care of her because she has no family in Ireland, but McGuire refuses. To escape the island and visit her mother, Paddy hides in a large milk container on a dairy truck and makes her way to Manhattan. After she gets into a fight with a street tough who makes fun of her Irish brogue, a sympathetic Irish cop orders a driver whom he has stopped for speeding to take Paddy to the Ford home in Southampton, where Roy Ford, a recluse whose only pleasures come from songwriting and his collection of stuffed birds, lives with his two domineering, spinster aunts, Flora and Jane. When Paddy arrives, Dora, the Fords' maid, reveals that her mother has died and convinces Benton and the other servants to hide Paddy in the house. As the two aunts pack to leave on a trip, Tim corners the Fords' cat Mathilda on top of a grandfather clock, and their subsequent chase is heard by the aunts. Paddy retrieves Tim and hides in Roy's room, where Tim goes after a prized stuffed bird. When Paddy gets the bird without allowing Tim to mangle it, Roy is greatly relieved. He hides Paddy when his aunts come to his door, and they leave after commanding him to remain on his vegetable diet and to keep his feet warm. Tamara and her brother Mischa, who runs the Café Petrovitch, come looking for Paddy, and Tamara convinces Roy to let Paddy live with her, because, she believes, the immigration officers would never think to look for her there. Mischa also induces Roy, who is attracted to Tamara, to put up $10,000 and become his partner in remodeling the café to put on a big stage show. Although Tamara warns Roy that Mischa's imagination often gets the best of him, Roy nonetheless is enthusiastic. Soon Roy's home is filled with live birds in cages rather than stuffed ones, and he sports a mustache and Russian outfit and drinks vodka. When his aunts return and protest, he says that his new friends are teaching him how to live, whereupon Flora and Jane faint. The day before the opening of the show, which contains songs written by Roy, his aunts learn that Tamara has been harboring Paddy. They plan to have both Paddy and Tamara deported and to commit Roy to a sanitarium until he gets over his infatuation. After the successful performance, McGuire, notified by the aunts, comes to the club to take Paddy and Tamara. Roy offers to adopt Paddy and then confesses to his aunts that he and Tamara were secretly married the day before. The aunts faint again, while Mischa talks to McGuire about investing in the club. Finally, the aunts are won over. Roy cannot kiss Tamara because the air-filled suit that he wears for the act gets in the way, so Paddy punches the air out of it.
Hal K. Dawson
Clarence H. Wilson
Al De Gaetano
Sol M. Wurtzel
One of the best movies Withers did was Paddy O'Day, made in 1935 and directed by Lewis Seiler, a true studio man, directing whatever he was given with efficiency and speed. The movie follows the same route as many depression era films, filling its time with equal quantities pathos and optimism. Paddy, played by Withers, is a nine year old girl on her way to America from Ireland. While on the boat, she meets up with a Russian woman, Tamara, played by Rita Cansino, the actress who would later change her last name to Hayworth. Tamara is coming to America to meet up with her cousin and work in his café. Paddy's coming to America to reunite with her mom who went ahead to get a job and a place for them to live. Her mom works as a maid at a home owned by nebbish stuffed bird collector Roy Ford (Pinky Tomlin) who lives there with his two, old cranky aunts.
When Paddy O'Day arrives at Ellis Island, the authorities take her aside and won't let her leave. It turns out her mother has died and Paddy will have to be sent back to Ireland. They tell her that her mother is very sick and put her in a room with other orphans but Paddy escapes and makes her way to the home where her mother works. Before she can get there, immigration authorities inform the Fords that Paddy must be turned in if she shows up.
Paddy does indeed show up but, lucky for her, she arrives just after the two aunts leave on holiday. The butler Benton (Russell Simpson) and maid Dora (Jane Darwell) take Paddy in and hide her, which works out well until the two aunts return and she is discovered. By this point, Roy has discovered her too and taken a liking to her. He's also taken a liking to Tamara, who shows up looking for Paddy, worried that she is not being cared for.
Paddy O'Day is the kind of silly child star vehicle in which tragedy is met head on with a plucky song and everyone who comes to America finds instant success and acceptance. The only people intent on sending Paddy back are the two old aunts, painted so broadly they might as well be wearing black hats and twirling glued on mustaches. But the thing about Paddy O'Day is that despite the broad strokes and generous use of cliché, it works. It works because Jane Withers is a real talent surrounding by some even more amazing talents.
Rita Cansino would later become a star in her own right as Rita Hayworth and here it's easy to see why. She has a real charm and charisma (and beauty) that leaps off the screen and steals the attention of the viewer in every scene she inhabits. Jane Darwell, as the maid, shows why she would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) five years later. Here she once again proves her talent for drama by delivering the best acted moment in the movie, when she sits Paddy on her lap and explains that her mother was sick but now, sadly, she's gone. It's a scene that could have been played for overdone pathos but Seiler wisely pulls the camera back and plays the whole thing in medium shot, giving the actors the distance needed to play the scene intimately while the audience can watch and sympathize without feeling intrusive. For a low-budget child star vehicle, it's quite a well done scene.
The most surprising addition to the cast is Pinky Tomlin. Tomlin, a musician by trade, plays Roy Ford as a nerdy sort who awakens to the vitality of life after falling for Tamara. Tomlin played banjo with Louis Armstrong's band when he was only sixteen and his song "In Ole Oklahoma" eventually became Oklahoma's state song.
Paddy O'Day might not have made the box office numbers that the vehicles of Shirley Temple did, but it's better than most child star vehicles of the day and Withers was a formidable talent. Later in life, she played small parts in big movies, like Giant (1956), and became Josephine the Plumber in a series of commercials for Comet but it's her roles in the thirties for which she will always be remembered. And of all those roles, Paddy O'Day may well be the most memorable of all.
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel
Director: Lewis Seiler
Writer: Lou Breslow, Edward Eliscu, Sonya Levien (story)
Original Music: Samuel Kaylin
Cinematography: Arthur C. Miller
Film Editor: Alfred DeGaetano
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer, Lewis H. Creber
Cast: Jane Withers (Paddy O'Day), Pinky Tomlin (Roy Ford), Rita Cansino, aka, Rita Hayworth (Tamara Petrovitch), Jane Darwell (Dora), George Givot (Mischa Petrovitch), Francis Ford (Immigration Officer Tom McGuire), Vera Lewis (Aunt Flora), Louise Carter (Aunt Jane), Russell Simpson (Benton).
by Greg Ferrara
Paddy O'Day on DVD
One of the best of the bunch is one of the earliest: Paddy O'Day (1935), a charming, sweet film that stops short of being cloying. In this remake of the Janet Gaynor/Charles Farrell picture Delicious (1931), nine-year-old Withers plays Paddy, a little Irish girl on her way to New York via ocean liner to join her mother. Paddy charms her fellow steerage passengers with her singing and dancing, and makes friends with a Russian family on board, including a young woman played by 16-year-old Rita Cansino -- soon to be known as Rita Hayworth -- in one of her earliest screen appearances. When Paddy arrives at Ellis Island, she learns that her mother has recently died, and the immigration authorities will have to send her back to Ireland, where she has no one to look after her.
Paddy escapes and makes her way to the Long Island mansion where her mother had previously worked as a cook; the servants take her in, hiding her from the two buttoned-up, straight-laced aunts who live in the house with their scatterbrained nephew. Eventually, Paddy reunites with the Russian family and starts working as an entertainer in their new nightclub, but the aunts and the immigration officers are closing in.
The story, as directed by the underrated Lewis Seiler, moves fluidly along and features some clever comic build-ups and gags. It's also very well cast, with Vera Lewis and Louise Carter stealing the show as the two comically mean old aunts, Pinky Tomlin sufficiently likable as their nephew, Russell Simpson most appealing as the butler, Jane Darwell excelling as a cook, Francis Ford (John Ford's brother) fine as an immigration officer, and various other bit players doing their best. Paddy wins them all over, as she does us, with her pluck, talent and fine Irish brogue, in scenes that call on her to engage in comic banter, stand up to mean boys, plead with authority figures, and belt out two songs including "Keep That Twinkle in Your Eye." Withers comes off as a relatable, realistically drawn, enthusiastic, average kid, and that is surely what cemented her appeal in Depression-era America.
Finally, of course, there's Rita Cansino as a Russian immigrant who gets to show off some singing and dancing herself. Hers is a key and fairly prominent role, and she gets plenty of close-ups as well as a full production number. It's interesting to look at what Fox had in her when they decided to let her go after a handful of pictures in 1936. The rest is history, of course: she did a few more films as a freelancer and then was signed by Columbia, where Harry Cohn changed her name to Rita Hayworth and, over the course of about twenty films in four years, built her into one of the all-time great movie stars.
Jane Withers, meanwhile, was a huge star at Fox for a few important years, and as such she is well deserving of this recognition by Fox Home Entertainment. The only problem is one that has plagued Fox's made-on-demand discs from the start: very unreliable picture quality. Over the years, some Fox MODs have been fine, others have been awful, and many have been somewhere in between. Paddy O'Day has clearly not been remastered and is far from perfect, but it looks and sounds okay enough to watch without the print's scratches and dirt becoming a distraction. (Hayworth's close-ups are often radiant.) The other titles here are of varying technical quality. Little Miss Nobody (1936) has a consistently unsteady image, as if the transfer was made from a warped print, making this DVD almost unwatchable. It's so poor that Fox really should have acknowledged the problem on its packaging. Rascals (1938) is scratchy but watchable. Chicken Wagon Family (1939) looks beautifully remastered, but High School (1940) has a mediocre transfer that looks several generations removed from the original. The Farmer Takes a Wife, which has also not been remastered but ironically does contain an on-screen quality disclaimer, nonetheless looks much better than High School or Little Miss Nobody, while Golden Hoofs (1941) looks quite good.
By Jeremy Arnold
Paddy O'Day on DVD
The plucky little girl decides to find her mother herself. She escapes her quarters and -- with the help of a friendly Irish policeman -- heads for the Long Island home of her mother's former employers: two dowager aunts and their ornithologist nephew Roy Ford (Pinky Tomlin). The kindly cook (Jane Darwell) and butler (Russell Simpson) at the house take pity on Paddy after they tell her about her dead mother. They hide her in the mansion, keeping her far from the reach of the immigration officials searching for her. And she finds another powerful ally in the quirky Roy, who takes a shine to the little girl.
Paddy turns out to have a wealth of new friends, including a Russian beauty who traveled on the same boat to America, Tamara Petrovitch (Rita Hayworth). Tamara enlists Paddy to perform in the Russian stage show organized by her showy, entrepreneurial restaurateur cousin Mischa (George Givot). Paddy not only finds shelter from immigration authorities in Roy, but a new family when Roy and Tamara marry and decide to adopt the little girl.
The New York Times' Bosley Crowther said of Withers, "as a little Irish immigrant who sings and dances her way into everybody's affections, except possibly those of an occasional grouch in the audience, she proves herself to be the veritable Shirley Temple of her age group (8 to 10)....The picture roars along at a good pace."
Though she was early into her career and not yet "discovered" as the screen goddess we know her as today, Paddy O'Day was Rita Hayworth's first important role. It was one of many early parts in which Hayworth was asked to put on a thick accent and play against her own ethnic type. Early in her career, before dying her hair red and using electrolysis to raise her hairline in order to appear more Anglo-Saxon, Hayworth was often seen as an ethnic type. She played an Egyptian in Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) and an Argentinean in Under the Pampas Moon (1935) though the New York-born Hayworth's own heritage was Spanish. After a breakout role in the Howard Hawks aviation drama Only Angels Have Wings (1939) Hayworth became one of Columbia Pictures' biggest female stars, as famous for her film roles as for her status as a favorite World War II pinup girl. But the sex goddess role wasn't always a happy one for Hayworth who was oft-married and oft-divorced and had a habit of marrying emotionally and psychologically abusive men. One of the actress's most iconic roles was as Glenn Ford's seductress in Gilda (1946) a role which caused Hayworth to complain, "men fall in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me."
Starting in 1944, after starring alongside Gene Kelly in Cover Girl (1944), Hayworth was named one of the movie industry's top box office attractions. But her relationship with Columbia's controlling boss Harry Cohn was strained and she fought relentlessly to be released from his contract and to wriggle out from under his studio's thumb. "He was a monster," Hayworth said of Cohn.
Pinky Tomlin, Hayworth's romantic interest in the film, was a singer and composer who had, before working on Paddy O'Day, found great success with the song "The Object of My Affection." Tomlin and Hayworth became friends and confidantes on the Paddy O'Day set with the young and inexperienced Hayworth relying on the older, wiser Tomlin for advice about her career. According to writer John Kobal in Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place and the Woman, Twentieth Century-Fox even arranged for a fictitious romance between the two actors to promote Paddy O' Day.
Despite its often silly musical numbers, there are many points at which Paddy O'Day offers an insightful glimpse into the American immigrant experience. The arrival of the immigrants by ship at Ellis Island, the bureaucracy of their entry into the country and Paddy's efforts, once she has escaped Ellis Island, to navigate the often mean streets of New York -- and a gang of street toughs -- convey a sense of the difficulty of life for new arrivals. The relentless efforts of the immigration authorities to return Paddy to Ireland also give the film a strong reality-based sense of us-against-them in this engaging immigrant's tale.
Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel
Director: Lewis Seiler
Screenplay: Sonya Levien (story); Lou Breslow, Edward Eliscu
Cinematography: Arthur C. Miller
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer, Lewis Creber
Music: Samuel Kaylin (uncredited)
Film Editing: Alfred DeGaetano
Cast: Jane Withers (Paddy O'Day), Pinky Tomlin (Roy Ford), Rita Cansino (Tamara Petrovitch), Jane Darwell (Dora), George Givot (Mischa), Francis Ford (Office McGuire), Vera Lewis (Aunt Flora), Louise Carter (Aunt Jane), Russell Simpson (Benton), Michael Visaroff (Popushka Petrovitch).
by Felicia Feaster
The working titles of this film were The Immigrant, Immigrants and The Little Immigrant. According to a Variety news item, dated June 31, 1935, this film was to be a remake of Fox's 1931 production Delicious. While the plot of this film has similarities to that of Delicious, the writers of the earlier film, Guy Bolton and Sonya Levien, were not given story credit for this film. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Aaron Rosenberg, a former U.S.C. football star who became an assistant director, also appears in the film. While Pinky Tomlin's character is called "Roy Ford" throughout the film, the screen credits list the character name as "Ray Ford."