Roberta Morgan (Bonita Granville) is a spoiled girl from a rich family. Though she has every material thing she could want in the world, she’s very unhappy. Her dad (Donald Crisp) is busy with work, her mom (Natalie Moorhead) is busy with society life, and Roberta feels very alone.
As a result, she acts out. She acts like a brat in hopes that it will attract attention from her parents, but instead, it drives a further wedge between them.
Roberta finally makes a few friends — young Pinkie White (Stymie Beard) and his sister, Arabella (Meredith White). This friendship leads to even more tension between Roberta and her parents, when the Morgans fail to show Pinkie the same respect that Mrs. White showed Roberta.
Will the relationship between Roberta and her parents ever be repaired? And will she learn to act more respectable?
Arthur Lubin directs 1938’s The Beloved Brat. Lawrence Kimble scripted the film, from an original story by Jean Negulesco.
Roberta is, at times, a very obnoxious character. She tosses a tray full of food out the window, and later threatens to throw a plate of hot spinach at one of the servants of her family’s estate.
But she’s not a total annoyance. Her sass is entertaining at times. In one scene, she throws mud in the face of a boy who has stolen Pinkie’s fish and thrown it into the creek. She also tosses water in her servant Jenkins’ face for discriminating against Pinkie.
Pinkie doesn’t play a huge part in the film beyond the beginning, but it’s worth mentioning that his interracial friendship with Roberta is unique for a film from the 1930s. She doesn’t seem to care about his race — only that he’s nice to her, and willing to be her friend.
Granville’s performance is very convincing. I love her in the Nancy Drew series, and she does just as good a job here as she does in those films.
This is not just the story of a trouble-making young woman. Rather, it’s a tale of child neglect and the disastrous effects that can result for the whole family. A couple of scenes are actually pretty disturbing — in one instance, Jenkins tells Roberta that she should kill herself!
The Beloved Brat definitely isn’t a subtle drama. It’s a little bit preachy, but certainly not a dull watch. Recommended for fans of Granville, or of family dramas. The score: 3.5/5