The Seven Little Foys

The Seven Little Foys

Movie: The Seven Little Foys
Director: Melville Shavelson
Produced by: Paramount
Released By:
MPAA Rating:

With his movie career fading in 1955, Bob Hope was amenable to writer/director Mel Shavelson’s suggestion that Hope try something different. The Seven Little Foys was the first of Hope’s two “straight” biopics. Though not completely abandoning his patented persona, Hope does an admirable job of impersonating legendary Broadway song-and-dance man Eddie Foy, right down to the soft-shoe shuffle and affected lisp. A successful “single” in vaudeville, Foy meets and marries lovely Italian songstress Madeleine Morando. The union results in seven children, moving the Foys’ priest to comment “we’re running out of Holy water” after the seventh baptism. Hardly an ideal family man, Foy leaves Madeleine and her sister Clara behind in their Connecticut home to raise the kids, while he rises to spectacular career height. Returning home after attending a testimonial for George M. Cohan, Foy discovers that his wife has died of pneumonia. Months pass: Foy sulks in his rambling house, while his seven kids run roughshod. Foy’s manager suggests that the entire family be assembled into a vaudeville troupe called The Seven Little Foys. Though the kids are profoundly bereft of talent, the act gets by on its charm, and before long Foy is a bigger success than ever. But when Foy and the kids are booked into the Palace on Christmas Day, Aunt Clara decides that the kids are being cruelly exploited, and arranges for the authorities to arrest the act on charges of violating a state law barring children from singing and dancing. The authorities decide to drop the charges when the kids rally around their father, declaring their genuine love for him–but the deciding factor is a quick demonstration that the kids can’t sing or dance to save their lives! The Seven Little Foys is a standard Hollywood whitewash job, emphasizing Eddie Foy’s virtues and soft-pedaling or ignoring his faults. Wisely, the scenes between Bob Hope and the seven children playing the Little Foys are refreshingly free of cloying sentiment. Also, Hope is a good enough natural actor to convince us that he deeply cares for his children without gooey effusions of emotion. The film’s hands-down highlight is the “challenge dance” between Foy and Cohan–a lasting testament of the superb terpsichorean talents of both men. The Seven Little Foys was narrated by Eddie’s son Charley Foy, a fine comedian in his own right.

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