Questions from the Google: Daddy Long Legs and Judy Abbott age difference?

With the series, I answer some of the more common, interesting or odd search engine queries that send people to my site.

Note: Due to the nature of these queries, I am going to be spoiling the living daylights out of this movie.

Note 2: I am discussing the silent movie Daddy Long Legs, which was adapted from the novel but is very different from the novel itself. This is not the place to get information about the anime adaptation, it won’t help with reading assignment homework and it certainly is not where one can find fan fiction for the story. (No, I have do not know where it can be found. I am trying to forget that it exists.)

Daddy Long Legs is, apparently, still on the public’s mind. Here are just a few of the Daddy-related terms that I have found:

Daddy Long Legs and Judy Abbott age difference?

A brief character sketch of any characters of Daddy Long Legs.

Reasons for Daddy Long Legs being a great success?

How could Daddy Long Legs story become a great movie?

So let’s turn the spotlight on this classic novel and Mary Pickford vehicle.

First, a brief (and spoiler-filled) synopsis:

Judy Abbott is an orphan who is being sponsored for a college education by a mysterious benefactor, whom she nicknames Daddy Long Legs. Real name: Jervis Pendleton. She writes him letters (other than a brief prologue, the novel is all letters), confiding in him about school, men and life in general. He falls in love with her and turns out to be not quite so old as she imagined. Romance!

Daddy Long Legs and Judy Abbott age difference?

(Reminder: The original novel by Jean Webster is in the public domain here in the U.S. and freely available to all for download. There’s even a free LibriVox audiobook!)

As far as the films are concerned, here are the age differences between the leading man and leading lady in various versions:

In the 1919 version, Mahlon Hamilton is 12 years older than Mary Pickford

In the 1932 version, Warner Baxter is 17 years older than Janet Gaynor

In the 1935 film Curly Top (which does not credit the novel but is clearly based on it), John Boles is 21 years older than Rochelle Hudson. The orphan character is split into two roles: the romance is handled by Hudson and the cute antics by Shirley Temple. Ironically, due to this split, some have cited this film as being less “creepy” than the original– even though the age difference between the romantic leads is the largest one yet!

In the 1955 version, Fred Astaire is 32 years older than Leslie Caron. (In the course of the film, Astaire’s character actually attempts to adopt Caron before he settles on sponsoring her.)

The age difference in the 1919 film does seem to be a subject of some controversy for viewers. Here are a few films to give the age difference some context (ages were rounded to nearest year):

Clark Cable was 12 years older than Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind

Humphrey Bogart was 15 years older than Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

Jean Arthur was 13 years older than Alan Ladd and 10 years older than Van Heflin in Shane

Douglas Fairbanks was 25 years older than Lupe Velez in The Gaucho

Mary Pickford was 14 years older than Buddy Rogers in My Best Girl

Tyrone Power was 9 years older than Linda Darnell in The Mark of Zorro

Marlene Dietrich was 12 years older than Tyrone Power in Witness for the Prosecution

Puts the 1919 version in perspective, yes?

A brief character sketch of any characters of Daddy Long Legs

The movie is a delight but the only fleshed out characters are Judy and her suitors.

Reasons for Daddy Long Legs being a great success?

The book was popular for several reasons: The lively voice that Webster gave to her heroine remains appealing after over 100 years. Further, the 1886 White House wedding of President Grover Cleveland and his ward, Frances Folsom, was still very much on the public’s mind. It was, after all, the first and only time that a sitting president got married in office. The combination of a Cinderella story, a memorable protagonist and current events was enough to make the book a classic. The story proved to be a perfect fit for Mary Pickford, who had recently started playing child roles but wanted the versatility of an adult character as well.

How could Daddy Long Legs story become a great movie?

Cast Mary Pickford in the lead.

(photo source: siletfilmstillarchive.com)

2 Replies to “Questions from the Google: Daddy Long Legs and Judy Abbott age difference?”

  1. Fritzi, this DADDY LONG LEGS post was a fun read! It’s always interesting to see how casting directors can make a “May-December” couple (so to speak) work, or not, as the case may be. Heck, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had a pretty wide gulf between them, but when they fell in love and had a long, happy marriage, nobody really seemed to mind. And how about the age differences between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in CHARADE? They were pretty clever that way, making Audrey the romantic aggressor; that way, as Grant himself suggested, he wouldn’t seem like a “dirty old man.” Then again, with their charming chemistry, who’s complaining? Not me!

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