Are Parents People? 1920s star Betty Bronson in fluffy dysfunctional family comedy
As sweet and as artificial as cotton candy, the sentimental Are Parents People? is a moderately entertaining dysfunctional family comedy that, even at a mere 60 minutes, overstays its welcome by a good quarter of an hour. The problem, of course, is not the film's length per se, but the fact that the flimsy storyline generally lacks both wit and humor. (Image: Are Parents People? Florence Vidor, Betty Bronson, Adolphe Menjou.)
In Are Parents People?, mutual incompatibility – and perhaps a case of roving eye on the part of the husband – force Mr. and Mrs. Hazlitt (Adolphe Menjou and Florence Vidor) to seek a divorce. Their teenage daughter, Lita (Betty Bronson), feels torn by her parents' decision, especially since both use her as an emotional tool against the other. Tired of being forced to take sides in a war that is not of her making, Lita concocts a plan to reunite those two childish adults. (As an aside, Disney's The Parent Trap has several elements in common with Are Parents People?)
Malcolm St. Clair, who directed several popular comedies in the '20s, does his best to make Are Parents People? seem lively and sophisticated, but he is invariably let down by the film's vapid screenplay, credited to Frances Agnew and based on a 1924 short story by suffragist writer and poet Alice Duer Miller. (Among Duer Miller's works was the pro-women's rights poetry collection Are Women People? Other movie adaptations from her stories include Irene, Roberta, and The White Cliffs of Dover.)
Betty Bronson: The Deanna Durbin of the '20s
Are Parents People? leading lady Betty Bronson, on the other hand, is a delight. The Deanna Durbin of the '20s, Bronson, the teen star of Peter Pan and A Kiss for Cinderella (and the Virgin Mary in Ben-Hur), has lost none of her natural charm in the last eight decades. As a plus, the classy Florence Vidor provides able support as Bronson's mother, though it's hard to understand why the lovely and sophisticated Vidor could ever be the wife of perennial bore Adolphe Menjou.
Are Parents People? (1925). Dir.: Malcolm St. Clair. Scr.: Frances Agnew; from Alice Duer Miller's 1924 short story. Cast: Betty Bronson, Adolphe Menjou, Florence Vidor, Lawrence Gray, George Beranger.
Are Parents People? Betty Bronson, Florence Vidor, Adolphe Menjou photo: Paramount Pictures.