Fearless Fagan (1952)


If I were a kid in the 1950s, I probably would have loved Fearless Fagan, the story of a circus performer (lanky Carleton Carpenter) drafted into the army with nowhere to leave his pet lion, Fagan. He sneaks Fagan onto army training grounds and manages to keep him a secret until Janet Leigh shows up as a song and dance girl who accidentally stumbles across Fagan in the woods. She tattles on Carpenter, but the military takes pity on him and tries to help him find a suitable, temporary home until he returns from service.

Carpenter and Leigh, and everyone else involved, are keenly aware that their audience is children and families. The whole thing is a little too sweet and implausible for my tastes, although it’s apparently based on a true story. Carpenter’s a plenty likable fellow — very naturalistic in his acting style. His infatuation with cast-iron Leigh is never once believable, though. And for a film under eighty minutes long, it sure felt longer. Keenan Wynn has a few nice moments as Carpenter’s drill sergeant.

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