After the death of her husband, Winifred Dennis (Marta Linden) takes a trip to Europe and returns with a new husband, Roger Carlton (Ian Hunter). The two tell her children, Timothy and Jane (Mickey Rooney and Juanita Quigley), that they will be moving to England, an idea that does not exactly go over well with Timothy because he wants to stay and play football for Notre Dame. However, the family does move, and in the process, the siblings find out that they are also gaining stepbrother in Peter Carlton (Freddie Bartholomew). Roger manages to get Timothy into his old alma mater, Eton College; but as soon as he arrives, Timothy feels out of place. He rebels against conforming to British standards, which places him at odds with the hierarchy at the school including the student body. From there on out, Timothy tries to make it by the best that he can.
A Yank at Eton is a comedy/drama and the sequel to A Yank at Oxford (1938). Much of the storyline derives from the differences between the two countries’ cultures. It can be a bit stereotypical with the “laid-back, hell-raising American” versus the “stuffy, snobby Brits”, but for the most part, it works. The acting is convincing. Mickey Rooney is pleasant in a role clearly fashioned to his talents while Earnest Ian Hunter gives a sympathetic performance as Mickey’s stepfather. Freddie Bartholomew is almost unrecognizable to those who may remember him from David Copperfield (1935) and Captains Courageous (1937).
The film is fairly predictable but cheerful and pleasant. The patriotism and propaganda intent are evident, but the picture came at a time when America needed morale boosting. In a way, the film is a salute to the British allies. It is meant to show the comradeship between Americans and Britons pulling together in the common cause of the war effort. Although A Yank At Eton is supposed to be a sequel to A Yank At Oxford, it fits better along the lines of Lord Jeff (1938), which had some of the same cast (Mickey Rooney, Freddie Bartholomew, Peter Lawford), but with Bartholomew in the lead. If you can overlook some flaws, A Yank At Eton is an entertaining film. It most likely will not be known as a great film, but it will pass the time.
Directed by–Norman Taurog
Produced by–John W. Considine Jr.
Written by–George Oppenheimer, Thomas Phipps and Lionel Houser
Starring–Mickey Rooney, Ian Hunter, Edmund Gwenn and Peter Lawford
Music by–Bronisław Kaper