Keeper of the Bees (July 15, 1935)
Released on July 15, 1935: (running time 1 hour and 15 minutes) After a WWI veteran learns the he only has six months to live, he meets a strange man called the Keeper of the Bees, and his protoge 'Little Scout,' who changes or dying man's outlook on life.
Produced by William T. Lackey
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Written by Gene Tratton-Porter with screenplay by Adele S. Buffington and George Waggner.
The Actors: Neil Hamilton (Jamie Lewis McFarland), Betty Furness (Molly), Emma Dunn (Margaret Campbell), Edith Fellows (Jean Marie Meredith/Little Scout), Hobart Bosworth (Michael the Bee Master), Helen Jerome Eddy (Priscilla/Shorty), Marion Shilling (Louise), James P. Burtis (Red), Barbara Bedford (nurse), Lafe McKee (Dr. Grayson), George Cleveland (the judge), William Worthington (Colonel), Henry Hall (doctor at the hospital).
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The Bee Keeper is a wonderful tale of several complicated people whose lives intersect in a small town and change each other for the better. Our hero is a WWI veteran that has spent several years in a hospital with bad lungs. It sseems that he got a bad dose of mustard gas in the war, and his lungs have been poisoned and permanently damaged. One day he overhears the doctors outside his room discussing him, and declaring that he only has about 6 months to live. His nurse tells him that if she was only given six months to live she would go out on the biggest party-binge in history and get totally drunk. Our vet Jaime decides that he is going to do just that, and he gets into his old army uniform and sneaks out of the hospital. Long ago it became general advice in the U.S. that hitchhikers were very dangerous, and one should never pick up someone that is trying to get a ride. And if you are a young lady, you should NEVER pick up a hitchhiker, because terrible things were bound to happen. But this is 1935, and it is common to find hitchhikers, and it looked very normal when young school teacher Louise stops to pick him up. Jaime is immediately struck by her beauty and puts the moves on the young school teacher, with her beautiful blue eyes, but she soon puts him out of her car and heads down a side road. After she goes off down the side road, he decides to put off his huge night on the town and starts walking down the dusty road.
When Jaime enters the outskirts of the tiny sea side town, he stops at a house and gets some water from a pump, and while he is refreshing himself, a cute little pooch runs up to him drags him next door where he finds an old man laying on the ground. He helps the man into his house and discovers that the man is the keeper of several bee hives. This leads to that and it is decided that the old man should go to the hospital for a bit, and the bee keeper convinces Jaime that he should stay a few days in the bee keepers house and tend to the bees while the bee keeper is in the hospital. Jaime agrees, and is fortunate that the bee keeper has trained a young lad to help, named 'Little Scout,' and a neighbor lady will come in every day to cook for him. Then that night as he is sitting in the woods contemplating his end, he hears the young tacher crying nearby. When he asks her what is wrong, she tells him that she needs a marriage license, but not a husband. Our Jaime volunteers to marry her in the morning, saying that he will be dead in six months anyway, so he'd be happy to give her his name. After the ceremony, where she claims that her name is 'Louise' (it isn't), she takes off in a cab, intending to never see him again. Jaime starts getting attached to the neighbor lady that tends the bee keeper's house, and the Little Scout, that helps him tend the bees, when the bee keeper dies, and throws our story into another level of complexity.
I won't go any further down the path of this heart-warming family story, but believe me when I tell you that on a lazy, rainy afternoon, you will not find anything that will bring you more pleasure and gratitude than to pop a really big bowl of white kernel popcorn and watch this story. In the grand tradition of epic tales of love, adventure, mystery and small-town life, this movie is at the top of the list. Gather the kids and be entranced by the several lives of this town that make each other better because their lives have intertwined. Oh, . . . and don't forget to set a box of Kleenex next to the popcorn . . .