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The Moviegoer

At the Exeter

By Stephen O. Saxe

The latest in a long string of British little-boy movies is here. "The Magnet" is just as heart-warming as the rest, and a good deal funnier. This time the film doesn't try to show, through a small boy's eyes, the adult world; it is content to show the small boy's world.

The boy is Johnny Brent, who is quarantined at home during an outbreak of scarlet fever at his school. In his wanderings around the neighborhood he finds a younger boy playing with a very large and powerful magnet. Before long he tricks the child into swapping the magnet for an "invisible watch." As Johnny goes along the streets on his way home, testing the magnet on nails and old bits of iron, remorse suddenly strikes him. But it's too late; fate begins to torment him for his sin.

He goes through a series of outlandish, although credible, experiences. Each one makes him believe that the other youngster died of a broken heart as a result of the trickery, and that the police are after him. Further complications arise when Johnny's father, a psychiatrist, decides that his son is suffering from a mother complex.

The strong point of "The Magnet" is its plot, which is clever and fresh. The film moves quickly as it follows Johnny from his home to the back alloys near the docks, a biscuit factory, and the equipment room of an underwater salvage firm. He meets doctors, sailors, tramps, and street urchins in his travels. When he finally gets back home again, every element of the plot slips neatly into place.

"The Magnet" doesn't spend much footage on character development, but sticks pretty much to the boy's escapades. William Fox plays Johnny in an entirely pleasant, wide-eyed manner. Kay Walsh, England's most beautiful woman (and in "Oliver Twist," the disheveled) gives Johnny's mother a warm and convincing air. The performances are all good, but what really count are Johnny Brent's ingenuous and delightful misadventures. If you've ever been a boy--and even if you haven't--you'll enjoy "The Magnet."

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