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Film / Candleshoe

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Candleshoe is a Disney live action film from 1977, directed by Norman Tokar and based on a book by Michael Innes, a.k.a. J. I. M. Stewart.

Fourteen-year-old Jodie Foster, already with "Oscar-nominated" attached to her name thanks to Taxi Driver, stars as Casey Brown, a street-smart juvenile delinquent living in Los Angeles. One day, she is discovered by con man Harry Bundage (Leo McKern), who realizes that she is the perfect double for the long-lost granddaughter of Lady Gwendolyn St. Edmund (Helen Hayes). Bundage thus brings Casey with him to England to meet Lady St. Edmund, whom she successfully fools. You see, Lady St. Edmund's old manor house Candleshoe is alleged to contain a hidden treasure and Bundage, along with his partner-in-crime Clara Grimsworthy (Vivian Pickles), need someone on the inside to go through the Linked List Clue Methodology.


But after joining the household, Casey discovers a terrible truth: Lady St. Edmund is an Impoverished Patrician and doesn't even know it. Her only servant left is the butler, Priory (David Niven), who pretends to be all the rest of the household staff by being a Master of Disguise. A group of local orphans taken in by the Lady (Veronica Quilligan, Ian Sharrock, Sarah Tamakuni, David Samuels) do most of the upkeep on the house and keep Candleshoe in the black by selling food grown on the estate at the local market. Of course, Casey couldn't care less about any of this and is only concerned with finding the treasure... at least for awhile anyway.


Tropes associated with this film include:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: The group does the usual "toss the villains out and move the furniture to block the door" stunt, only to have the baddies reappear through the open door at the opposite end of the room.
    • To be fair, the group knew the barricade wouldn't last long; they were hoping to buy time until the police arrived. They just forgot about the other door.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Anna, as signaled by stereotypical "Oriental riff". Casey even says "You gotta be kidding" just before Anna takes her out with a kung-fu chop.
    • Subverted in that Anna more uses Confusion Fu via the "You gotta be kidding" to give her an opening to perform a version of a chop that most kids at the time could've picked up from cartoons and then shove Casey down the hill.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: At the very end, Lady St. Edmund says to Casey, "I don't mind in the least that you lied to me when you first came to Candleshoe... but I would be very hurt if you lied to me now. Do you really want to go back to Los Angeles?" Casey breaks down crying.
  • Ashface: What happens to Grimesworthy when Casey shoves her into the fireplace. In fact, it might not have been so bad, except that what looks like a whole bucket's worth of ash tumbles down on her for no reason.
  • Becoming the Mask: Done subtly with Casey, who begins to embrace her role when the people of Candleshoe treat her with genuine kindness.
  • Brick Joke: Casey originally agrees to help Bundage in exchange for ten percent of the treasure and a red Ferrari. Later, while she's recovering in the hospital, Casey is looking at a car catalog with a red Ferrari on the cover.
  • Broken Bird: At fourteen, Casey has already undergone enough emotional trauma from her multiple failed foster assignments to turn her jaded and cynical. It takes a great deal of positive reinforcement from the adults at Candleshoe (and some tough love from the other children) to convince her to reveal her softer side.
  • Cat Fight: Casey has one with the other girls at the manor, complete with the Rule of Pool (it's actually a lake in this case).
  • Chekhov's Gag: Near the beginning of the film, there's a brief joke about the Great Hall floor being slippery. At the end of the climax, Casey uses this to defeat the villains.
    • During the opening credits, Casey uses a similar trick to trip up a rival gang of kids in L.A.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: With no parents and only a string of rotten foster homes to look forward to, Casey is more than willing to go along with Harry's scheme. Her inability to remember her birth parents also makes it more ambiguous whether or not she is the real Margaret.
  • Destination Defenestration: Lady St. Edmund gives the thieves a stern telling-off after chucking them out the window.
  • The Determinator: Forced to dismiss the rest of the staff due to financial constraints, Priory becomes versatile nearly to the point of absurdity. On any given day, his duties range from housekeeping, chauffeuring, cooking, gardening, mechanical and electrical maintenance, plumbing, fund-raising, entertaining (and sometimes masquerading as) guests, as well as being omnipresent enough to be effective in his original role as butler. The brutal workload doesn’t appear to phase him, his only complaint on the subject having to do with not being able to do more.
    Casey: The gardener's not good at plumbing?
    Priory: The gardener's not much good at gardening.
  • Driving a Desk:
    • Used when Bundage is driving Casey to Candleshoe for the first time. When they get onto the actual property of the manor, the interior shots of the car change to being real, making the fakeness of the earlier shots all the more obvious.
    • A single shot near the climax of the film, where Priory stands in the path of an oncoming locomotive, is pretty obviously this.
  • The Family for the Whole Family: Bundage's gang of crooks at the end of the film are exactly as competent as you'd expect a gang of crooks to be in a Disney film.
  • Fighting Irish: Clooney finally has enough of Casey blowing off chores and throws down on her.
  • Grande Dame: Lady St. Edmund
  • Hates Wearing Dresses: Casey is disgusted when Bundage hands her a dress and she looks decidedly awkward when she's forced to wear one to Candleshoe. While Clooney and Anna always dress in pinafores, Casey sticks to her blue jeans.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Listen, Miss Clever Dick!" "Clever dick" is a British expression meaning roughly the same thing as "smart alec".
  • Hidden Badass: Priory’s spontaneous hand-to-hand combat with Bundage pales in comparison to his willingness to park Lady St. Edmund’s car on the train tracks to stop a speeding train from taking off with the last clue of Captain Joshua’s treasure hunt. When Lady St. Edmund refuses to get out of the car, Priory’s only recourse is to tip his hat to her, signal the oncoming train with a polite finger, then bodily place himself between the train and the car. Save for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sigh of relief, his only response to the train grinding to a halt literally a handbreadth away from the vehicle is to politely ask the conductor if they could trouble him for a look in his baggage van.
    Lady. St. Edmund: Thank you, Priory.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The final clue leads to the statue of Captain St. Edmund in the great hall—the first thing Casey sees at Candleshoe
  • Hollywood Darkness: Some day-for-night filming is used in the scene when Bundage steals the tax money.
  • I Choose to Stay: Casey, after some coaxing. Also could apply to Priory, who remains with Candleshoe after all the other servants must be dismissed, even though he has to do all the work on a butler's wages.
  • Identical Stranger / Prince and Pauper: Casey is not only the correct age to play Margaret, but has several critical identifying scars.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Lady St. Edmund
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Casey.
  • Land Poor: Lady St. Edmund has nothing left of value except for her estate.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: The four clues that lead to the treasure.
  • Moody Mount: Priory rides a horse that is rather difficult to control, although it's unclear as to whether it really is moody or if Priory is just that bad at horsemanship.
  • Mood Whiplash: Bundage is presented as a pompous buffoon whom the streetwise Casey easily walks all over. Then about halfway through our jolly treasure hunt, he cracks Casey's skull and tries to run her over with his car, leaving her hospitalized. While not graphic, it's a surprisingly dark moment in such a light-hearted romp of a film.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The audience is led to believe that Lady St. Edmund is so utterly oblivious, she’s unable to notice that not only are there no visible staff other than Priory in the manor, Priory is filling each of the vacated positions with little more than fake mustaches and a handful of accents. Turns out that she was aware of the kindly deception the entire time, and was only playing along out of gratitude for Priory’s hard work and compassion.
  • Old Retainer: Priory.
  • Panty Shot: A decidedly unFanservicey one when Grimesworthy is shoved into the fireplace, revealing her enormous white knickers.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The ending leaves one wondering, is Casey actually the girl she pretended to be?
    • Given that Margaret was allergic to strawberries, and Casey clearly was not, almost certainly not.
      • On the other hand, it wouldn't be the first time someone outgrew childhood allergies...
  • Separated by a Common Language: Casey has no clue what Peter means when he tells her the phone is "engaged".
  • Superdickery: The original advertising seemed intent on portraying Casey in the worst possible light. Consider the Tagline, "For 10% of the action and a red Ferrari, she'd con her own grandmother." Apart from the curiosity factor, this is probably an attempt by Disney to seem "cool" in the midst of the 1970s Anti-Hero trend. To be fair, this approach avoids giving away the ending, not that it'll be a huge surprise to anyone who's seen a Disney movie before.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Casey goes from being in on the con to genuinely caring about the future of Candleshoe and its occupants.
  • Trash the Set: Candleshoe in the climax.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: How Priory fakes the rest of Candleshoe's staff. At one point when Lady St. Edmund fires one of his alter egos, Priory (as himself) begs her not to, on the grounds that he would "be very hard to replace."
  • Would Hurt a Child: Bundage at first comes off as a flustered, barely-competent hustler who needs a street urchin to run his cons for him. His willingness to resort to violence is foreshadowed when he slaps Casey for her smart mouth at the beginning of their acquaintance. Once his desperation to pay off his loans reaches critical mass, he demonstrates that he is willing to do anything to get his hands on the money even stealing bake sale money from orphans and running Casey off the road with his car when she tries to take it back, leaving her unconscious in a ditch.


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