I remember this movie as being better than it was when I saw it last night. For one thing, I can't decide whether Freddie Bartholomew is just a poor actor, or whether he's acting in the style of the period. Spencer Tracy really seems like he's just not enjoying this role. He struggles with the character's accent and seems to switch moods on a whim. The editing is somewhat choppy as well.
All that said, this story of a young spoiled boy who learns the value of hard work and humility when rescued by a fisherman is touching, with flashes of edgier moments that keep it from becoming too cloying, despite its ending.