Shirley Temple: The Littel Princess (1939)

Description

The Little Princess is a 1939 American drama film directed by Walter Lang. The screenplay by Ethel Hill and Walter Ferris is loosely based on the 1905 novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The film was the first Shirley Temple movie to be filmed completely in Technicolor. It was also her last major success as a child star.

Although it maintained the novel’s Victorian London setting, the film introduced several new characters and storylines and used the Second Boer War and the Siege of Mafeking as a backdrop to the action. Temple and Arthur Treacher had a musical number together, performing the song “Knocked ‘Em in the Old Kent Road”. Temple also appeared in an extended ballet sequence. The film’s ending was drastically different from the book.

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Plot:

Captain Crewe (played by Ian Hunter), called to fight in the Second Boer War, has to leave his daughter Sara (Shirley Temple) with her pony at Miss Minchin’s School for Girls. With all the money Captain Crewe can offer, Miss Minchin gives Sara a fancy, private room.

Although worried about her father, Sara is distracted by riding lessons. It is during these riding lessons that Sara helps contrive meetings between Miss Rose (Anita Louise), her teacher, and Mr. Geoffrey (Richard Greene), the riding instructor, who is also the grandson of the mean-spirited next door neighbor, Lord Wickham (Miles Mander). Sara hears news that Mafeking is free and expects her father will soon come home. Miss Minchin throws Sara a lavish birthday party. During the party, Captain Crewe’s solicitor (E. E. Clive) arrives with the sad news that Captain Crewe has died and his real estate, the basis for his wealth, has been confiscated. Miss Minchin ends Sara’s party abruptly. Without her father’s financial support, Sara becomes a servant, now working at the school she used to attend. Sara gains new solace in a friendship with Ram Dass (Cesar Romero) who lives next door. She also receives support from Miss Minchin’s brother, Hubert, who does not agree with her treatment. Miss Rose and Mr. Geoffrey are found out and fired. Geoffrey joins the military.

In her new role, Sara gets hungrier and more tired from her arduous duties and sneaks off to veterans’ hospitals, convinced her father is not dead. After a string of episodes, including a performance of the film’s most well-known song “Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road”, Sara is at her wits end. Things start to worsen, when Sara gets into an argument with Miss Minchin, who cannot tolerate her faith in believing her father is still alive and tries forcing her to face reality. She later receives taunting from Lavinia (Marcia Mae Jones) the next day, eventually causing her to lose her temper and dump ashes on her. Miss Minchin arrives in the attic to punish Sara for “hurting” Lavinia. She discovers blankets that Ram Dass left Sara, assumes they are stolen, and locks her in the attic, calling the police. Sara escapes and runs to the hospital with Minchin in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile, the hospital is preparing to transfer a newly arrived patient, who is unable to communicate except to repeatedly say, “Sara, Sara”; it is Captain Crewe, but “his papers have been lost” and no one knows who he is. Sara is initially barred from entering the hospital but sneaks in, only to burst in upon a visit by Queen Victoria (Beryl Mercer), who grants her permission to search for her father. During her search, she is reunited with a wounded Mr. Geoffrey and Miss Rose. Sara searches the wards unsuccessfully, but happens upon her father as she hides from Miss Minchin and the police.

Miss Minchin, who pursued Sara to the hospital, is appalled that her brother thinks Sara is innocent. A staff member announces Sara has found her father, Miss Minchin exclaims: “Captain Crewe is alive?!” to which her brother retorts, “Of course he’s alive! How could she find him if he wasn’t alive?” The film ends with Sara helping her father stand as the Queen departs.

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Cast:

Shirley Temple as Sara Crewe
Richard Greene as Geoffrey Hamilton
Anita Louise as Rose
Ian Hunter as Captain Crewe
Cesar Romero as Ram Dass
Arthur Treacher as Bertie Minchin
Mary Nash as Amanda Minchin
Sybil Jason as Becky
Miles Mander as Lord Wickham
Marcia Mae Jones as Lavinia
Deidre Gale as Jessie
Ira Stevens as Ermengarde
E. E. Clive as Mr. Barrows
Beryl Mercer as Queen Victoria
Eily Malyon as Cook
Clyde Cook as Attendant
Keith Kenneth as Bobbie
Will Stanton as a Groom
Harry Allen as a Groom
Holmes Herbert as a Doctor
Evan Thomas as a Doctor
Guy Bellis as a Doctor
Kenneth Hunter as General
Lionel Braham as Colonel

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