In Victorian England little Sara Crewe's widowed father is sent to the Boer War. When he is reported killed the evil head mistress at her boarding school turns Sara into a servant. She suffers with dignity until her shell-shocked father returns.
Shirley Temple ... Sara Crewe
Richard Greene ... Geoffrey Hamilton
Anita Louise ... Rose Hamilton
Ian Hunter ... Captain Reginald Crewe
Cesar Romero ... Ram Dass, Lord Wickham's Indian Servant
Arthur Treacher ... Hubert 'Bertie' Minchin
Mary Nash ... Amanda Minchin of Minchin Seminary for Girls
Sybil Jason ... Becky, Servant at Minchin Seminary
Miles Mander ... Lord Wickham
Marcia Mae Jones ... Lavinia
Beryl Mercer ... Queen Victoria
Deidre Gale ... Jessie
Ira Stevens ... Ermengarde
E.E. Clive ... Mr. Barrows
Eily Malyon ... Mrs. O'Connell the Cook
Director: Walter Lang / William A. Seiter (uncredited)
I wouldn't rank this in the top half of all the Shirley Temple movies of the 1930s. It's not the worst but it's far from her best, BUT it's definitely better than the insufferably-politically correct 1995 remake.
"Amanda Mirchin" as the owner of a school, is the villain in here and Mary Nash did her acting job well because you hate this woman as the film goes on. Temple, as "Sara Crewe," overacted a bit with the fake teary scenes. She was never too realistic with those parts of a movie, but convincing in every other way.
Also, I prefer Temple's more light-hearted films, of which is not one, although Arthur Treacher was a good guy and fun to watch. He does two song-and-dance numbers with Shirley that help bring some brightness to the story.
A small child, affectionately known as THE LITTLE PRINCESS, must endure great hardship after her father is killed in the Boer War.
Shirley Temple had her last great box-office triumph in this splendid Technicolor adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett childhood classic. No longer a tiny tot - she turned eleven the year THE LITTLE PRINCESS was released - but still a little trooper, Shirley exhibits once again the tremendous charm & talent which made her Hollywood's top box office draw. With wrinkled brow & tremulous lip or bouncing curls & joyous smile, she adeptly displays just the right mood or mannerism to keep the focus of the audience's attention firmly grasped in her chubby fists.
The supporting players' roster is abundantly well cast: stalwart Ian Hunter appears as Shirley's soldier father - this very fine actor wisely uses his acting skills to keep from being completely upstaged by the mighty moppet; handsome Richard Greene & lovely Anita Louise play the riding master & teacher who befriend Shirley - their roles aren't terribly significant, but they fill them quite well.
Mary Nash is once again cast as Shirley's tormentor, this time playing the evil-spirited headmistress of an exclusive girls' seminary. This accomplished actress did not appear in many films, but she could generally be counted on to provide a vivid performance - notice the relish with which she essays her small part in the medieval fantasy sequence (`I know my rights, I know the law and what I say I saw, I saw!'). Long-legged, adenoidal Arthur Treacher plays her henpecked brother; he is a delight during his two romps with Shirley to the music hall ditty ‘Knocked ‘Em In The Old Kent Road.'
Cesar Romero quietly portrays an Indian servant in a small, but important, role; Miles Mander & E. E. Clive both appear as hardhearted, crusty old gentlemen - only one is regenerated by film's end. Sweet Beryl Mercer makes the most of her few moments as a stately, kindhearted Queen Victoria - while Eily Malyon is a true fright as the school's slatternly cook. Marcia Mae Jones participates in one of the film's most memorable moments, when, as a particularly vile teenager, she receives a face full of fireplace ashes, courtesy of sweet Shirley.
Special attention should be given to ten-year-old South African Sybil Jason, who plays the wistful waifish charmaid who idolizes Shirley. In her American film debut, Warner's LITTLE BIG SHOT (1935), she proved wonderfully winsome & winning, but the storm of attention surrounding Miss Temple (exactly 19 months older than Miss Jason) tends, at this remove, to swamp the boats of the other female child stars of the period. However, delightful Sybil deserves to be remembered & appreciated for her own accomplishments.
The Stolen Kiss, a lavish fantasy dream sequence, provides a welcome few minutes change of pace for Temple, Nash, Louise, Greene, Treacher & Romero.
She carries the picture on her little shoulders. All the key dramatic moments are hers and in close up. Wow. She was truly amazing. Her little cockney dance with Arthur Treacher is one of my favorites. She even does a fair attempt at dialect. What a great little hoofer.
Unfortunately she attempted ballet (not her forte) a big mistake considering the country was swarming with 'little ballerinas' who could have done it better. She has too much sass and rhythm for that.
As a matter of fact, seeing her in the ballet get-up made me realize what a spunky and get-down little gal she was ... 'prettiness' was something imposed on her. She comes to life in her urchin outfit and shawl or (as in The Little Colonel) reduced to ragged poverty and dancing on the street with Bill Robinson.
Some posts complain the story isn't true to the Francis Hodgson Burnett original - yeah, right such a masterpiece, mustn't touch it.Puh-leaze!
Mary Nash as the evil headmistress of the school positively oozed venom. I can't remember the last time I yelled 'Oh, you bitch!' at the screen as often as I did in this film.
The technicolor is necessary for many scenes and warmed up the proceedings. In black and white it would have been just too grim.
Goose-bumpy ending if you are not jaded. If you are jaded and can't enjoy little Shirley then just give up.