After Southern belle Elizabeth Lloyd runs off to marry Yankee Jack Sherman, her father, a former Confederate colonel during the Civil War, vows to never speak to her again. Several years pass and Elizabeth returns to her home town with her husband and young daughter. The little girl charms her crusty grandfather and tries to patch things up between him and her mother.
Shirley Temple ... Lloyd Sherman
Lionel Barrymore ... Col. Lloyd
Evelyn Venable ... Elizabeth Lloyd Sherman
John Lodge ... Jack Sherman
Sidney Blackmer ... Swazey
Alden 'Stephen' Chase ... Hull
William Burress ... Dr. Scott
Frank Darien ... Nebler
Robert Warwick ... Col. Gray
Hattie McDaniel ... Becky ('Mom Beck') Porter
Geneva Williams ... Maria
Avonnie Jackson ... May Lily
Nyanza Potts ... Henry Clay
Bill Robinson ... Walker
It's odd that Shirley Temple made two similar movies in the same year, both involving Civil War-type story lines and her character being very similar. "The Littlest Rebel" took place during the Civil War and "The Little Colonel" took place right after the war.
For some reason, I get an extra feeling being choked up seeing Shirley melting a crabby old man's heart as she did in some of her films, this being one of them. Here, it's Lionel Barrymore who was fun to watch in any film.
The lead female role was played by Evelyn Venable and she really wasn't up to the standards, beauty-wise, set by previous Temple adult feminine leads such s Gloria Stuart, Karen Moreley, Rochelle Hudson, etc. But, that's not important.
The story was more important and in case - surprise - I found this to run a distant second to the aforementioned "The Littlest Rebel." This movie was, frankly, boring in comparison.
I am not one of the crying Liberals who boycott Temple''s films because blacks in these movies were denigrated. Unfortunately, that's what you saw in 1930s films....and what's done is done. However, the black characters in here are just plain treated embarrassingly bad. Everyone's Mr. Nice Guy (mine, too) Bill Robinson, didn't come on the scene and dance with Shirley until later in the film when I had lost interest.
Temple, meanwhile, is so cute that she's even likable when she's a brat, as she acts several times with the old man (but apologizes later for her behavior).
It's still a good film but I prefer the "Rebel" over the "Colonel" in the battle of these 1935 Civil War-themed stories.
Having earned her nickname due to her stubborn temper, THE LITTLE COLONEL courageously tries to reunite her splintered family.
Shirley Temple smiles, pouts, tosses her curly locks and completely runs away with the movie. One of her early family classics, this is an excellent showcase for her tremendous charm & abundant talents. As box-office queen, the mighty moppet would dominate Hollywood during the second half of the 1930's. Never was a despot so welcomed or a tyrant so loved.
As one of the industry's finest character actors, crusty Lionel Barrymore gives the little lady a run for her money. Always entertaining, he knows when to purr or when to roar to maximum effect, even if he doesn't quite eclipse Little Miss Personality.
Hattie McDaniel adds her own unique gifts to the role of Shirley's faithful servant, never allowing her dignity to be demeaned. As always, she is a joy. The legendary Bill Robinson is also on hand, mostly, one suspects, so as to partner Shirley in a couple of dances and they are wonderful, especially in Robinson's signature Staircase Dance. They are perfectly matched - one ramrod straight & ebony, the other tiny & blonde - and their minutes together on the screen is the stuff of which movie magic is made.
Evelyn Venable & John Lodge, as Shirley's parents (it's rare for her to have both all the way through a film) do nicely with the romantic angle, but it's kept to a minimum, as is usual in a Temple film, where the spotlight is kept firmly focused on her. Sidney Blackmer appears as a smooth swindler who makes the serious mistake of angering THE LITTLE COLONEL.
Although the film is given good production values by 20th Century Fox, it is the interaction between little Shirley and the other performers which far and away is the most important aspect of the picture.
It should be noted that there are elements of racism in the story line, a not uncommon occurrence in Hollywood films of the 1930's.
The final scene segues into early Technicolor - a pleasant way to end the story.
With all of her usual show-stealing spark, Shirley Temple delivers another fun family classic as Lloyd Sherman in "The Little Colonel." Proving yet again that there's no problem she can't solve, Shirley reconciles an old grudge between her young mother (played by Evelyn Venable) and her crusty southern grandfather (played by Lionel Barrymore), who disowned his daughter for marrying a Yankee. Shirley's classic tap dance up the staircase with Bojangles Robinson will remind all of her fans of what a true dancing prodigy she really was. And a few scenes later, her song "Love's Young Dream" will show you why her singing is not as well remembered as her dancing. Don't get me wrong: Shirley shines in fast, snappy songs, but her voice was not made for slow numbers like this one.
"The Little Colonel" is a nice family film, but except for the iconic staircase dance, there is little to distinguish it from most of Shirley's childhood flicks. The claim that this film smashed through racial barriers by placing Shirley Temple opposite African-American screen legends Bojangles Robinson and Hattie McDaniel is almost laughable. Rather, Robinson and McDaniel play complete racial stereotypes: Robinson is the clichéd childish, comical servant ("The stereotyped picture of gay song-singing cotton pickers," to quote Maya Angelou). Watch him stand idly by while Barrymore fusses and fumes at him, because he knows "the old colonel don't mean no harm." Meanwhile McDaniel is a Mammy figure, loyal, caring, and always glad to serve the white folks (McDaniel later won an Oscar for playing the same Mammy figure in "Gone With the Wind"). In her famous novel, "The Bluest Eye," Toni Morrison writes, "I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me. Instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels."
But one cannot really expect better from a film made in 1935, when America was, unfortunately, still in the Dark Ages as far as African-Americans and their rights were concerned. Such clichéd roles were the only acting jobs available for African-Americans at the time, and so Robinson's and McDaniel's talents are largely untapped as their characters completely lack the depth given to white actors. For example, Lionel Barrymore's Colonel Lloyd has both positive and negative characteristics: He is a temperamental hothead who remains bitter over the Civil War, but he is also a southern gentleman who immediately brings his new neighbors a bouquet of flowers to welcome them.
# Shirley Temple memorized every line of dialogue in this movie, and while filming a scene with Lionel Barrymore, the veteran actor forgot a line. When Temple prompted him, Barrymore flew into a such a rage that one crew member took Temple away for fear that Barrymore might harm her. He later apologized to her, and they remained friends for many years.
# This movie features Shirley Temple's famous "staircase dance" with Bill Robinson.
# Bill Robinson claimed that the idea for his "staircase dance" with Shirley Temple came to him in a dream. He later recalled of the dream, "I was being made a lord by the King of England and he was standing at the head of a flight of stairs. Rather than walk, I danced up."