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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Little Princess (1939)

In 1899 Victorian England, a soldier (Ian Hunter) from a distinguished family is called to South Africa during the second Boer War. He places his daughter (Shirley Temple), who has been raised in India, at an exclusive boarding school for girls. But when he is reported killed in action and his diamond mine holdings taken over by the Afrikaans, the mean spirited headmistress (Mary Nash, THE PHILADELPHA STORY) sticks her in the attic and makes her work off her debt. Based on the popular novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this is young Shirley Temple's (who passed away this week) best movie. Shot in handsome three strip Technicolor with solid production values, the film has a decent script and requires Temple to give a performance (her character has some layers) rather than trading in on her "adorable" persona which made her one of the top box office attractions of her day. I have to confess I was never a fan of the popular child actress but I'm quite fond of this film. The film stops cold with a fantasy dream sequence featuring ballet which doesn't move the story forward but other than a delightful rendition of Old Kent Road sung and danced by Temple and Arthur Treacher, it's not a musical. Directed by Walter Lang and remade in 1995 by Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY). With Cesar Romero, Richard Greene, Anita Louise, Sybil Jason. Eily Malyon and Beryl Mercer as Queen Victoria.

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