Monday, September 14, 2009

The Little Colonel (1935)

Lloyd: "Don't you dare poke me with that old stick!"
Colonel Lloyd: "You'd better learn some respect for your elders."
Lloyd: "I won't respect anyone who pokes me with a stick!"

Order: 6
Year: 1935
Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Shirley Temple as Lloyd Sherman
Lionel Barrymore as Colonel Lloyd
Evelyn Venable as Elizabeth Lloyd Sherman
John Lodge as Jack Sherman

Plot: After a young southern belle defies her colonel father to marry a Yankee, he refuses contact with her, but this changes several years later, when her charming and equally stubborn daughter makes her way in to his life.

The Little Colonel was not a Shirley movie that I grew up with. In fact, I bought it along with Stand Up and Cheer!, the next movie in the canon, Our Little Girl, and the last, Young People. That being said, this movie was one that I didn't think I was going to fully enjoy, but, surprisingly, I did.

The Little Colonel is known for having the Oscar winning Lionel Barrymore as a co-star. Despite being one of Hollywood's top actors, he is actually billed second to Shirley. In this film, he plays her grandfather, Colonel Lloyd, but he might as well be Colonel Sanders. White suit, string tie, white pointed mustache and goatee combo...and the film is set it Kentucky. I looked it up on Wikipedia to see if The Little Colonel ripped off KFC, but it turns out the fast food chain was established until 1952, so if anything, KFC owes Fox. But then, I can't help but wonder if all antebellum colonels dress the same. It's a mystery.

Because this movie is set in the 1870's, you might have guessed that Shirley is surrounded by freed slaves and you'd be right. First, Hattie McDaniel, who is mostly known for playing Mammy in Gone With the Wind, plays the same role here only it's ten years later and her name is Mom Beck. (I know this is off topic, but I hate the fact that Hattie McDaniel beat Olivia de Havilland for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for a role no different than this one). Anyway, Lloyd is also friends with two black children, May Lily and Henry Clay who act as her main playmates. And later, she starts a friendship with Walker, her grandfather's butler, over a love of dancing. Walker is played by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and this is the movie with the famous "staircase dancing" scene.

When Elizabeth left her home to marry a Yankee, I had hope that the marriage would survive against all odds. Fast forward six years and Jack Sherman is heading west to make it rich, and Elizabeth and Lloyd go back to Kentucky to live in the family cottage. I knew that he was going to get swindled, and sure enough he bought a faulty gold mine. When he finally comes home, Jack is feverish and I was just waiting for him to die. But he didn't. A guy from the Union Pacific railroad comes by and buys the land and almost immediately, his sickness is cured.

To makes a long story short, Lloyd's parents do survive and everything works out for them in the end. Elizabeth is also reunited with her father, thanks to little Lloyd's persistance. In the case of The Little Colonel, Lloyd doesn't bring together a quarreling couple, she brings together an estranged father and daughter.

Featured Songs
  • "Love's Young Dream" - Evelyn Venable
  • "Wade in the Water" - Ensemble
  • "Love's Young Dream" - Shirley Temple
  • "My Old Kentucky Home" - Bill Robinson

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