Sunday, September 20, 2009

Our Little Girl (1935)

Elsa: "Mother’s going away for a little while and when she comes back she won't be married to Daddy any longer."
Molly: "Who will you be married to, Mommy?"

Order: 7
Year: 1935
Rated: PG (Probably for adult themes)
Runtime: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Shirley Temple as Molly Middleton
Rosemary Ames as Elsa Middleton
Joel McCrea as Don Middleton
Lyle Talbot as Rolfe Brent

Plot: After a young girl's parents begin to separate, her father to his work and her mother to the neighbor, she runs away in hope that it will bring them back together.

Our Little Girl is probably the most depressing Shirley movie of them all. That's saying a lot considering how many times a little girl can be orphaned. Although this movie does end happily (kind of) it's one hell of a depressing ride getting there.

In the opening of the movie, we see Elsa and little Molly Middleton preparing a cake for their bi-annual picnic trip up to Heaven's Gate. Elsa calls her busy doctor husband to see if he's still coming and even though he's incredibly involved with his work, he meets them for cake and swimming. There's about ten minutes of this overly sweet family bonding and I couldn't help but feel pangs in my stomach of impending doom.

In fact, on their walk back from Heaven's Gate, the Middletons run into their friend, Rolfe Brent who quickly invites Elsa to go horseback riding. Don doesn't mind as he's busy with his work. Over the next few months, Elsa and Rolfe spend more and more time together and presumably begin an affair off screen. Don isn't entirely the victim either. His assistant, Nurse Sarah Boynton, is in love with him and we are never certain if he's
leading her on or not.

Our Little Girl is painful because little Molly is completely unaware of her parents' failing marriage until Rolfe asks her to call him "Uncle Rolfe" and tells her that soon she'll be living in his house. Don is upset, but hides it and offers Molly a trip to the circus to take her mind off of her expected picnic at Heaven's Gate. While at the circus, Sarah comes to inform Don of an emergency at the hospital and she is left to take care of his daughter.

For those of you afraid of clowns (like yours truly) fear not, because Molly doesn't end up joining the circus like the creepy video box portrays. Instead, Molly sneaks out and makes her own Heaven's Gate picnic. Elsa and Don are immediately informed and begin searching for her. In the mean time, Rolfe and Sarah lament to each other that they are the losers and that Don and Elsa are meant to be together. And then everything is magically patched up in an exceedingly short amount of time. Even for a Shirley Temple movie, everything is magically patched up in an exceedingly short amount of time.

The impression I got from Our Little Girl was that it was written by someone who suffered some severe childhood trauma involving unfaithful parents and needed a way to healthily let go of their suffering... then they remembered it was a Shirley Temple vehicle, tacked on a rushed happy ending, and decided to call it "Our Little Girl".

This brings up a topic that I've been wondering about. Were Shirley's movies made for children? Or the parents? Or both? Although nowadays, "family" is its own genre, in the thirties there was no such thing. (Kind of like "teenagers" didn't exist until post World War II). Certainly all the movies so far have had some adult themes, but is that because there was no such thing as "family friendly" films or was it so the parents didn't get bored? Burning questions all, and unfortunately, I have no answers.

This movie is one of my least favorites in the canon (only behind the painfully dull Stand Up and Cheer!) It's just so damn depressing and uncomfortable. I spent half my time shielding my eyes, and trust me, I am not an eye shielder! At least it was only 65 minutes long, so the pain was over quickly. Save this one for when you're in a crappy mood.

Featured Songs
"Lullaby to a Doll" - Shirley Temple

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