Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

“That kid in there’s a novelty — just what we need for our act!”

Synopsis:
The only daughter (Shirley Temple) of a wealthy widower (Michael Whalen) is suddenly on her own when her caretaker (Sara Haden) is accidentally killed while taking her to boarding school. Soon Temple joins forces with a pair of married musical performers (Jack Haley and Alice Faye) who are eager to add her to their act — but when will her true identity be revealed?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alice Faye Films
  • Heiresses
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Shirley Temple Films

Review:
This in-name-only remake of Mary Pickford’s 1917 silent classic offered mega-child-star Shirley Temple yet another opportunity to charm Depression-era audiences in the way she did so well — and to that end, it certainly succeeds. Temple is as adorably precocious as ever, singing a few cutesy tunes while instantly charming an old curmudgeon (Claude Gillingwater):

… aiding the fortunes of a talented young couple in desperate need of a break (Haley and Faye):

… and avoiding capture by a nebulously lecherous stalker (John Wray).

Highlights include Temple singing to her dolls (who eventually get up and dance):

… and her truly impressive tap finale with Haley and Faye, which apparently took countless attempts to get just right. However, this one ultimately isn’t must-see viewing; Peary lists other Temple titles in his GFTFF, and film fanatics need only see one or two at most to get a representative sense of what Temple’s phenomenal fame was all about.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Temple singing “Oh My Goodness!” to her dolls
  • Temple, Faye, and Haley’s impressive finale tap dance to “Military Man”

Must See?
No, though of course Shirley Temple fans will want to check it out.

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One thought on “Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

  1. Not must-see, but this rewatch (the first since childhood) gave me my sugar pill ration for the day.

    I’m in agreement with the assessment remark above: “…film fanatics need only see one or two (of her films) at most to get a representative sense of what Temple‚Äôs phenomenal fame was all about.”

    This one has odd elements:
    – Is the stalker who wants to abduct ST the same one who steals Haden’s purse early on? It becomes hard to recall – but, if they are one and the same, it’s an odd coincidence.
    – Singing to her father at one point, ST croons, “Marry me and let me be your wife.” (~kind of an icky suggestion)
    – When ST doesn’t show up at her school as expected, no one at the school calls the father to let him know – seems rather irresponsible for a reputable school. Whalen himself eventually calls, only to be told “We’re waiting for her.” …Seems sloppy.

    Personally, I do like the “You Gotta Eat Your Spinach” number (performed by ST, Haley and Faye in the radio station) – in which ST adds her slight take on gospel singing. And the ‘Military Man’ finale is fun. But, ultimately, those numbers don’t lift the film to ‘must-see’ status. They’re just kinda cute.

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