Little Colonel, The (1935)

“Papa Jack is sick — and those two men might hurt him!”

Little Colonel Poster

A crusty former Confederate colonel (Lionel Barrymore) disowns his daughter (Evelyn Venable) when she marries a Yankee (John Lodge) — but his heart is slowly melted when he meets his six-year-old granddaughter (Shirley Temple), whose quick temper bears an uncanny resemblance to his own.


Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this postbellum tale of a “stubborn and quick-tempered” young girl who “pleads with [her grandfather] to save her parents from thieves who are trying to steal a valuable land deed” remains an “enjoyable Temple vehicle, with some nice interplay between her and Barrymore… and some nifty dancing by Temple and Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson”. Indeed, Temple’s staircase dance with Robinson (preceded by Robinson’s solo, one he had perfected for years) remains a true highlight — not just of this film but of cinematic dance performances in general — and shouldn’t be missed. However, given the current possibility to watch isolated musical numbers through venues such as YouTube, film fanatics shouldn’t feel compelled to watch the entire movie, given that I just voted The Littlest Rebel (1935) as film fanatics’ “go to” Temple vehicle, and The Little Colonel essentially offers more of the same — with the critical difference that Temple’s character here isn’t all sugar-and-spice. To that end, Temple does hold her own admirably against Barrymore (perfectly cast), and Peary’s right to note that their “war game with toy soldiers is a highlight” of the screenplay. The rest of the storyline, however, is pure melodrama, and not really noteworthy in any way.

Note: Listen for a sly exchange between Temple and Hattie McDaniel (as “Mom Beck”), when McDaniel comments on Temple’s penchant for wanting “blue stories”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stellar dancing by Temple and Robinson
    Little Colonel Staircase Dance

Must See?
No, though all film fanatics should immediately check out the staircase dancing sequence on YouTube, if they haven’t already seen it.


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