Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

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

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

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.


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’s 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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