Little Colonel, The (1935)

Little Colonel, The (1935)

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

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.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • Lionel Barrymore Films
  • Peacemakers
  • Shirley Temple Films

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

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


One thought on “Little Colonel, The (1935)

  1. Not must-see. Yet another in the Shirley Temple series, ‘My, ain’t she just as cute as the dickens!’

    However, aside from the two memorable dance sequences (which do uplift a somewhat-pedestrian film), the best that can be said here is that the final ten minutes are suddenly and surprisingly tense, due to a sudden plot twist. So I suppose that’s…something.

    Overall, the film is relatively harmless, though there can be some inane dialogue:

    “We’re ruined. We haven’t a penny.”
    “Jack…is *all* our money gone?”

    But there is also one exchange – a follow-up to the ‘blue stories’ request that Temple makes to McDaniel because she’s fond of colors – which (now involving Barrymore) is something of a jaw-dropper:

    “Grandfather, do you know any blue stories?”
    “Blue stories? Well, a few.”
    “Tell me one.”
    “I don’t know any that I could tell *you*.”

    All told…even though Peary clearly has a sentimental streak when it comes to Temple’s early work, this is not a flick to make a point of seeing.

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