“Sara has no mother, and we’ve never been separated for more than a few days.”
When her father (Ian Hunter) leaves to fight in the Boer War, Sara Crewe (Shirley Temple) is sent to a boarding school run by snooty Miss Minchin (Mary Nash). When notice arrives that Captain Crewe (Hunter) has died a penniless man, Sara becomes a servant at the school — but she refuses to believe her father is really dead.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Boarding School
- Cesar Romero Films
- Historical Drama
- Ian Hunter Films
- Shirley Temple Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Despite its generally acknowledged status as “one of Temple’s best films”, Peary isn’t a big fan of this Technicolor adaptation of Frances Hodges Burnett’s Victorian children’s novel. He argues that “while it is lavishly produced and features what was [Temple’s] last impressive performance as a child actor, the story is flimsy and predictable”, and notes that by 1939, “it was getting tiresome watching Temple’s little girls suffer.” Modern viewers, however, won’t have to experience the same sense of fatigue, given that we can pick and choose which of Temple’s many childhood films — Peary lists just five of her earlier hits in his book — we want to see. Diehard fans of Burnett’s book may be disturbed by the many changes made in the screenplay, but the spirit of the novel remains intact, and Temple (who looks nothing like Burnett’s description of the protagonist) brings a much-needed air of optimism and spunk to the role of poor Sara Crewe. Equally impressive is Temple’s co-star, Sybil Jason, who plays a young Cockney maid. [It’s interesting to note that Temple was, in fact, jealous of Jason’s performance, given the adulation heaped upon her by the film’s crew.]
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Shirley Temple as Sarah
- Sybil Jason as Becky
No, though it’s worth a look as one of Temple’s most famous films.