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Little Barbara gets lost and is then picked up by entertainers who make her part of their act. Barbara's father hears the act on the radio and finds his lost daughter.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Suppose the kid's story does turn out to be a phony? So we believed her. So we fed her, took good care of her, and put her on the air. They can hang you for that, can they?
They can try.
See more »
THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (20th Century-Fox, 1936), directed by Irving Cummings, stars Shirley Temple who may be little, not quite poor but rich in talent, as displayed in the screenplay suggested by the stories by Eleanor Gates and Ralph. The plot was used earlier as a Mary Pickford film back in 1917, and with numerous alterations and updated material, the revised version, turns out to be, in fact, a modern-day fairy tale on how a little girl, acting out her storybook fantasy, to happily go out and change the lives of the people she meets along the way, only to become a popular radio star, at least during its second half anyway.
The story revolves around a child named Barbara Barry (Shirley Temple), a rich little girl who has everything but the utmost attention of her widowed father (Michael Whalen), a wealthy soap manufacturer, and the joys of being like other children by having playmates her own age as companions. She is cared by a Collins (Sara Haden), her nurse, and Woodward (Jane Darwell), the housekeeper who takes the time to read "Betsy Ware" stories to her. Because she is a lonely child, Barry decides to have Collins accompany Barbara to the Forest Grove School in the Adirondacks (upstate New York) where her late mother once attended. While at Grand Central Station waiting for the train, tragedy strikes as Collins walks out in traffic to locate her missing purse (which has been stolen) only to be struck by a passing car. Left alone with her luggage, Barbara takes off on her own, assuming the fictitious name of her favorite storybook character, orphan Betsy Ware, and starts her own adventure. She first encounters Tony (Henry Armetta), an Italian organ grinder with his monkey, who, feeling sorry for this "orphan," agrees to take her into his home along with his wife (Mathilde Comonte) and his other "bambinos." Sometime later, "Betsy" displays her tap dancing talent to Tony's family that catches the attention to an upstairs neighbor and unemployed hoofer and singers, Jimmy and Jerry Dolan (Jack Haley and Alice Faye). Seeing this child to have a considerable amount of talent, she's "adopted" to become part of their musical act called "Dolan, Dolan & Dolan," with Barbara, a/k/a Betsy, now acting as their "daughter," Bonnie. The audition lands them a job performing for soap manufacturer Simon Peck (Claude Gillingwater), who turns out to be Barry's competitor, who in turn, has become very much interested in Margaret Allen (Gloria Stuart), Peck's advertising girl.
The music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel include: "Oh, My Goodness" (sung by Shirley Temple); "Buy a Bar of Barry's" (sung by radio singers); "When I'm With You" (sung by Tony Martin); "When I'm With You" (sung by Temple); "But Definitely" (sung by Alice Faye and Temple); "Where There's Life, There's Soap" (sung by Temple); "When I'm With You" (sung by Faye); "You've Got to Eat Your Spinach, Baby" (sung by Faye, Temple and Jack Haley); "When I'm With You" (sung by Temple) and "Military Man" (sung and dance finale with Temple, Haley and Faye).
Musically entertaining, often amusing, occasionally cutesy, quite contrived, yet never dull, POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL has many fine things going for it. While such a story might lack logic for first time viewers, having child separating herself from father and nurse only to roam about the city by herself to meet new people, never considering how they must feel once her disappearance is discovered. Along the way, child meets up with several she identifies from her storybook (particularly Jimmy whom she calls "Puddenhead"), a great many being good people, but in true storybook form, there's usually a villain. John Wray, cast as Fagin, is such a character. He's in and out throughout the story, visually seen as spying on little Barbara from a distance or nearby. It's quite evident that his intentions are not honorable. While much of the story cannot actually happen in real life, the stalker following a child comes to be more true to life now than ever before, thus giving the writers some opportunity in adding a little touch of suspense. On the brighter side, the story also features an old grouch, wonderfully played by Gillingwater, whose Ebenezer Scrooge-type performance softens into giving little "Bonnie" a piggy back ride in his office.
With Temple as the talented child who can sing and dance to perfection, she's equally surrounded by secondary performers Haley and Faye as the song and dance team, who not only share the spotlight with their leading star, but get to solo or perform together as well. Gloria Stuart and Michael Whalen, enacting as the second secondary actors, provide some love interest, but on the whole, have very little to do during its 80 minutes of screen time. The obvious success to POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, having turned out to be another assembly of popular Temple vehicles, was revamped two years later under the guise as REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM (1938), also set in a radio station.
Not counting commercial television broadcasts prior to the 1990s, POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL's cable history did enjoy frequent television showings, ranging from its colorized version from the Disney Channel (colorized), to black and white on American Movie Classics (1997-2001) Fox Movie Channel, and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere July 23, 2010) as well as availability on video cassette and DVD in both B&W and colorized formats. During its AMC broadcasts, there were occasions when a theatrical trailer preceded the feature presentation. Quite interesting in fact the trailer includes a couple of outtakes, Temple in the bath-tub, and a completely different musical conclusion. Temple fans might find it hard to imagine watching POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL without that military dance finale (although tap dancing would be hard to appreciate listening to from the radio). In spite of some pros and cons, is POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL recommended viewing? But definitely. (***)
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