There was one movie star she would put her book down for and that was Shirley Temple. She absolutely loved Shirley Temple movies. There was, during this time, a program each Sunday morning called the Abbott and Costello Theater (I believe it was on TBS, but I’m not certain of that). Many times, they would air a Shirley Temple movie instead of an Abbott and Costello one. My dad would grumble and, inevitably ask the same question, “WHY BOTHER CALLING IT THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO THEATER??!!”
It really didn’t matter to me, I was happy either way – but there was a definite difference of opinion with the folks. Mind you, he’d watch the Shirley Temple movies with us and, while he’d never admit it, he even enjoyed them.
One of my personal favorites was (and is) The Little Princess (1939). Shirley Temple plays Sara Crewe, a little girl who is left in a snooty exclusive home for girls, when her beloved father has to go to South Africa to fight in the Second Boer War.
Shirley Temple is, undoubtedly, adorable in The Little Princess and effectively pulls at every heart string. While the same can be said about every movie she appeared in, there’s just something special about this role. When watching her scenes, you can’t help but believe that she was extra fond of this role and film. Most of the time – especially when you watch enough of a star’s films to become familiar with them – you can tell just how much an actor or actress loved or loathed a role and a film. I’d be willing to bet that they young star got a real kick out of this movie.
Undoubtedly she got a real kick out of her co-star Arthur Treacher as well. I know I always do. He actually starred in quite a few movies with Miss Temple. He always brings an air of happiness and fun with him to his roles and is one of the faces that comes to my mind when I hear the phrase scene stealer.
Ian Hunter (you may remember him as King Richard the Lion-Heart in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood) plays her loving father, Captain Crewe. Richard Green, Mary Nash (deliciously despicable!), Cesar Romero, and beautiful Anita Louise round out the cast.
I particularly love Anita Louise in this movie. She’s one of those stars who never seemed to reach the level of stardom I feel they should have. She was more than just lovely and she was even more than a very talented actress. There was a certain, unmistakable spark to her and a unique ability to have chemistry with everyone in the room. There are other actresses who didn’t quite achieve the stardom they deserved (in my opinion, mind you) who had these exact same qualities – Dianne Foster and Lizabeth Scott are two that come to mind.
Ray Milland and George Sanders are a few actors that fall into this category for me. Like the ladies above, they certainly were successful and had wonderful careers. However, they don’t have the “household name” status many…. quite honestly…. less talented and charismatic stars have.
Even if the story wasn’t wonderful (it is!), The Little Princess would be worth seeing for Shirley Temple, Anita Louise, and Arthur Treacher, alone. I guess that’s easy for me to say because I have always approached movie-watching on a star-by-star basis. While there have been a few movies I’ve sought out because they sounded fascinating – a solid 9 times out of 10, I seek out a movie because of an actor or actress in the cast.
Very often, while watching a movie starring an all-time favorite (Rita Hayworth, for example), I’ll “meet” new favorites – then I simply must watch all of their movies as well. When they reach my much-ballyhooed (by me, anyway!) “all time favorite” status, then their movies aren’t just watched, they’re collected on DVD. Shirley Temple and Anita Louise qualify for this distinction.
The Little Princess was the first time I saw Anita Louise and it set me off on an “Anita Louise Movie” watching and collecting venture. If you’ve never seen The Little Princess – or haven’t watched it in a while – I believe you’ll become just as big a fan of Anita Louise as I am.
When that happens, I can certainly recommend some good movies.
I also believe you’ll fall in love with Shirley Temple and with her lightweight, fun, and heartwarming movies. I don’t have to tell you that we live in somewhat perilous times right now. There’s a lot of controversy, contention, and full-on craziness out in the world. I can guarantee you this to the tune of 110 percent… a good old Shirley Temple movie will make it all fade away.
What’s not to love about that?!