Saturday, May 2, 2020

Family Fun Saturday - Curly Top

20th Century Fox, 1935
Starring Shirley Temple, Rochelle Hudson, John Boles, and Arthur Treacher
Directed by Irving Cummings
Music by Ray Henderson; Lyrics by Ted Koehler and others

Shirley Temple was at the height of her popularity as 20th Century Fox's number one star when this one came out. It's technically a remake of the Mary Pickford vehicle Daddy Long Legs, refashioned for the time and for Temple's sweet-little-girl persona. How does the story of a bachelor who adopts two girls anonymously- and falls for the older one - look nowadays? Let's head to the Lakeside Orphanage, just as one particular little miss is introducing us to her pets, and find out...

The Story: Elizabeth Blair (Temple) and her older sister Mary (Hudson) live at the orphanage with Elizabeth's pet pony and duck. Grouchy Mrs. Higgins (Rafaela Ottiano) threatens to take away Elizabeth's beloved friends after she brings them in to visit the other girls. She gets into even more trouble when she dances on tables during lunch and makes fun of the head trustee. Another trustee, Edward Morgan (Boles), likes Elizabeth's spunk and claims that he's taking her and Mary doing it on behalf of a non-existent "Hiram Jones."

While Elizabeth charms Morgan's servants, especially the butler Reynolds (Treacher) and his aunt Genevieve (Esther Dale), Mary and Edward gradually fall for each other, but Edward won't admit it. Thinking he doesn't love her, Mary claims she's going to marry a handsome young Navy pilot named Jimmy Rogers (Maurice Murphy), but the truth is, she doesn't really love him...and Elizabeth is determined to bring both of her favorite adults together!

The Song and Dance: Charming Temple romantic comedy is best-known for introducing one of her most iconic songs, "Animal Crackers In My Soup." It's also one of four movies she did with Treacher; they always worked very well together, and this one is no exception. There's some hilarious scenes, especially when Temple is making fun of the trustee in his coat and hat and towards the end with the servants.

One thing I like - the fact that this is an adaptation that sticks at least somewhat closely to the original story allows it to avoid several of the cliches that run rampant in Temple's movies, including a nasty grouch trying to take her away from her family.

Favorite Number: The movie kicks off with "Animal Crackers," which has Shirley performing the sweetly silly song for the girls in the orphanage while dancing on tables. She poses as Cupid during Boles' big ballad "It's All So New to Me," which he performs on the piano after he realizes he loves Mary. "When I Grow Up" is the big number for Shirley at a benefit performance for the orphanage. She ages from child to woman getting married to elderly lady, and while the song itself isn't bad, the concept and execution are more than a little bizarre. Treacher and the servants do better with a brief reprise later. The other big number here is the title song almost at the finale. Boles plays as Shirley does a rather nifty solo tap dance on his piano.

What I Don't Like: Mary is completely unnecessary, her Navy boyfriend in the second half even moreso. When we do see Mary, she's stiff as a board, and Rogers really fails to make any kind of an impression. Most of the songs pale besides "Animal Crackers," and there's that strange "When I Grow Up" number for Temple, too.

The Big Finale: Cute enough time-passer if you're a romantic comedy fan or have kids who love Temple.

Home Media: Like most of Temple's films, it's easy to find on streaming or DVD.

DVD - The Shirley Temple Collection: Volume One
Amazon Prime

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