The Little Colonel (1935) Director: David Butler
The first of four films starring Shirley Temple alongside Bill Robinson, The Little Colonel is a fun film of north and south comaraderie post-civil war, however portrayals of African Americans in the film will, no doubt, be troubling for modern audiences. Ironically, the famous scene of dancing on the staircase between Temple and Robinson was cut from many screenings of the film in the southern United States, primarily because it portrayed a black man in all-too favorable a light. Today, many see the portrayal of Bill Robinson as offensive for other reasons.
The plot takes place shortly following the civil war. Colonel Lloyd was a Confederate and still harbors great anger toward the north for their aggressive war against the south. His daughter, surprisingly, decides to marry a Yankee. In disappointment, he disowns her. The couple moves westward and has a daughter, whom they named little Lloyd Sherman. Eventually they move back to the south. One day, the Colonel spots her playing with a group of black children and is angry – but the two eventually become ‘Friend-emies’ in a playful fashion. The family is near destitute until the Union Pacific Railroad decides to come through their property, though they hold the Sherman family hostage to give them a deal for the deed of the property. In the end, they are saved by the “little Colonel” (Shirley Temple) as she convinces the old Colonel to come and rescue her parents. The film concludes with a happy scene of a family reconciled and re-connected.
The film is certainly a fun and “feel-good” film, though this viewer suspects there are better Shirley Temple films out there, and this one need not necessarily make the cut for a list of great films.