Film Review of Curly Top: Shirley Temple in 1935 Musical

by DerdriuMarriner

Characters played by John Boles, Rochelle Hudson, and Shirley Temple sing and dance their way from Lakeside Orphanage to Long Island's Southampton in the 1935 film "Curly Top."

Film Review of Curly Top: How Characters Played by John Boles and Shirley Temple Dance and Sing Their Way From Lakeside to Southampton in The 1935 Film Version

Miserly trustees and strict supervisors can level private orphanages.

A tousle-headed waif’s humorous talent raises spirits on cold days.

Will a wealthy bachelor end his beneficence when the waif’s sister seems to love someone else in “Curly Top”?

"Curly Top" was the second of three films in which Texas-born John Boles (October 28, 1895 – February 27, 1969) appeared with Shirley Temple:
• "Stand Up and Cheer!" in 1934,
• "Curly Top" in 1935, and
• "The Littlest Rebel" in 1935.

"Curly Top" was the first of four films in which English actor Arthur Treacher (July 23, 1894 - December 14, 1975) appeared with Shirley:
• "Curly Top" in 1935,
• "Stowaway" in 1936,
• "Heidi" in 1937, and
• "The Little Princess" in 1939.

In "Curly Top," Shirley's signature phrase is "Oh my goodness."
• Arthur Treacher's signature phrase is "My word."

Actress Rochelle Hudson preceded "Curly Top" with the beloved role of grown-up Cosette in "Les Misérables," released on April 20, 1935.

Duck visible on left sleeve is reminiscent of Betsy, pet duck of orphan Elizabeth Blair (Shirley Temple) in "Curly Top"

Fox Film Corporation
Fox Film Corporation


A charming waif cherishes animals, family, and orphans in Curly Top by writers Arthur J. Beckhard and Patterson McNutt; producer Winfield R. Sheehan; and director Irving Cummings. John F. Seitz, Jack Murray, and Ray Henderson handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s Movietone City.

The 74-minute musical adapts Jean Webster’s (born Alice Jane Chandler Webster, 1876-1916) 1921-published novel Daddy-Long-Legs. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its USA-release date was July 26, 1935.

The movie begins with Elizabeth Blair (Shirley Temple) sheltering her pony from downpours. Lakeside Orphanage’s kindly matron Mrs. Henrietta Denham (Jane Darwell) finds Spunky sleeping in the bed next to Elizabeth’s. Strict superintendent Mrs. Higgins (Rafaela Ottiano) orders Betsy’s and Spunky’s sale. Elizabeth protests since the duck and pony were performing animals until Elizabeth’s vaudevillian parents’ deaths in an automobile accident.

Lakeside trustee James Wyckoff (Etienne Girardot) belittles heating drafty rooms. He favors selling Lakeside his company’s cough mixture. He hears Elizabeth mimicking him in her sister’s (Rochelle Hudson) composition, “Animal Crackers in My Soup”. He intends to send such a “wicked child” to a public institution. Mary Blair labels him a “hateful” and “mean” man.

Trustee Edward Morgan (John Boles) intervenes. He nicknames Elizabeth Curly Top. He pretends to be a lawyer who acts on the behalf of fictitious, wealthy, world-traveling businessman Hiram Jones. Elizabeth requires:

  • Mary’s removal from dormitory, kitchen, and laundry work;

  • Charity bazaars and variety shows to raise money for Lakeside.

Edward and Mary enjoy composing songs. The storyline gives Edward credit for composing “It’s All So New to Me” and “The Simple Things in Life” and Mary credit for “Animal Crackers in My Soup”. It gives no credit for “When I Grow Up”.

Edward’s Aunt Genevieve Graham (Esther Dale) keeps Betsy, Elizabeth, Mary and Spunky company in one of Long Island’s summer estates at Southampton. English butler Reynolds (Arthur Treacher) reacts to Elizabeth’s spontaneity by:

  • Dancing and singing “When I Grow Up” with cook (Billy Gilbert);

  • Saying “my word” to Elizabeth’s “Oh, my goodness”.

Edward buys Elizabeth a pony cart. He pays Mary’s music school tuition. He showers both sisters with clothes, jewelry and silk pajamas. He takes them water-skiing.

Navy pilot Jimmie Rogers (Maurice Murphy) asks Mary out dancing and flying. They become engaged after Edward denies Genevieve’s charges of envying Jimmie and loving Mary. Edward offers congratulations. He prepares to sail for Europe.

The movie ends with:

  • Mary breaking her engagement;

  • Edward identifying himself as Hiram;

  • Edward and Mary planning their marriage and European honeymoon;

  • Edward singing “Curly Top” to Elizabeth grand piano-top tapdancing;

  • Elizabeth stating “Oh, my word!”


Shirley Temple performs "Animal Crackers in My Soup," followed by her famous "Oh my goodness!" exclamation.

Shirley Temple : Animal Crackers In My Soup Extended Version ~ Uploaded to YouTube on March 3, 2008 by myvideosym ~ URL:

Curly Top: full length movie

Curly Top 1935 YouTube ~ Published on YouTube on January 22, 2014 by Bridie Harkin ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Curly Top

Shirley Temple in "Curly Top" as orphan Elizabeth Blair, fortuitously adopted by mysterious "Hiram Jones":

Elizabeth's benefactor showers Elizabeth and her sister Mary (Rochelle Hudson) with gifts, including a hula costume and ukulele.
Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple takes a bow in "Curly Top."

CURLY TOP, Shirley Temple, 1935.

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 09/15/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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