“Poor Little Rich Girl” was a 1936 remake of Mary Pickford’s 1917 silent film; fast forward to October 1943: Shirley Temple with Mary Pickford outside Hilton Home on set of Shirley’s film “Since You Went Away” (kate gabrielle [classic film scans], CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)
A little girl finds out what it is like being a Poor Little Rich Girl by writers Sam Hellman, Gladys Lehman Hellman, and Harry Tugend; producer Darryl F. Zanuck; and director Irving Cummings. John F. Seitz; Jack Murray; and Mack Gordon and Harry Revel handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s Movietone City.
The 79-minute musical adapts Eleanor Gates’ (1875-1951) and Ralph Spence’s (1890-1949) stories. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were June 25 and July 24, 1936.
The movie begins with widowed soap manufacturer Richard Barry (Michael Whalen) interviewing chorus girls for advertisements. He leaves when Collins (Sara Haden) exaggerates daughter Barbara’s (Shirley) sneezing thrice during dinner. Woodward (Jane Darwell) persuades Richard to board Barbara in the Adirondacks.
Collins chases a purse thief (Al Hill Jr.). She gets hit by a car and hospitalized. Barbara sneaks away from red-capped station porter Rufus Washington Jackson Lee (Red “Snowflake” Toones) to:
Relate everything to stories about two-year-old Betsy Ware, who lives in a red brick orphanage and meets dancing, green-coated Puddin’-Head;
Vacation Collins-style: become someone else and see new faces.
Barbara calls an Italian organ grinder (Henry Armetta) Betsy’s Tony. His middle name is Antonio. He names Barbara Bambina (“child”). Barbara shares spaghetti and sleeping quarters with Tony’s wife (Mathilde Comont) and five children. A voyeur watches.
Jimmy Dolan (Jack Haley) dances above Tony’s. Wife Jerry (Alice Faye) hears Barbara’s tapdanced responses. Barbara nicknames Jimmy Puddin’-Head. She promises to be Dolan, Dolan and Dolan’s daughter Bonnie. The voyeur watches.
An agent contacts advertising executive Margaret Allen (Gloria Stuart) about the Dolans’ audition. Barbara convinces Margaret’s boss, Simon Peck (Claude Gillingwater) – whom she calls Mr. Spindleshanks – to hire them for 13 weeks. The three perform nightly:
Shirley additionally sings:
“Buy a Bar of Barry’s”;
“Oh My Goodness”;
“When I’m with You”.
Richard dates Margaret. He recognizes Barbara’s voice on Dolan show #2’s broadcast. The school telephones confirmation of Barbara’s non-arrival. Richard tells Simon to detain Barbara.
Simon asks the Dolans to leave. Barbara confesses everything. Jerry and Jimmy fear arrest as kidnappers. They anonymously telephone Barbara’s whereabouts.
The Dolans decide against bolting. They get back just as the voyeur grabs Barbara to hold her for ransom. Jimmy overpowers the voyeur.
The movie ends with:
Police (Herbert Ashley) arresting the Dolans and the voyeur;
Barbara defending the Dolans;
Jerry and Jimmy getting released;
Margaret persuading Richard and Simon to merge companies.