A child with three sets of parents goes through life like a three-ruddered ship in Stowaway by writers William M. Conselman, Nat Perrin, and Arthur Sheekman; producer Buddy G. DeSylva; and director William A. Seiter. Arthur C. Miller, Lloyd Nosler; and Mack Gordon and Harry Revel handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s Movietone City.
The 87-minute musical adapts Samuel G. Engel’s (1904-1984) story. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were December 18 and 25, 1936.
The movie begins with orphan Barbara Stewart (Shirley Temple) becoming Rev. and Mrs. Alfred Kruikshank’s (William Stack, Helen Jerome Eddy) ward. Ching-Ching’s parents die during village uprisings. Bandits invade Sanchow.
Alfred insists upon Ching-Ching’s remaining in Sanchow. Magistrate Sun Lo (Philip Ahn) gets his brother Chang (Willie Fung) to escort Ching-Ching to another brother’s home in Shanghai. Chang grabs Ching-Ching’s money and scrams.
Ching-Ching gets lost. She helps 27-year-old Tommy Randall (Robert Young) buy souvenir dragon’s heads. Tommy pays for Ching-Ching’s lunch and Pekingese dog Mr. Woo’s (Ching-Ching) soup bone.
Tommy carouses with Colonel (Eugene Pallette). Ching-Ching chases Mr. Woo, who chases a cat. Ching-Ching sleeps in the trunk while Tommy drives the ship on board.
Ching-Ching hides in Ruth Hope’s (Helen Westley) and Susan Parker’s (Alice Faye) cabin. Susan is Ruth’s son Richard’s (Allan Lane) fiancée. Richard makes less than $10,000/year after two years exporting apes, ivory and peacocks from Bangkok.
SS Victoria’s Captain (Robert Greig) awards Susan Ching-Ching’s temporary guardianship. Ruth catches:
She wires Richard to advance meeting his childhood sweetheart.
Ching-Ching and Susan attend Hong Kong’s vaudeville show. Richard and Ruth observe Tommy carrying Susan across muddy streets. They take Susan back to the ship. Ching-Ching and Tommy visit a tapestry shop.
Tommy accidentally clasps another child’s hand. Police jail Ching-Ching and Tommy for kidnapping. The Captain posts bail.
The Captain anticipates Ching-Ching’s placement in Shanghai’s missionary girls’ home. For losing a $10,000 breach of promise suit, Tommy cannot adopt Ching-Ching. He suggests:
Richard and Ruth are against adoption. Susan dumps Richard. Susan and Tommy get married in name only.
The movie ends with:
Susan going from San Francisco to Reno to divorce Tommy and marry Richard;
Judge J.D. Booth (J. Edward Bromberg) ruling against divorce;
Ching-Ching – who elsewhere performs “Goodnight, My Love” and “You Gotta S-M-I-L-E To Be H-A-Double P-Y” – singing “That’s What I Want for Christmas” to her adoptive parents before the family Christmas tree.