Film Review of The Little Colonel: Shirley Temple and Bill Bojangles Robinson in 1935 Comedy Drama

by DerdriuMarriner

Reconstruction does not keep characters played by Bill Bojangles Robinson and Shirley Temple from stair dancing in the 1935 film version of "The Little Colonel."

Kentucky may have been neutral during the War Between the States, but Kentuckians were not.

A Colonel rejects his only surviving child for loving a Northerner.

Will an equally stubborn granddaughter close or widen the rift in “The Little Colonel”?

"The Little Colonel" marks the first of four films featuring Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949) and Shirley Temple:

• "The Little Colonel" in 1935,

• "The Littlest Rebel" in 1935,

• "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" in 1938, and

• "Just Around the Corner" in 1938.

Shirley Temple with U.S. Marine Corps visitors -- Lieut. Zeke Bailey [left], Capt. Hayne Boyden -- on the set of “The Little Colonel":

ca. 1935, Santa Monica, California
Horace Mazet Collection
Horace Mazet Collection

 

Stubbornness can be overcome in The Little Colonel by writer William M. Conselman; producer Buddy G. DeSylva; and director David Butler. Arthur C. Miller and Cyril J. Mockridge handle cinematography and music. Filming showcases California’s Movietone City.

The 81-minute film adapts Annie Fellows Johnston’s (1863 - October 5, 1931) 1895-published novel. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its USA-release date was February 22, 1935.

The movie begins with Elizabeth Lloyd (Evelyn Venable) making father/Colonel Lloyd (Lionel Barrymore):

  • Happy by harping and singing “Love”s Young Dream”;

  • Unhappy by loving Jack Sherman (John Lodge), a Northerner whose mother was Virginia-born.

He cannot forget his son’s death during the War Between the States. He dashes a valuable vase -- for whose near-toppling he chides Walker (Bill Robinson) -- after Elizabeth reveals marriage with approval and eloping without.

Six years later, Elizabeth and Philadelphia-born daughter Lloyd (Shirley Temple) accompany Jack west. Colonel Gray (Robert Warwick) gives Lloyd an honorary colonel’s title. Elizabeth occupies mother Amanthis’ Lloydsburg cottage.

Lloyd finds Elizabeth crying after Colonel tosses his bouquet upon discovering his new neighbor’s identity. After Aunt Sally Tyler (Lucille Ward) arrives from Louisville for chicken soup lunch, Lloyd leaves to make mud pies with Henry Clay (Nyanza Potts) and May Lily (Avonne Jackson). She muddies Colonel’s suit after he prods her with his cane and before she hides behind Mom Beck (Hattie McDaniel). Becky presents grandfather to granddaughter and vice versa.

Lloyd gets Colonel’s bedsheets to baptize Henry. Colonel has Maria (Geneva Williams) dry Lloyd’s clothes and Walker get clothes from an attic trunk. He imagines Amanthis’ harping to Lloyd singing “Love’s Young Dream.”

While playing with toy soldiers, Colonel overturns Lloyd’s soldiers. Lloyd upends the table. She vows anger management if Colonel does likewise.

Jack appears broke and fever-stricken. Doctor Scott (William Burress) convinces Elizabeth to send Lloyd and dog Fritz to Colonel’s. Lloyd and Walker dance upstairs and to “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Jack accepts Union Pacific Railroad representative Jeremy Higgins’ (Charles C. Higgins) $5,000 right-of-way offer. Elizabeth gets the deed from the bank. Lloyd hears Hull (Alden Chase) and Swazey (Sidney Blackmer) threaten Jack for not selling the deed for what he paid them. She negotiates scary woods to Colonel’s overseer’s (Captain C.E. Anderson) cottage. She threatens to shun such a hateful, wicked old man when Colonel refuses to help.

The movie ends with Colonel:

  • Arriving as Swazey takes Jack’s deed from Elizabeth;

  • Gunning the pistol from Hull’s right hand;

  • Having Sheriff Williams (John Ince) arrest Hull and Swazey;

  • Hugging Elizabeth and shaking Jack’s hand;

  • Saluting Union-style to Lloyd’s Confederate-style salute at “pink” family-and-friends festivities.

 

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple in famous stairway dance

Little Colonel Bojangles Dance ~ Uploaded to YouTube on February 28, 2010 by mysticmoon1984 ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtHvetGnOdM

"The Little Colonel" (1935) ~ "Oh! Susanna" tap dance duet of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple

Uploaded to YouTube on February 2, 2009 by Maria Eduarda Bouzon ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKbk9U-PVS4

Acknowledgment

 

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

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple tap dance to "Oh! Susanna":

14" x 11" photo print of one of iconic scenes from "The Little Colonel"
Shirley Temple Little Colonel

Kindle edition:

ten stories in "Little Colonel" series, authored by Annie Fellows Johnston and published 1895 - 1908
The Complete Little Colonel Series by Annie Fellows Johnston

Shirley Temple, age 7, with Shirley Temple doll

American Film Actress Shirley Temple, with Supposedly Look-Alike Doll

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: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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