Film Review of The Little Princess: Shirley Temple in Drama With Cesar Romero and Arthur Treacher

by DerdriuMarriner

A charming eight-year-old shows love for her doll, her father, her horse, her instructors, and her queen in the 1939 film version of "The Little Princess."

A widower moves his only child from their happy home in India to privileged schooling in England. He trusts in her safe happiness while he goes into battle. Exactly how high or low will be war’s tolls and peace’s joys in “The Little Princess”?

Child prodigy Shirley Temple is joined by a stellar cast, including:
• Richard Greene (Aug. 25, 1918 – June 1, 1985), whose swooningly dimpled smile and energetic portrayal in the lead role in the British TV series, "The Adventures of Robin Hood," sixteen years later, from 1955 to 1960, set an unforgettable standard for the charismatic outlaw of Sherwood Forest;
• Cesar Romero (Feb. 15, 1907 – Jan. 1, 1994), Cuban American actor whose portrayal of Joker in the 1960s American TV series, "Batman," was recognized in TV Guide's 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time;
• Arthur Treacher (July 23, 1894 - Dec. 14, 1975), English actor and World War I veteran, who appeared in three other films with Shirley Temple ( "Curly Top" in 1935, "Stowaway" in 1936, and "Heidi" in 1937).

"The Little Princess" was the first of three Shirley Temple films directed successively by director Walter Lang (Aug. 10, 1896 – Feb. 7, 1972):
• "The Little Princess" in 1939,
• "Susannah of the Mounties" in 1939,
• "The Blue Bird" in 1940.

screenshot of Shirley Temple as Sara in "The Little Princess"
screenshot of Shirley Temple as Sara in "The Little Princess"


Young hearts can know what maturity and reason ignore in The Little Princess by writers Walter Ferris and Ethel Hill; producers Gene Markey and Darryl F. Zanuck; and director Walter Lang. Arthur C. Miller and William Skall; Louis Loeffler; and Charles Maxwell, Cyril J. Mockridge, Samuel Pokrass, and Herbert W. Spencer handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases Twentieth Century-Fox’s studios.

The 94-minute film adapts Frances Hodgson Burnett’s (November 24, 1849 - October 29, 1924) 1905-published novel A Little Princess. Its distributor was Twentieth Century-Fox. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were March 10 and 17, 1939.

The movie begins with Captain Reginald Crewe (Ian Hunter), son of Sir George Crewe, traveling from India to Transvaal for the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902). Daughter Sara (Shirley Temple) enrolls in Amanda Minchin’s (Mary Nash) London School for Girls. She likes:

  • Her doll Emily;
  • Riding instructor Geoffrey Hamilton (Richard Greene), Lord Wickham’s (Miles Mander) grandson;
  • Tutor Rose (Anita Louise).

Reginald and Sara arrange to remember each other at 2 p.m. on birthday #8. Solicitor Barrows (E.E. Clive) interrupts festivities to reveal Reginald’s:

  • Death during Mafeking’s 217-day siege, October 1899-May 1900;

  • Property confiscation by Boer forces.

Amanda orders:

  • Celebrations ended;

  • Sara moved into scullery maid Becky’s (Sybil Jason) attic quarters;

  • Sara’s possessions sold.

Geoffrey enlists. Amanda fires Rose, whom she raised as a foundling and who wears husband Geoffrey’s ring on a necklace. Amanda’s brother/elocution professor Hubert (Arthur Treacher) joins the war effort after cavorting through “Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road” with Sara.

From across the way, Ram Dass (Cesar Romero) chats in Hindustani with Sara. He gives Becky and Sara blankets, robes, slippers, and tablecloths. Sara remembers Ram’s breakfast muffins and tea when Lavinia (Marcia Mae Jones) taunts her with chocolate. She upends ashes on Lavinia’s pink shawl.

Amanda appears unannounced. She considers Ram Dass’ (Cesar Romero) gifts stolen. She locks Becky and Sara in.

Becky and Sara cross the ledge to Ram’s window. They exit by Lord Wickham’s (Miles Mander) main entrance. Police nab Becky. Sara runs to the Veterans Hospital.

No one can enter for one hour. Sara gets into the room of the royal visit. Wheelchair-bound Queen Victoria (Beryl Mercer) hears Sara’s plight. She lets Sara search the hospital. Sara sees Geoffrey, whose war-wounded right arm is bandaged.

The movie ends with:

  • Amanda and the police arriving;

  • Sara concealing herself in the room where Reginald, shell-shocked and without identification papers, awaits transport to Edinburgh for surgery;

  • Sara hearing Reginald saying “Sara, Sara”;

  • Bertie maintaining Sara’s innocence of theft;

  • Reginald standing up with Sara’s help as Queen Victoria ends her visit with soldiers.


The Little Princess: Shirley Temple Dances with Mr. Bertie ~ Wotcher! Knocked Em' in the Old Kent Road ~ Shirley Temple and Arthur Treacher raise the spirits of veterans in London hospital in scene from "The Little Princess"

Published on YouTube on March 11, 2010 by aiken1 ~ URL:

The Little Princess (1939) ~ full-length movie

Uploaded Jan. 28, 2014, by Classic Film Channel to YouTube ~ URL:



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Image Credits


screenshot of Shirley Temple as Sara in "The Little Princess": Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons @

aiken1. "The Little Princess: Shirley Temple Dances with Mr. Bertie." YouTube, @

Classic Film Channel. "The Little Princess (1939)." YouTube, Jan. 28, 2014, @


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

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The Little Princess

Danbury Mint: Shirley Temple in dream sequence from "The Little Princess"

Shirley Temple Portrait Doll - Little Princess by Elke Hutchens

Shirley Temple Black's autobiography

Child Star: An Autobiography

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 02/02/2024, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/22/2014

Mira, I'm glad that you're appreciating Shirley's films. Me, too, I also found "Honeymoon" to be fun.

Mira on 02/19/2014

How funny that the solution was such an easy one. :) When clueless about a character, copy-paste it from somewhere :):)
I noticed you set about canvassing Shirley Temple movies. I'm so happy you're doing that as I first heard about her as a child and yet didn't remember watching any movies with her past my adolescence years. I'm glad I can watch them now. The Honeymoon one was a lot of fun, quite a good comedy. I cannot wait to watch the others you wrote about.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/19/2014

Mira, Thank you for noticing that I've reached 100 articles! I'm so pleased that an article on Shirley Temple clinched that benchmark for me. :-)
Actually, I didn't type in the stars. They are in the YouTube title, which I copy-pasted onto the YouTube module here. I'm glad that the stars were retained in the copy-pasting.

Mira on 02/19/2014

Congrats on reaching 100 articles, Derdriu! I can't wait to watch this movie, too. Like those stars in the title of the YouTube video (around "Free Full Movies"). How did you type them?:)

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