Film Review of Wee Willie Winkie: Shirley Temple and Cesar Romero in Adventure Film

by DerdriuMarriner

Characters played by Cesar Romero and Shirley Temple bring peace to the Khyber Pass in the 1937 film version of "Wee Willie Winkie."

A lovely mother faces poverty when her husband dies. Will she find second chances at love by opting to live in northern India or will in-laws and rebels frustrate the best efforts of her daughter, the charming, prescient “Wee Willie Winkie”?

"Wee Willie Winkie" was the first of two films in which Cuban American actor Cesar Romero (February 15, 1907 – Jan. 1, 1994) and Shirley Temple appeared together. Two years later, in 1939, they shared scenes in "The Little Princess."

"Wee Willie Winkie" also was the first of two films Shirley shared with Victor McLaglen (Dec. 10, 1886 – Nov. 7, 1959). Ten years later Shirley and Victor appeared in "Ford Apache."

Director John Ford (Feb. 1, 1894 – Aug. 31, 1973) directed Shirley Temple again, a decade later, in 1948 western, "Fort Apache."

Shirley Temple is costumed in regimental uniform as Priscilla "Winkie" Williams in film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's short story, Wee Willie Winkie.

Shirley Temple breaks from filming "Wee Willie Winkie" to cuddle a lamb.
Shirley Temple breaks from filming "Wee Willie Winkie" to cuddle a lamb.


A charming girl combines effective diplomacy and soldiering in Wee Willie Winkie by writers Julien Josephson and Ernest Pascal; producers Gene Markey and Darryl F. Zanuck; and director John Ford. Arthur C. Miller, Walter Thompson and Alfred Newman handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases Chatsworth’s Iverson Movie Ranch in California.

The 100-minute adventure film adapts Rudyard Kipling’s (December 30, 1865 - January 18, 1936) story. Its distributor was 20th Century-Fox. Its LA; Baltimore, Richmond, and Philadelphia; NYC-premiere; and USA-release dates were June 25; July 16; 23; and July 30, 1937. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Art Direction.

The movie begins with Sergeant Donald MacDuff (Victor McLaglen) meeting impoverished, widowed Joyce Williams (June Lang) and daughter Priscilla (Shirley Temple) at a north Indian train station in 1897. Priscilla retrieves a talisman which captured rebel leader Khoda Khan (Cesar Romero) drops.

Joyce’s father-in-law (C. Aubrey Smith) commands the fort. Priscilla concludes that Colonel Williams disdains bad soldiers, children and women. She decides to prove the wrongness of his prejudices by training to be a private. Errand boy/Private Mott (Douglas Scott) is unwilling to help. Priscilla looks to Lieutenant Brandes (Michael Whalen). Coppy refers Priscilla to Donald.

Donald calls Priscilla Wee Willie Winkie in honor of William Miller’s (August 1810 - August 20, 1872) 1841-published rhyme. Priscilla considers Private Winkie the credible, worthy name for a wannabe soldier to Queen Victoria (May 24, 1819 - January 22, 1901). Donald gives Mott’s new uniform for Priscilla to wear. Priscilla returns the talisman during a visit to Khoda.

Donald holds special drills. Priscilla learns marching. The Colonel punishes the drill’s participants. He relegates Joyce and Priscilla to quarters. Priscilla nevertheless succeeds in:

  • Conveying the Colonel’s servant/Khoda’s spy Mohammed Dihn’s (Willie Fung) note to Khoda;

  • Convincing the Colonel to escort Joyce to the company dance.

Rebels manage to release Khoda. The Colonel orders Coppy’s arrest for deserting his post to dance with Joyce. Joyce threatens to leave.

Rebels cut the town’s communication wires. Donald gets wounded during morning patrol. Before dying, he receives Priscilla’s:

  • Bouquet of stolen flowers;

  • Rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”.

The Colonel tells Priscilla that Donald’s death is Khoda’s fault.

Mohammed accompanies Priscilla to Khyber Pass. Priscilla becomes Khoda’s hostage. Khoda and his chieftains mock Priscilla’s suggestion of resolving issues with the Colonel.

The Colonel commands the regiment to attack if Priscilla is not released. Khoda and the Colonel know that rebels outnumber soldiers. The Colonel treks up to Khoda’s fortress.

The movie ends with:

  • Khoda agreeing to peace negotiations after snipers fire at the Colonel and Priscilla runs to protect her grandfather;

  • Mott complimenting Priscilla upon her soldiering;

  • The Colonel and Priscilla reviewing the troops.


Shirley Temple Wee Willie Winkie 1937: scenes

Published on YouTube on Jan 18, 2016, by Shirley Temple ~ URL:



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


Image Credits


Shirley Temple is costumed in regimental uniform as Priscilla "Winkie" Williams in film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's short story, Wee Willie Winkie.
Shirley Temple breaks from filming "Wee Willie Winkie" to cuddle a lamb.: Amanda Garrett @oldhollywood21, via Twitter Aug. 4, 2019, @

Shirley Temple. "Shirley Temple Wee Willie Winkie 1937." YouTube, Jan. 18, 2016, @

Kate Gabrielle. "Shirley Temple sings Auld Lang Syne." YouTube, Dec. 19, 2010, @


Winkie (Shirley Temple) bids final farewell, with song "Auld Lang Syne," to dying Donald (Victor McLaglen)

Shirley Temple sings Auld Lang Syne ~ Uploaded to YouTube on December 19, 2010 by scathinglybrilliant ~ URL:
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Wee Willie Winkie

Shirley Temple in "Wee Willie Winkie": 1986 Danbury Mint porcelain 14" doll

green & blue plaid tam (cap); beige jacket; green & blue plaid kilt with white trim & black tassels on front; white spats and black shoes ~ included: stand for display + Certificate of Authenticity.
Shirley Temple "Wee Willie Winkie" Porcelain Doll 14" Dolls of The ...

"Wee Willie Winkie" movie poster

(27 x 40 Inches - 69cm x 102cm)
Wee Willie Winkie Movie Poster

Shirley Temple Black's autobiography

Child Star: An Autobiography

Shirley Temple as Priscilla 'Winkie' Williams and June Lang as Winkie's mother Joyce in "Wee Willie Winkie"

Wee Willie Winkie, June Lang, Shirley Temple, 1937

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: 01/04/2023, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/19/2014

Abby, You're right that, thus far, "Wee Willie Winkie" has not gotten much airtime. It's my understanding that Shirley Temple identified "Wee Willie Winkie" as her favorite film from her repertoire.

AbbyFitz on 02/19/2014

Very good review! This is another one of my favorite Shirley Temple films. It doesn't get aired much though.

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