The Littlest Rebel (1935)

The Littlest Rebel

Starring: Shirley Temple, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Karen Morley,
John Boles, Jack Holt, Frank McGlynn Sr.

Directed By: David Butler

Year: 1935

Plot: Virgie Cary’s happy Southern plantation life is shattered when war breaks out and her dear dad must go fight, while her mother falls ill. But, nonetheless, the irrepressible Virgie manages to meet President Lincoln and tap-dance her way into the heart of old Uncle Billy.

My Review and Thoughts:

Here is a little gem lost by time. This is one of Shirley Temples golden little movie’s that is not often showed anymore due to it being not political correct. Turner Classics Movies sometimes shows it with a warning and also in the middle of the night. I for one believe this to be one the greatest Shirley Temple films.

This has many things that might upset certain people due to its racial moments. Shirley Temple is painted black, she is part of a southern plantation where her family owns slaves and so on, but that was the time period and the situation of history that should not be forgotten and should not be hidden just because certain people are upset.

This has a fantastic cast with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson giving a wonderful performance with Shirley Temple in Polly Wolly Doodle.

This is a sweet beautiful and very comical moment in the film and one that leaves the viewer a lasting impression of olden day’s cinema done just right. The Littlest Rebel is sweet, innocent, truthful, compassionate and stark and in your face showcasing the reality of plantation’s and the war and those having to fight.

This is classic long forgotten about and swept under the carpet but as long as there is diehard cinema fans of classic cinema it will always be remembered as another Shirley Temple treat. Her talent was remarkable and her mark on cinema history will always be known and remembered.

The movie showcases the stereotypical aspect of slaves being dumb or moronic and also blacks being used as entertainment so all the whites can watch and laugh. It showcases moments where a black house slave is ordered to wipe a white boy’s face feeding into that political incorrect atmosphere of the movie.

Virgie who is played by the very sweet and adorable Shirley Temple is having a birthday party and it is interrupted with the information that the war has started. Virgie’s dad played by the wonderful and very handsome John Boles has to head out like all the men to defend the great south against the Yankee invaders.

This is a movie filled with great humor and giddy responses to the laugh out nature of some hysterical moments throughout. Shirley is at the top of her game, her sweet self-shines on camera. Soon the story thickens and Virgie’s life is invaded by the yanks. She must hide painting her face black in those old minstrel ways. The mean old Yankees come in and raid the house and steal.

You get flashes of the war, fights, explosions and the reality of the civil war. The basics are in this movie like all Temples movies her cute little smile, her song and dance. The drama is mixed with the classic humor of the golden era. One of my favorite moments is when Shirley Temple shoots a rock from her sling shot at a Yankee hitting him and then singing Way Down South in Dixie

The movie captures the horror of an innocent little girl’s life turning upside down from wealth to poverty, to experiencing the reality of war and dealing with death. The main delight of the whole picture is not just Shirley Temple although that’s is a major focus but the other delight is Bill Robinson and his tap dancing and when Temple and Robinson go at it dancing it’s a priceless perfect moment for the viewer.

There is a really great thought provoking moment where Virgie questions her daddy about telling a lie and he says its war and she responds why it is not a sin to lie in war, when he responds I don’t know why it isn’t a sin in anything we do in war. There is a great underlining message about war in this movie and how war is wrong and how we can learn a lot from children.

This movie is pure entertainment at its best, the music, the dance, the song and the meaning makes one feel giddy and makes one smile and laugh and feel all emotional. The moment where Virgie meets with President Lincoln to beg and plead for her daddy is truly a filmed moment that bleeds masterpiece. Temple’s tears and the remarks and situation’s with Lincoln and her sharing an apple is a moment in cinema that should never be forgotten.

A pure piece of solid entertainment and a great film to always remember.