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Movie Review

Poor Little Rich Girl

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

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Primary Audience:
1 hr. 19 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
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Cover art for “Poor Little Rich Girl”
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Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Jack Haley, Gloria Stuart, Michael Whalen
Director: Irving Cummings
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck and Raymond Griffith
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Barbara Barry, the lead role in this Shirley Temple film, may not be quite as perfect and charming as most of Shirley’s characters. But considering that she’s rich, spoiled, neglected and secluded, she’s not all that bad.

After years of over-protectiveness, Barbara’s widowed exec father is persuaded to send her to a private school. While escorting Barbara, her governess is hit by a car (this is offscreen, and it’s not clear whether she’s killed or only comatose) and Barbara wanders off in search of adventure, taking the name of her favorite storybook character, the orphan Betsy Ware. Barbara/Betsy stays at the home of a poor Italian organ grinder and enjoys the family togetherness. Later she moves in with the Dolans (Alice Faye and Jack Haley) who believe her orphan story, recognize her talent, and add her to their stage act by passing her off as their daughter Bonnie. Eventually, Barbara/Betsy/Bonnie sings on a radio show sponsored by a company in direct competition with her father.

The song-and-dance routines (by Temple, and by Faye and Haley who do the “You Gotta Eat your Spinach” song) are excellent.

Content: The plot is heavy on misdirection and misunderstanding, but eventually the mess is untangled and everyone finds each other. Some of the adults engage in deceit. Barbara/Betsy/Bonnie is too young to understand the meaning of her actions; to her, the role-playing is just a game. There’s an old-fashioned fistfight as the Dolans rescue Barbara/Betsy/Bonnie from a creep who lives down the hall (he was probably not trying to molest her but “only” wanting to hold her for ransom). Then the Dolans turn themselves in for inadvertent kidnapping. Not surprisingly, things turn out better at the end than they were in the beginning.

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