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Movie Review

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

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1 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
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Featuring: Shirley Temple, Randolph Crane Scott, Jack Haley, Gloria Stuart, Helen Westley
Director: Allan Dwan
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Distributor: _____

This is one of the later Shirley Temple “formula” films, in which Shirley reprises several of her songs from previous films and shares the stage with more than the usual number of her “repeating costars.”

Rebecca Winstead (Temple) has lost both her parents; and her stepfather (William Demarest) dumps her for good at her Aunt Miranda’s (Helen Westley) doorstep after she fails to win a radio talent contest. Actually, she did win the contest—but there was a mixup at the studio; and now the promoter, Anthony Kent (Randolph Scott), can’t find her. By a strange coincidence, Kent’s country getaway residence is next door to Aunt Miranda’s farm. However, Aunt Miranda (similar to Westley’s character in the 1936 version of “Show Boat”) claims to despise show business people, although she’s really not as tough as she sounds. The action is fast and furious as Kent rediscovers his “Little Miss America;” as everyone has to pull the wool over Aunt Miranda’s eyes in order to get Rebecca on the air; and as some more fast thinking is required to outwit the stepfather, who is interested in Rebecca only for the money he can make from marketing her.

Besides Scott and Westley, the “Temple repeater” actors in this film include Jack Haley (“The Wizard of Oz”), Gloria Stuart (yes, this is “Old Rose” from the 1997 version of “Titanic”), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Slim Summerville. In addition to her reprised songs, Temple performs “Old Straw Hat” and “Come and Get Your Happiness,” and does a dance number with Robinson. There are also some high-quality song performances by the adult members of the imaginary radio show.

Content warnings: There’s some crude and deceitful behavior by Rebecca’s stepfather (portrayed negatively). Rebecca, her grown cousin (Stuart) and Kent also deceive several people. Beating the stepfather at his own game is somewhat justifiable; deceiving Aunt Miranda (just because they disagree with her judgment) is not. There are also a lot of insults thrown around among the adult cast; the non-realistic acting style lessens their impact somewhat. This film and most other Temple films do have objectionable elements if you look closely enough, but they compare favorably to anything coming out of Hollywood today.

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