OUR LITTLE GIRL (Fox, 1935), directed by John Robertson, a domestic drama taken from a story "Heaven's Gate," stars Shirley Temple, Joel McCrea and someone by the name of Rosemary Ames (in her final screen appearance following a very brief movie career). Similar in theme to RKO Radio's WEDNESDAY'S CHILD (1934) that revolves around a boy (Frankie Thomas) whose happy home is disrupted by the separation of his parents (Edward Arnold and Karen Morley), OUR LITTLE GIRL centers around the moppet Temple facing the same situation of her own, but without any courtroom or child custody battles, which might have helped quicken the pace or added more interest to a somewhat slow scenario.
Set in a small town, the plot introduces the Middletons as a happy family: Donald (Joel McCrea), a respectable doctor; Elsa (Rosemary Ames), his loving wife, and their little girl, Molly (Shirley Temple) who looks forward to their twice a year family picnic each May and September Saturday at a park called Heaven's Gate. Donald works long and hard on his experiments along with his assistant, Sarah Boiton (Erin O'Brien-Moore), a nurse who's secretly in love with him. Because he's away from home too often, Elsa spends much of her lonely hours with Rolfe Brent (Lyle Talbot), her former horse breading beau who recently has moved into town from Europe. Due to Donald's misunderstanding and jealously towards Elsa and Rolfe, the couple argue, leading little Molly to find herself caught in the middle of things, and unable to comprehend why her father will no longer be living with them anymore. After overhearing a conversation between her mother and Rolfe that has her believing that she's the cause for her parent's separation, Molly decides to take matters into her own hands by leaving home.
A minor Temple drama with little of the Temple formula intact. Aside from singing a lullaby to her doll and later playing Stephen Foster's "Banjo on My Knee" on the piano, there are no songs nor dance numbers. Considering its theme, song interludes have no precedence in the story, though some slight doses of humor including Temple on the seesaw with her dog, Sniffy, as examples that keep the narrative from becoming strictly melodramatic. Unlike her more recent releases, OUR LITTLE GIRL, is the only one of Temple's leading roles that can be categorized as strictly "B" product, considering it being the shortest (63 minutes) of her starring film roles.
Others in the supporting cast consist of Poodles Hannerton as the Circus Performer; Margaret Armstrong (Amy, the Middleton housekeeper); Ruth Owin (Alice) and Leonard Carey (Jackson), each as Brent's servants; and best of all, J. Farrell MacDonald billed as Mr. Tramp, playing a homeless man who comforts little Molly by listening to her story as to why she's leaving home. This little scene is well handled, with some humor in spoken dialog by Shirley thrown in for good measure. Watch for it.
OUR LITTLE GIRL became one of many Temple movies to become available on video cassette during the late 1980s and then on DVD in both black and white and colorized formats. Formerly presented on The Disney Channel in the 1980s in colorized version, it then turned up on American Movie Classics as part of its Sunday morning "Kids Classics" (1996-2001), and finally on the Fox Movie Channel in its original black and white format. Bob Dorian, former host of AMC, once commented in his profile about OUR LITTLE GIRL in saying that its working title "Heaven's Gate" had been changed prior to release due to it the name suggesting a cemetery, leaving an indication as being a movie about death.
Although OUR LITTLE GIRL didn't turn out as interesting as the rarely seen WEDNESDAY'S CHILD (1934), nor become the Academy Award winner as KRAMER Vs. KRAMER (1979), it's one of those little movies that might have been better had it not been hampered by a weak script. Had it not been for "Our Little Girl" Shirley Temple in the title role keeping the story alive with her know-how performance, then this minor effort of hers would certainly have ended up along with many old Fox Films to be either lost, forgotten or both. (**1/2)
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