Shirley Temple's father, a rebel officer, sneaks back to his rundown plantation to see his family and is arrested. A Yankee takes pity and sets up an escape. Everyone is captured and the ... See full summary »
Shirley Temple's father, a rebel officer, sneaks back to his rundown plantation to see his family and is arrested. A Yankee takes pity and sets up an escape. Everyone is captured and the officers are to be executed. Shirley and "Bojangles" Robinson beg President Lincoln to intercede. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The play, The Littlest Rebel, opened in New York at the Liberty Theater on November 14, 1911 and closed in January 1912 after 55 performances. The opening night cast included William Farnum as Mr. Cary and Mary Miles Minter as Virgie Cary. See more »
Horribly racist--Shirley&Bojangles brilliant--difficult to watch
Where to start...?
Made in 1935, this bizarre story of the Civil War is told upside down. It's difficult to imagine what the studio was thinking when it made this film. I wonder what the movie-going public thought at the time. I can't imagine people north of the Mason-Dixon line would have appreciated it very much. Perhaps the studio was pandering to a Southern audience who was still smarting from the reality that their way of life was forever altered by the Civil War--and this film recreates (or perpetuates) a fantasy of the South's lovely, gentile way of life, in which everyone knew his place, and it all worked just fine.
In any case, in this movie, confederates and white Southerners are depicted as noble, intelligent, kind, good, and very much entitled to owning slaves. They are presented as quick-witted, distinguished, and morally superior to the Northerners. Not one of them has a Southern accent.
Northerners/Yankees, on the other hand, are made out to be dumb, vulgar, cruel, and inhumane--inexplicably oppressing the kindly Confederates. As viewers we're astonished when one of the bedeviled Northern Aggressors (some Southerners *still* in 2005 refer to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression) cuts Shirley's father a break and helps him out.
The slave characters are drawn 2 ways. The first is being so numb-skulled, mush-mouthed, and knuckle-dragging as to appear mentally retarded--and it's clear that this grotesque caricature is supposed to be screamingly funny. It's not. It's stomach-churn-caliber material.
The second way slaves are depicted is just brimming with love for their massahs, beside themselves with delight in their obedience to them--and even worse, trying to subvert the bad Yankees, since the slaves don't want to be freed.
Shirely Temple's black face disguise, her masquerading as a "pickinniny" (a small black slave child) is one of the more repugnant things I've ever seen in a movie.
Almost as bad is her character's regard for the slaves as idiot children--scolding them when she sees them stepping out of line (shaking her adorable little finger at them) and alternately treating them like her cute little pets.
A very uncomfortable film to watch. And aside from the dreadful racist historical context--oddly enough--Shirley Temple is quite glorious and the musical numbers are lively and fun.
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