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 »
After Southern belle Elizabeth Lloyd runs off to marry Yankee Jack Sherman, her father, a former Confederate colonel during the Civil War, vows to never speak to her again. Several years ... See full summary »
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C. Aubrey Smith
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 <email@example.com>
Be sure to have your nitroglycerine tablets and defibrullator handy when you watch this one!!
WARNING: Watching this film might cause your head to explode! I'm just sayin'.....
"The Littlest Rebel" begins in an insanely over-idealized view of the South during the time of slavery. Little Virgie (Shirley Temple) is having a birthday party and all the slaves on the plantation are thrilled to be allowed to serve her! All the slaves are very well-fed and dressed and so happy! It's THAT ridiculous a view of slavery!! Yes, these slaves actually root for the Confederate Army and would probably volunteer to be slaves--it's THAT ridiculous. When their land is overrun by Yankee soldiers, the slaves stick around and keep working for their beloved owners! And, to further solidify this insane view of blacks, Willie Best (I guess Steppin Fetchit wasn't available) is on hand to act sub-human and harmless. And, there's that darling little scene at the 20 minute mark where Shirley is in black-face to avoid the Yankees finding her (and she looks a lot like the Aunt Jemima character)!! The film clearly promotes a ridiculously bigoted and idealized view of slavery, I advise parents to watch this with their kids and folks with heart conditions to have their nitro tablets and a defibrillator nearby just in case!!
The rest of the film has to do with the war. While Daddy is away, Momma and Virgie hang on--waiting for each trip he makes back through enemy lines on his scouting expeditions. However, eventually, Momma becomes seriously ill and Daddy once again sneaks through the lines--only to see her moments before her death. Now, poor Virgie needs some place to live and Daddy decides to sneak her off to Richmond. But, to get there, he needs to sneak her with him--and that won't be easy. It gets a bit ridiculous here, as a sympathetic Northern Colonel actually helps him in this task because he also thinks Virgie is wonderful (EVERYBODY thinks she's wonderful, actually). But, when they are caught, it's up to Virgie to save the day. How? Well, see this for a sweet but 100% ridiculous ending.
This film is quite offensive but, like all of Shirley's films, highly entertaining. Her wonderful dancing with Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and ultra-sweet persona carry the film---making you enjoy it despite the utter silliness of the plot. Well worth seeing even if it is a SERIOUSLY flawed film.
By the way, I really agree with JohnnyOldSoul's review when he says that the best way to combat racism is NOT to sweep it under the rug (i.e., ban this film) but to talk about it. Yes, the film is VERY offensive, but it also gives us an interesting history lesson about how bad things were racially in the 1930s--when the "Birth of a Nation" view of slavery was pretty much assumed to be true. Plus, seeing it shows us just have far we've come.
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