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 »
Dimples Appleby lives with the pick-pocket grandfather in 19th century New York City. She entertains the crowds while he works his racket. A rich lady makes it possible for the girl to go legit. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is performed.
Shirley lives with a lighthouse keeper who rescued her when her parents drowned. A truant officer decides she should go to boarding school, but she's rescued by relatives. Buddy Ebsen dances "At The Codfish Ball" with Shirley.
Little Martha Jane, aka Little Miss Marker (Temple) is left with the bookmaker Sorrowful Jones by her dad as part of a bet on a horserace. Sorrowful (Menjou) and his group of fellow bookies... See full summary »
Ching-Ching gets lost in Shanghai and is befriended by American playboy Tommy Randall. She falls asleep in his car which winds up on a ship headed for America. Susan Parker, also on the ... See full summary »
Eddie Ellison is an ex-con who spent time in Sing-Sing prison. Kay marries him as soon as he serves his time. Five years later, Eddie and his ex-convict buddy Larry, have both gone straight... 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 <email@example.com>
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 »
No, you can't not see the racism here, but the race relations are not simple
The previous review of this movie begins with the question "Can you get past the racism of the era?", and concludes that you can't. I won't argue that you should "get past" the racism. Rather, I'd argue that you need to look right at it and see that it is not simple, and not just a matter of stereotypes.
Yes, Willie Best's character is an embarrassment when it is not infuriating. There's no arguing that.
But Bill Robinson's character is very different. He is the one on whom Mrs. Cary relies when her husband is at war, he is the one who makes it possible for Cary to get back to see his wife as she is dying, etc. He is also the one who makes it possible for he and little Virgie to get to Washington and, eventually, plead her father's case with President Lincoln. In short, he is the character who makes pretty much everything good happen.
Yes, there is injustice in that he should have received higher billing as a result, and he should have been in the final shot with Temple, as he was as important as her father and more important than Jack Holt. That was unfair, and though probably based on what Fox thought American audiences of the time would tolerate, nonetheless a concession to the racism of the time. But for its time, this movie is remarkably devoid of the "dumb and happy darkie" stereotypes of the time that are so infuriating.
Furthermore, little Virgie never once treats "Uncle Bill" as anything less than an equal. Nor do her parents ever treat him disparagingly.
Race relations in this movie are not perfect. But neither are they stereotypes. There is no point on zooming in on Willie Best's character and going through all the modern clichés of moral superiority, only to dismiss it. The movie deserves better than that.
Yes, the dancing by Robinson and Temple is a wonder. But this movie has other things that are worth examination as well.
Forget what you may have been told about this movie and try to watch it with an open mind. You won't waste your time.
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