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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.
Wealthy Edward Morgan becomes charmed with a curly-haired orphan and her pretty older sister Mary and arranges to adopt both under the alias of "Mr. Jones." As he spends more time with them, he soon finds himself falling in love with Mary.
Priscilla Williams is a young girl traveling with her mother, Joyce, to join her paternal grandfather, a British army colonel, at the post he commands in northern India. Upon arrival, they witness the capture of Khoda Khan, leader of the rebel Indian faction. Priscilla plays at being a soldier and is even given a uniform and allowed to drill by the genial Sergeant MacDuff, but her gruff grandfather disapproves and insists she remain apart from the troops. She eventually charms him, along with everyone else on the post, including Khoda Khan, whom she wins over by returning a talisman he's dropped. When the attractive Lieutenant Brandes deserts his post to take Joyce to a dance, Khan escapes, and Brandes is arrested. As hostilities with the rebels mount, Priscilla and servant Mohammet Dihn --actually an Indian spy--take off for Khoda Khan's stronghold. Written by
A Little Child Shall Lead Them --------- At the Box office
Wee Willie Winkie is quite an interesting mix of a film, combining the seemingly disparate talents of Rudyard Kipling, John Ford, and Shirley Temple in one film. The very British Mr. Kipling and the very Irish Mr. Ford is odd enough right there.
But when all is said and done it's a cavalry picture, just like Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande. The same rough house monkeyshines among the troops, the same tribute to regimental tradition and of course the same Victor McLaglen. All military units for Ford are the same, be they the Scotch Highlanders posted to India or the Seventh Cavalry fighting the Indians.
Little Shirley and her mother June Lang go to live with Shirley's grandfather, C. Aubrey Smith, colonel of a regiment on India's northern frontier. He's a spit and polish soldier of the old school, but like she does in all her films, the little moppet melts the old guy.
But she does more than that. She also gets into the heart of bandit chief Cesar Romero who probably gives the best performance in the film. He's a warrior chief fighting for his people, but he's light years removed from the terrorists of today. Since Shirley is the only one on speaking terms with Smith and Romero, she stops a frontier uprising as well.
Wee Willie Winkie will not go down as one of John Ford's greater films, but it's decently entertaining enough. And I'm sure he didn't care about filming a Kipling story because with Shirley Temple in the lead it was going to make money.
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