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The Littlest Rebel (1935)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Family | 27 December 1935 (USA)
1:38 | Clip

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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 »


David Butler


Edwin J. Burke (screen play) (as Edwin Burke), Edward Peple (from the play by)



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Complete credited cast:
Shirley Temple ... Virgie Cary
John Boles ... Capt. Herbert Cary
Jack Holt ... Col. Morrison
Karen Morley ... Mrs. Cary
Bill Robinson ... Uncle Billy
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams ... Sgt. Dudley (as Guinn Williams)
Willie Best ... James Henry
Frank McGlynn Sr. ... Abraham Lincoln
Bessie Lyle Bessie Lyle ... Mammy
Hannah Washington Hannah Washington ... Sally Ann


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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


America's Little Sweetheart . . . The Dimpled Darling You Love in the Greatest of Civil War Dramas !


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

27 December 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Pequena Rebelde See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 14, 1940 with Shirley Temple reprising her film role. See more »


When the Union soldiers are caught looting, the commanding officer orders them to be flogged. The US Army according to the "History of the United States Army" stopped flogging at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861--this scene is obviously later in the war as Union forces are occupying the south. See more »


Virginia 'Virgie' Cary: My daddy and Colonel Morrison are in prison, and they're going to shoot them.
President Abraham Lincoln: Your father is a captain in the Confederate army.
Virginia 'Virgie' Cary: Yes, sir.
President Abraham Lincoln: Arrested as a spy.
Virginia 'Virgie' Cary: My daddy isn't a spy!
President Abraham Lincoln: Do you know what a spy is?
Virginia 'Virgie' Cary: I know it's something bad, because they shoot you for it, and my daddy could never do anything bad.
President Abraham Lincoln: I don't see how he could either, with a little one like you.
Virginia 'Virgie' Cary: Thank you kindly, sir.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »


Referenced in Mike & Mike: Episode dated 11 February 2014 (2014) See more »


Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
(1851) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Played during the opening credits
See more »

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User Reviews

A Child of War
30 November 2008 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

THE LITTLEST REBEL (20th Century-Fox, 1935), directed by David Butler, another agreeable and rewarding motion picture featuring child star, Shirley Temple, teams her once again opposite 1935 co-stars John Boles (CURLY TOP) and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (THE LITTLE COLONEL). Capitalizing on the success of THE LITTLE COLONEL, set after the Civil War, THE LITTLEST REBEL, taking place during the war between the states, finds Temple as a little girl winning the hearts of those around her, especially a tough Yankee soldier (Jack Holt) and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn Sr.), with whom she shares his apple. An old chestnut by Edward Peple that was first staged and  later filmed during the silent era in 1914, this edition, Temple's last for 1935, further demonstrates her as a fine child actress who equally handles her lighter and dramatic scenes with conviction and sincerity.

The story is set on a Southern plantation where Herbert Cary (John Boles) and his wife, Helen (Karen Morley) honor their child, Virginia, better known as Virgie (Shirley Temple), with a birthday party where she and her little guests are gathered together with ice cream and cake along with tap dancing entertainment by Cary's slave/ butler, Uncle Willie (Bill Robinson). Shortly afterwards, the party is disrupted by startling news that war has been declared between the states. Enlisting in the Army, Cary leaves his wife and child under the care of Uncle Willie. With Yankee scouts invading their property, Virgie, while playing soldier, sling shots Colonel Morrison (Jack Holt), addressing herself as a "confederate." In spite of their differences, Morrison, a father himself, takes an immediate liking to Virgie, later rescuing her from the threat of the villainous Sergeant Dudley (Guinn Williams) for not revealing the whereabouts of her "daddy." After the Cary estate is burned to the ground, causing Mrs. Carey to fall ill and die within three weeks time, Cary leaves his post to take Virgie over to Richmond where she's to be placed in the care of her Aunt Caroline. Complications arise when Carey is recognized and captured, separated from his daughter, imprisoned along with Morrison for helping him, each charged with treason and sentences to be executed.   

With 20th-Fox specializing in Southern stories set during, before or after the Civil War, THE LITTLEST REBEL is a fine example capturing Southern hospitality and flavor with the reconstruction of plantations and notable songs from that era including "Swanee River" (by Stephen Foster) sung during opening credits; "Turkey in the Straw" (tap dance by Bill Robinson); "Those Endearing Young Charms" (sung by Shirley Temple); "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" (by Thomas Moore and Matthew Locke); "Polly-Wolly Doodle" and "Polly-Wolly-Doodle" (sung by Temple and reprized during closing titles).

Of its cast members, Bill Robinson and Willie Best provide lighter moments to their traditional servant roles. Best's performance as a shiftless and comical slave gives the impression that his role as James Henry was actually intended for Stepin Fetchit. While Best doesn't imitate Fetchit's comical methods to the extreme, he works well alongside Robinson as his comic foil doing a brief takeoff in the popular "Amos and Andy" radio show tradition in the question and answer session where Best asks Robinson: "Why is a shoe called a shoe?"  Although portraying their roles through stereotypes, Robinson comes through as an intelligent, caring and sensible slave with a talent for dancing. He's very convincing and sincere through his interacting with Temple, which is why they work so well together. John Boles satisfies as the easy-going father turned soldier and accused spy while Karen Morley, despite of her screen limitations, makes due with her role.

Due to controversy in how the black performers are portrayed, cable television revivals of THE LITTLEST REBEL in recent years have been limited, though shown frequently at some point on American Movie Classics (1996-1999), the Fox Movie Channel, and availability since the 1980s on home video and afterwards DVD either in black and white or colorized formats. In May 2006, THE LITTLEST REBEL was one of the films chosen as part of its subject matter of "Black Images on Film" theme co-hosted by author Donald Bogle, where he and host Bob Osborne discussed the film, performances of Robinson and Best, as well as a scene where Temple gets herself corked up to avoid Yankee soldiers.

THE LITTLEST REBEL, along with THE LITTLE COLONEL, were intended as screen entertainment with no intention to offend, yet something to consider as a reflection of the times, and how a Civil War story such as this is seen through the eyes of Virgie Carey, the littlest rebel. (***)

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