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Our Little Girl [Shirley Temple]

Our Little Girl (1935) starring Shirley Temple, Joel McCrea,

In Our Little Girl, a troubled child fears that she’s responsible for her parents’ broken marriage. She tries to fix things by running away. Can a kindly tramp help set things right?

Plot

Our Little Girl begins with the father, a doctor, hard at work. And makes it overtly obvious that his nurse is in love with him. On the one hand, he regrets having gotten married, and being locked down as a small-town doctor. But on the other, he loves his wife and daughter very much. All of which simply stokes the nurse’s discontent.

Soon, he’s interrupting an experiment to head for for the family’s biannual picnic. Soon, Rolfe Brent comes riding by on his horses, having returned from Europe. He invites the parents to come riding with him but only Mrs. Middleton accepts. So, this quickly turns into a romantic quadrangle. The nurse is trying to steal the doctor away from his wife. While Rolfe is trying to steal the wife from the doctor. And the child is caught in the middle.

It’s actually a very mature discussion about love, marriage, and divorce … From a young child’s perspective.

Circus

Poodles Hanneford performing in the circus ring in "Our Little Girl"

Molly has “run away” from the circus, where her father had taken her. It was a substitution for their picnic, since the parents are planning on divorce. At the circus, they see a funny performance by the famous circus clown equestrian, Poodles Hanneford. But, her father, the doctor, is called away on a medical emergency. He leaves his nurse to keep an eye on on Molly. But, the nurse is easily distracted …

Molly and Mr. Sniff, sadly preparing to run away from home in Our Little Girl

Running away

This gives Molly the opportunity to run away, back home. Young Molly overhears Rolfe telling her mother that they could be happy together …. Except for Molly. So, Molly is going to run away as far as she can …. Perhaps to China. After a very sad moment commiserating under the table with her dog, Mr. Sniff, she runs away.

Meeting the Tramp

Mr. Tramp - a voice of reason to "Our Little Girl"

As she runs away, she runs into a stranger — a tramp. He speaks kindly to her, and later, is questioned by the doctor …. And the police. The tramp speaks privately to the doctor, about his missing little girl. He tells the doctor where Molly said she was going. And, gives him some good advice. And tells him, and the audience, that the tramp himself once had a little girl …. Whom he lost. And he’s been running ever since. A very sad, tender moment.

Conclusion

At the end, the mother and father are reconciled to each other. And Rolfe and the nurse have a moment of self-awareness, as well.

Cast of characters

  • Shirley Temple (I’ll Be Seeing You) as Molly Middleton. The young girl, at the center of the story. A good performance by the young actress.
  • Rosemary Ames as Elsa Middleton. Molly’s mother. She feels neglected by her husband as he gets his chance at doing the research he’s dreamed of.
  • Joel McCrea (Most Dangerous Game) as Dr. Donald Middleton. The loving father and husband. He neglects his wife, as he begins doing his research. It’s unintentional, but drives her into the arms of …
  • Lyle Talbot (The Case of the Lucky Legs) as Rolfe Brent. The rich young man, who clearly begins pursuing Elsa as soon as he meets her.
  • Erin O’Brien-Moore as Sarah Boynton. The nurse, who makes no secret of wanting the doctor for herself.
  • J. Farrell MacDonald as Hobo aka Mr. Tramp. A wonderful performance. A secondary character with a pivotal role.
  • Poodles Hanneford (Billy Rose’s Jumbo) as Circus Performer. A very funny performance that Molly and her father enjoy. A fun, father-daughter moment.
  • Margaret Armstrong as Amy. The family’s housekeeper. She speaks her mind freely … a little too freely, when Molly begins parroting her opinion of Rolfe.

Editorial review of Our Little Girl courtesy of Amazon.com

Don Middleton is so caught up with his work he neglects his wife Elsa. Lonely Elsa begins to spend more time with Don’s best friend and they become attracted to one another. Don and Elsa decide to get a divorce, unaware of the effect their problems are having on their daughter Molly. When Elsa announces plans to remarry, Molly runs away from home. …Our Little Girl

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