My Old Addiction

Wee Willie Winkie (1937)

JOHN FORD

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  USA, 1937.  .  Screenplay by , , based on the story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1937.  

Shirley Temple and Victor McLaglen in Wee Willie Winkie.

and her mother show up in late nineteenth-century India to live with her grandfather () who is colonel of the British army there. Immediately upon arrival she charms the entire regiment, making an especially good friend of a tough ox of a sergeant ( ) who trains her in soldiery. Unable to pick political sides, Temple is also fond of a rebel Indian ruler (, giving a classy performance) with whom her grandfather is constantly poised on waging war. This endless delight shows Miss Temple at her best, easily demonstrating why this adorable child was the top box-office draw of the Great Depression. She’s painfully cute, threateningly annoying at it actually, but she’s also curious, responsible and respectful, and you can’t help but love her for it. Her eventual ability to bring peace to a nation torn apart by war may be fanciful, but by the time you get there you’ll be grateful to have such unabashed optimism served to you. Credit John Ford, whose incredible direction makes something weighty out of a film that could merely have been children’s entertainment. Available in a colour-tinted version that isn’t queasy to look at (but you should still stick to the black and white version if you can find it).

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