AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Little Princess
Director: Walter Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Mar 1939
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 11 Mar 1939
Production Date:   began late Sep 1938
Duration (in mins):   91
Duration (in feet):   8,644
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Cast:   Shirley Temple (Sara Crewe [The Little Princess])  
    Richard Greene (Geoffrey Hamilton)  
    Anita Louise (Rose)  
    Ian Hunter (Captain Crewe)  
    Cesar Romero (Ram Dass)  
    Arthur Treacher (Bertie Minchin)  
    Mary Nash (Amanda Minchin)  
    Sybil Jason (Becky)  
    Miles Mander (Lord Wickham)  
    Marcia Mae Jones (Lavinia)  
    Beryl Mercer (Queen [Victoria])  
    Deidre Gale (Jessie)  
    Ira Stevens (Ermen Garde)  
    E. E. Clive (Mr. Burrows)  
    Eily Malyon (Cook)  
    Clyde Cook (Attendant)  
    Keith Kenneth (Bobbie)  
    Will Stanton (Groom)  
    Harry Allen (Groom)  
    Holmes Herbert (Doctor)  
    Evan Thomas (Doctor)  
    Guy Bellis (Doctor)  
    Kenneth Hunter (General)  
    Lionel Braham (Colonel)  
    Les Sketchley (Bobbie)  
    Robert Cory (Bobbie)  
    Herbert Evans (Orderly)  
    Vesey O'Davoren (Orderly)  
    David Thursby (Orderly)  
    Eric Lonsdale (Intern)  
    Bob Stevenson (Intern)  
    John Burton (Intern)  
    Hilda Plowright (Nurse)  
    Clare Verdera (Nurse)  
    Joan Manners (Nurse)  
    Lilyan Irene (Maid)  
    Eve Conrad (Maid)  
    Frank Baker (Officer)  
    Rita Page (Minnie)  
    Charles Irwin (Soldier)  
    Morton Lowry (Young soldier)  
    Patrick X. Kerry (Irishman)  
    Jenifer Downing    
    Ann Howard    
    Cecil Watson    
    Connie Leon    
    Sidney Bracy    
    Olaf Hytten    
    Gerald Rogers    

Summary: When Captain Crewe is called to service during the Boer War, he enrolls his little daughter Sara in a boarding school run by the heartless Amanda Minchin. Sara, a generous, unspoiled child, is dubbed "The Little Princess" by her schoolmates because of her distinguished family. At the school, Sara is befriended by Amanda's jolly brother Bertie; her riding teacher, Geoffrey Hamilton; her tutor, Rose, who is in love with Geoffrey; Becky, the little skullery maid, and Ram Dass, the servant of Lord Wickham who lives across the way. On the day of Sara's birthday party, Miss Minchin receives word that Captain Crewe has been reported killed in action and all his assets confiscated by the enemy. To pay for Sara's expenses, Miss Minchin sells the girl's clothes and makes her a kitchen servant, sending her to live in the attic. After losing her father, Sara also loses her friends when Geoffrey goes off to war, Rose is fired by Miss Minchin when she learns of her love affair, and Bertie leaves because he can no longer tolerate his sister's cruelty. However, Sara's spirit remains undaunted, and she refuses to believe that her father is really dead. After each debarkation of wounded men, she rushes to the hospital to find him, missing him several times as he lies in bed, shell-shocked. Finally, on the day that Captain Crewe is to be shipped to Edinburgh, Sara runs to the hospital where Queen Victoria is visiting. The queen intervenes on behalf of the little waif, and with her help, Sara is at last reunited with her beloved father. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Production Text: Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Walter Lang (Dir)
  Gene Bryant (Asst dir)
Producer: Gene Markey (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ethel Hill (Scr)
  Walter Ferris (Scr)
Photography: Arthur Miller (Photog)
  William Skall (Photog)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  Hans Peters (Art dir)
  Richard Day (Ballet settings)
Film Editor: Louis Loeffler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
Costumes: Gwen Wakeling (Cost)
Music: Louis Silvers (Mus dir)
Sound: E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Dance: Nicholas Castle (Dances staged by)
  Geneva Sawyer (Dances staged by)
  Ernest Belcher (Ballet staged by)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col dir)
  Morgan Padelford (Assoc)
Country: United States

Songs: "The Fantasy," words and music by Walter Bullock and Samuel Pokrass.
Composer: Walter Bullock
  Samuel Pokrass
Source Text: Based on the novel Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett (New York, 1888).
Authors: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 17/3/1939 dd/mm/yyyy LP8753

PCA NO: 4712
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Battered children
  Boarding schools
  Fathers and daughters
  Great Britain--History
  Missing persons, Assumed dead
Subjects (Minor): Brothers and sisters
  Officers (Military)
  Tutors and tutoring
  Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901
  War injuries

Note: The working title of this film was Little Princess . Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted her short novel Sara Crewe for the stage under the title A Little Princess . The play ran in London and New York from 1902-1903 and, according to modern sources, was so successful that Scribner's, Burnett's publisher, asked her to expand her original novel, using scenes from the play. That novel was also titled A Little Princess and was published in New York in 1905. According to a news item in DV , in 1934, Fox started negotiations with Paramount to purchase the rights to The Little Princess , the 1917 Artcraft film that was also based on the Burnett novel, starring Mary Pickford and directed by Marshall Neilan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2551). The DV item states that Fox wanted the story as a vehicle for Shirley Temple. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the first treatment of the screenplay entitled "A Little Princess" was written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris. A second revised treatment was then written by Julien Josephson and Philip Dunne. These treatments were then discarded in favor of an original story and treatment by Rian James entitled Little Princess . This was discarded for a new treatment entitled The Little Princess , written by Ferris and Ethel Hill, the writers credited with the final screenplay. According to records of story conferences contained in the Fox files, Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Arleen Whelan for the role of "Miss Rose" and Reggie Gardiner for the role of "Bertie". Another news item in HR notes that a special trailer was made for this film using new high-speed Technicolor stock that was also utilized in the filming of Gone with the Wind

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   28 Sep 34   p. 4.
Daily Variety   18 Feb 39   p. 3.
Film Daily   24 Feb 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Oct 38   pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 39   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Feb 39   p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily   21 Feb 39   p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Herald   28 Jan 39   p. 40.
Motion Picture Herald   25 Feb 39   p. 42.
New York Times   11 Mar 39   p. 21.
Variety   22 Feb 39   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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