"THE LITTLE PRINCESS" is the most frequently televised of all the Shirley Temple vehicles made by 20th Century Fox between 1934 and 1940 and with good reason. Someone forgot to renew the film's 1939 copyright and it lapsed into the public domain in 1967. It is among the best of Temple's childhood movies with a strong storyline, great supporting cast & the obligatory dream sequence which ensured that the Ideal Toy Corporation would market yet another Shirley doll in lavish princess costume.
But the one element of the picture that strayed from Francis Hodgson Burnett's 1888 novel SARA CREWE was an unrealistic insistence that Sara must be granted a fairy tale ending to the search for her father, reported dead in action. Warner Bros' new version of "A LITTLE PRINCESS" retains the fairy tale ending with a slightly mare plausible twist. Even those who are sated by the Shirley version will be pleasantly surprised by director Alfonso Cuaron's update. The setting has been transferred to America and the period moved up a bit in time to the First World War.
Liesel Matthews, the new Sara, neither sings nor dances, but she does tell magical stories about India (beautifully interpreted by Cuaron.) Eleanor Bron, last seen in "Black Beauty", adopts an American accent to play mean schoolmistress Miss Amelia Minchin, although the new script suggests a reason for her relentless nastiness. An adorable little black girl. Vanessa Lee Chester plays Sara's friend Becky this time around and all the other kids are well-cast and appealingly believable.
Sara's sunny personality and colourful sight gags take the edge off grim plot turns. All in all, "A Little Princess" still has something to say to kids who were born over a century after its creation. And think about this, parents: no singing, no dancing & no Queen Victoria!
Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan
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