This first version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's frequently filmed children's classic A Little Princess starred 23-year-old Mary Pickford as the 10-year-old title character. When her wealthy father marches off to war, little Sarah (Pickford) is left in a girl's boarding school. News arrives that Sarah's daddy is killed and that her allowance has been cut off, whereupon the school's cruel and spiteful headmistress forces the diminutive heroine to go to work as a servant. All sorts of humiliations and disappointments are heaped upon the plucky girl before the inevitable happy ending. The film's high point is a spirited retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, with Sarah acting as both narrator and central character. The popularity of The Little Princess encouraged Pickford to star in another adaptation of a Burnett novel, and the result was the 1921 box-office bonanza Little Lord Fauntleroy.
by Hal Erickson synopsis