An incredibly popular film in its time and for many years later, The Little Colonel now comes across as severely dated. This is, of course, most obvious in the manner in which its black characters are sometimes treated and delineated, but the problem goes deeper than that -- the story itself is pure cornball hokum. Even those with a taste for this may find much of Colonel a little hard to swallow, for the screenplay is simply bad. And yet Colonel has a fair share of rewards, starting with the unlikely but totally charming teaming of Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore. Barrymore's patented crustiness is a perfect foil for Temple's abundant charm, and though the script makes the inevitable melting rather sticky and gooey, Barrymore makes it palatable. And though her apple-cheek wholesomeness is easy to parody and mock, Temple really did have something -- and she pulls out all the stops to make you like that something, working so hard that even the most resistant are likely to give in. Of course, Colonel also has one of the true classic movie musical moments, the "stair dance" between Temple and Bill Robinson. It's three minutes of sheer magic and is able to transport the viewer out of the picture and into a little slice of heaven. Colonel itself is dated, but that sequence is solid gold.
by Craig Butler review