Shirley Temple’s The Little Princess

Rare screening at the Met is all-ages crowd pleaser

by Meryl Cates   |   Mar 25, 2009

Shirley Temple’s The Little Princess

Shirley Temple

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The Little Princess (1939) Trailer

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With the most recognizable blonde ringlets in Hollywood history, sparkling eyes, and darling song and dance routines, Shirley Temple encapsulated an era of cinema. Her movies are a pure form of entertainment, grounded in the charm the starlet brought to each character. They truly don’t make them like this anymore.

Bridging the generational gap, many have seen a Shirley Temple film at one point or another, but the opportunity to see one on the big screen is less common. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Special Family Program is an occasion to treat yourself and your children to a unique afternoon.

On Saturday, April 4, the Temple classic The Little Princess will be shown along with an introduction by Robert Dance, an art dealer and film historian. “We wanted to gear something towards children,” says Debra Garrin, senior coordinator for programming. With a family program in mind, Temple’s first color film makes the perfect centerpiece.

The Little Princess was made in 1939 when Shirley Temple, then 10 years old, was at the height of her movie attraction. The film is about a little girl who lives a life of luxury with her widowed father, a British captain. She is placed in an all-girls school when her father is called to duty in Africa, but soon becomes an orphan when he is killed in battle. It is a story of youthful hope, as she believes her father is still alive.

Temple has a time-honored allure for children, due to more than just age. She appeals to the childhood dream in everyone; she is a singing, dancing star. Like most of her movies, there are dance sequences with the usual showmanship that made her so popular.

The introduction by Robert Dance will provide an interesting and informative supplement to the film, which Garrin says will last under an hour and feature slides and video clips. The Met does not hold many events catered so appropriately to children, and it will be a rare treat for the younger audience members, as well as the adults. As Shirley Temple strives to find her family on-screen, this is a perfect excuse to spend an afternoon with yours.