(1938, USA, 81')
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) by Allan Dwan is an enjoyable musical comedy starring Shirley Temple (ten years old at the time) in the title role. An orphan with melodic voice, Rebecca finds herself always a step removed from stardom. She misses her first opportunity due to a misunderstanding, then her stepfather sends her to live with an aunt, who in turn is unconvinced of the merits of this whole music business. Rebecca begins to find some success only for her stepfather to claim her back and sign her up with a competitor, and she is not one to lose heart, anyway (I’m very self-reliant, sings she).
Rebecca’s songs capture that dreamy, optimistic stance that have been the soundtrack, and the counterpoint, of the Great Depression. Shirley Temple carries the film with that adorable, funny dignity, and thanks to skill, childlike naivete, and imitation of the adult world, generates hilarious comedy (her unintended, unacknowledged double-entendres are brutal).
Dwan worked with Temple the year before on Heidi, and in the same year, she got noticed by famously tough guy John Ford, who directed her in Wee Willie Winkie. From the hundreds of short movies filmed in 1911, Dwan learned something she held true to his whole life: the power of simplicity. His films are smoot, sober, tender, of calm beauty.
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