Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

72 or 77 mins | Comedy-drama | 18 July 1936

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HISTORY

Although this film bears the title of the Eleanor Gates novel, which was published in New York in 1912, and her play, which was first produced in New York on 21 Jan 1913, many of the characters and incidents in it are based on an original story by Ralph Spence entitled "Betsy Takes the Air." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Fox Film Corp. acquired the motion picture rights to the play by Gates before they merged with Twentieth Century Pictures. They paid $20,000 to Gates and $20,000 to The Pickford Co., which held the motion picture rights following the production in 1917 of a film based on the play, which was distributed by Artcraft Pictures Corp and starred Mary Pickford. That film was directed by Maurice Tourneur (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3493). Gates agreed to allow Shirley Temple to sing and dance in the film, but would not allow the company to make a musical comedy with chorus girls or an operetta. In a memo dated 11 May 1935, J. J. Gain, a Fox official, noted that the company had "found it advisable to make an agreement with Mary Pickford to utilize her services in connection with any ideas she might have on this story. The amount involved for this service will be $10,000." It is not known if Pickford did, in fact, contribute any ideas to the final film. In Oct 1934, Rose Franken and Eric Knight contributed treatments based on the play, and in 1935, Ernest Pascal wrote one, but it is ... More Less

Although this film bears the title of the Eleanor Gates novel, which was published in New York in 1912, and her play, which was first produced in New York on 21 Jan 1913, many of the characters and incidents in it are based on an original story by Ralph Spence entitled "Betsy Takes the Air." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Fox Film Corp. acquired the motion picture rights to the play by Gates before they merged with Twentieth Century Pictures. They paid $20,000 to Gates and $20,000 to The Pickford Co., which held the motion picture rights following the production in 1917 of a film based on the play, which was distributed by Artcraft Pictures Corp and starred Mary Pickford. That film was directed by Maurice Tourneur (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3493). Gates agreed to allow Shirley Temple to sing and dance in the film, but would not allow the company to make a musical comedy with chorus girls or an operetta. In a memo dated 11 May 1935, J. J. Gain, a Fox official, noted that the company had "found it advisable to make an agreement with Mary Pickford to utilize her services in connection with any ideas she might have on this story. The amount involved for this service will be $10,000." It is not known if Pickford did, in fact, contribute any ideas to the final film. In Oct 1934, Rose Franken and Eric Knight contributed treatments based on the play, and in 1935, Ernest Pascal wrote one, but it is not known if any of their material was used in the final film.
       In a memo to associate producer Buddy DeSylva, dated 6 Aug 1935, in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, production head Darryl Zanuck noted that the title, "is a great box-office title." He then went on to explain his own conception of the film: "I don't think anybody in the present generation remembers anything about the old play other than it had to do with a wealthy girl who was sad. Therefore, I think we could take any liberties we wanted and write an entirely new story--something that is a light, bubbling musical comedy with plenty of opportunity for Shirley to sing and dance and do clever pieces of business....We should take a very funny story, a plot that has definite comedy situations, and probably adapt one of the adult parts to fit Shirley." In correspondence in the legal records regarding a plagiarism suit filed by Izola Forrester and Mann Page, the genesis of the story used is described in great detail. According to the correspondence, Ralph Spence wrote the scene in which Shirley Temple appears in the film Stand Up and Cheer (see below) and then severed his connection with the studio. It soon became evident that Temple had stolen the picture, so Spence's secretary, Gertrude Livingston, who was a fan of a radio program starring Baby Rose Marie, wrote a twenty-page outline of an idea for a radio story for Temple. Spence developed her story into a complete story outline, entitled "Betsy Takes the Air," but did not submit it to Fox because of personal differences with Fox's head of production, Winfield R. Sheehan, and held on to it hoping that another child star would be developed who could use the story. In Oct 1935, after the merger with Twentieth Century, Spence learned that the company was looking for a musical, and he sold the story to them for $5,000. The suit by Forrester and Page was settled in 1941 when Twentieth Century-Fox purchased their story, which they claimed was plagiarized, for $1,000.
       In Jun 1936, before the film's release, Eleanor Gates objected to the use of her name in connection with the film, as she claimed that the story was not hers. DeSylva convinced the legal department to use Gates' name in the credits by stating that they used the Gates title and the "main theme of [a] little rich girl left alone by [her] parents in [a] big house with servants who goes through harrowing experiences resulting in [the] usual reconciliation."
       In the film, Temple, while singing the song "But Definitely," does an imitation of Bing Crosby crooning "Where the Blue of the Night," by Crosby, Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert. The scenes of the exterior of the Barry estate were taken at 160 So. San Raphael Avenue in Pasadena. Charles Coleman is listed as a cast member in HR production charts, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. In 1937, the film was rejected by one of the censor authorities in Germany because of some non-Aryan names involved with it, including director Irving Cummings, writer Sam Hellman, songwriter Mack Gordon, and cast members Sarah Haden and Henry Armetta. Because Twentieth Century-Fox wanted a release to liquidate their debt in that country, they agreed to send proof by official documents that the actors were Aryans. By 1939, according to the legal records, the film, which cost $696,600 to produce, had made $2,354,100 in total rentals, foreign and domestic. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6-Jun-36
---
Daily Variety
28 May 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Jun 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 36
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 36
sect. II, p. 69.
Motion Picture Daily
29 May 36
p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald
16 May 36
p. 27.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Jun 36
p. 56, 60
New York Times
26 Jun 36
p. 16.
Variety
1 Jul 36
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Settings
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Ed asst
Ed asst
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
DANCE
Dances staged by
Dances staged by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the stories of Eleanor Gates and Ralph Spence.
SONGS
"But Definitely," "When I'm with You," "Oh, My Goodness," "You've Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby," "I Like a Military Man," "Buy a Bar of Barry's" and "Peck's Theme Song," music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel
"Ride a Cock Horse," traditional.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 July 1936
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 June 1936
Production Date:
mid February--20 March 1936
retakes on 9 April 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
24 July 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6683
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72 or 77
Length(in feet):
7,093
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2133
SYNOPSIS

When Barbara Barry, the daughter of a wealthy, widowed soap manufacturer, sneezes three times at dinner, her overly strict, spinsterish servant Collins sends her to bed and calls both the doctor and her father's office. Her father is busy inspecting chorus girls for his new advertising exhibition, but when he is told that Barbara is ill, he rushes home to find that it was only Collins getting panicky. Over Collins' objections, Barbara's kind, matronly servant Woodward convinces Barry to send the girl to a school in the Adirondacks where she could meet other children. Collins takes Barbara to the train station, where a man steals her purse. She leaves Barbara with a porter as she tries to find the thief, and on the street, Collins is hit by a car and then taken to a hospital as an unidentified person. Not knowing what happened to Collins, Barbara eludes the porter and decides that rather than go to school, she will take a "vacation," which Collins told her meant seeing new faces and becoming another person oneself. Barbara sees an organ grinder and asks if his name is "Tony," like the name of the organ grinder in the "Betsy Ware" stories, which Woodward has read to her. When she learns that the man's middle name is, in fact, Antonio, Barbara follows him home. After she identifies herself as Betsy Ware, an orphan, Tony and his wife invite her to spend the night. As Barbara sleeps, a snooping man peers through her window. The next day, in the same tenement, Jimmy Dolan, the optimistic half of the song-and-dance team of Dolan and ... +


When Barbara Barry, the daughter of a wealthy, widowed soap manufacturer, sneezes three times at dinner, her overly strict, spinsterish servant Collins sends her to bed and calls both the doctor and her father's office. Her father is busy inspecting chorus girls for his new advertising exhibition, but when he is told that Barbara is ill, he rushes home to find that it was only Collins getting panicky. Over Collins' objections, Barbara's kind, matronly servant Woodward convinces Barry to send the girl to a school in the Adirondacks where she could meet other children. Collins takes Barbara to the train station, where a man steals her purse. She leaves Barbara with a porter as she tries to find the thief, and on the street, Collins is hit by a car and then taken to a hospital as an unidentified person. Not knowing what happened to Collins, Barbara eludes the porter and decides that rather than go to school, she will take a "vacation," which Collins told her meant seeing new faces and becoming another person oneself. Barbara sees an organ grinder and asks if his name is "Tony," like the name of the organ grinder in the "Betsy Ware" stories, which Woodward has read to her. When she learns that the man's middle name is, in fact, Antonio, Barbara follows him home. After she identifies herself as Betsy Ware, an orphan, Tony and his wife invite her to spend the night. As Barbara sleeps, a snooping man peers through her window. The next day, in the same tenement, Jimmy Dolan, the optimistic half of the song-and-dance team of Dolan and Dolan, practices tap dancing in preparation for a radio audition. When his cynical wife Jerry hears someone answer his taps in the room below, Jimmy finds Barbara, who is an excellent dancer. After he learns that she is an orphan, Jimmy talks Jerry into putting Barbara in their act. Barbara, who calls Jimmy "Pudd'nhead," another character from the Betsy Ware stories, agrees to pose as the Dolans' daughter, as the ominous man overhears their plans. An enthused advertising agent auditions the Dolans' act and calls Margaret Allen, an advertising executive who works for Barry's rival, the stodgy Simon Peck. Although at first, the irascible Peck refuses to consider them, Barbara wins him over, and the Dolans become a hit doing a nightly show. Meanwhile, Barry romances Margaret, unaware of Barbara's fate. On the night of the Dolans' second show, Margaret and Barry listen to the broadcast. Barry recognizes Barbara's voice, and after he ascertains that she never arrived at the school, he calls the station to have them hold her until he gets there. Thinking that Barry is trying to put something over on him, Peck orders the Dolans to take Barbara away. After Barbara confesses to the Dolans that she is Barry's daughter, they become afraid that they will be arrested as kidnappers, so they leave Barbara alone in their apartment and anonymously call Barry to tell him where to find her. The spying man then enters the apartment and tries to drag Barbara away, so that he could hold her for ransom, but the Dolans, now resigned to facing up to their fate, return, and Jimmy fights the man. Barry arrives with the police, and the man is arrested, along with Jimmy and Jerry; however, Barbara explains what happened, and the Dolans are released. When Peck arrives and argues about the contract, Margaret convinces him and Barry to merge the two companies. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.