The Little Princess (1939)

91 mins | Drama | 17 March 1939

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Little Princess . Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted her short novel Sara Crewe for the stage under the title A Little Princess . The play ran in London and New York from 1902-1903 and, according to modern sources, was so successful that Scribner's, Burnett's publisher, asked her to expand her original novel, using scenes from the play. That novel was also titled A Little Princess and was published in New York in 1905. According to a news item in DV , in 1934, Fox started negotiations with Paramount to purchase the rights to The Little Princess , the 1917 Artcraft film that was also based on the Burnett novel, starring Mary Pickford and directed by Marshall Neilan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2551). The DV item states that Fox wanted the story as a vehicle for Shirley Temple. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the first treatment of the screenplay entitled "A Little Princess" was written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris. A second revised treatment was then written by Julien Josephson and Philip Dunne. These treatments were then discarded in favor of an original story and treatment by Rian James entitled Little Princess . This was discarded for a new treatment entitled The Little Princess , written by Ferris and Ethel Hill, the writers credited with the final screenplay. According to records of story conferences contained in the Fox files, Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Arleen Whelan for the role of "Miss Rose" and Reggie ... More Less

The working title of this film was Little Princess . Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted her short novel Sara Crewe for the stage under the title A Little Princess . The play ran in London and New York from 1902-1903 and, according to modern sources, was so successful that Scribner's, Burnett's publisher, asked her to expand her original novel, using scenes from the play. That novel was also titled A Little Princess and was published in New York in 1905. According to a news item in DV , in 1934, Fox started negotiations with Paramount to purchase the rights to The Little Princess , the 1917 Artcraft film that was also based on the Burnett novel, starring Mary Pickford and directed by Marshall Neilan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2551). The DV item states that Fox wanted the story as a vehicle for Shirley Temple. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the first treatment of the screenplay entitled "A Little Princess" was written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris. A second revised treatment was then written by Julien Josephson and Philip Dunne. These treatments were then discarded in favor of an original story and treatment by Rian James entitled Little Princess . This was discarded for a new treatment entitled The Little Princess , written by Ferris and Ethel Hill, the writers credited with the final screenplay. According to records of story conferences contained in the Fox files, Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Arleen Whelan for the role of "Miss Rose" and Reggie Gardiner for the role of "Bertie". Another news item in HR notes that a special trailer was made for this film using new high-speed Technicolor stock that was also utilized in the filming of Gone with the Wind . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Sep 34
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Feb 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 38
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 39
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
21 Feb 39
p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Herald
28 Jan 39
p. 40.
Motion Picture Herald
25 Feb 39
p. 42.
New York Times
11 Mar 39
p. 21.
Variety
22 Feb 39
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
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Ballet settings
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
DANCE
Dances staged by
Dances staged by
Ballet staged by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett (New York, 1888).
SONGS
"The Fantasy," words and music by Walter Bullock and Samuel Pokrass.
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 March 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 11 March 1939
Production Date:
began late September 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 March 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8753
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in feet):
8,644
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4712
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Captain Crewe is called to service during the Boer War, he enrolls his little daughter Sara in a boarding school run by the heartless Amanda Minchin. Sara, a generous, unspoiled child, is dubbed "The Little Princess" by her schoolmates because of her distinguished family. At the school, Sara is befriended by Amanda's jolly brother Bertie; her riding teacher, Geoffrey Hamilton; her tutor, Rose, who is in love with Geoffrey; Becky, the little skullery maid, and Ram Dass, the servant of Lord Wickham who lives across the way. On the day of Sara's birthday party, Miss Minchin receives word that Captain Crewe has been reported killed in action and all his assets confiscated by the enemy. To pay for Sara's expenses, Miss Minchin sells the girl's clothes and makes her a kitchen servant, sending her to live in the attic. After losing her father, Sara also loses her friends when Geoffrey goes off to war, Rose is fired by Miss Minchin when she learns of her love affair, and Bertie leaves because he can no longer tolerate his sister's cruelty. However, Sara's spirit remains undaunted, and she refuses to believe that her father is really dead. After each debarkation of wounded men, she rushes to the hospital to find him, missing him several times as he lies in bed, shell-shocked. Finally, on the day that Captain Crewe is to be shipped to Edinburgh, Sara runs to the hospital where Queen Victoria is visiting. The queen intervenes on behalf of the little waif, and with her help, Sara is at last reunited with her beloved ... +


When Captain Crewe is called to service during the Boer War, he enrolls his little daughter Sara in a boarding school run by the heartless Amanda Minchin. Sara, a generous, unspoiled child, is dubbed "The Little Princess" by her schoolmates because of her distinguished family. At the school, Sara is befriended by Amanda's jolly brother Bertie; her riding teacher, Geoffrey Hamilton; her tutor, Rose, who is in love with Geoffrey; Becky, the little skullery maid, and Ram Dass, the servant of Lord Wickham who lives across the way. On the day of Sara's birthday party, Miss Minchin receives word that Captain Crewe has been reported killed in action and all his assets confiscated by the enemy. To pay for Sara's expenses, Miss Minchin sells the girl's clothes and makes her a kitchen servant, sending her to live in the attic. After losing her father, Sara also loses her friends when Geoffrey goes off to war, Rose is fired by Miss Minchin when she learns of her love affair, and Bertie leaves because he can no longer tolerate his sister's cruelty. However, Sara's spirit remains undaunted, and she refuses to believe that her father is really dead. After each debarkation of wounded men, she rushes to the hospital to find him, missing him several times as he lies in bed, shell-shocked. Finally, on the day that Captain Crewe is to be shipped to Edinburgh, Sara runs to the hospital where Queen Victoria is visiting. The queen intervenes on behalf of the little waif, and with her help, Sara is at last reunited with her beloved father. +

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.