Combustible Celluloid
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With: Shirley Temple, Jean Hersholt, Arthur Treacher, Helen Westley
Written by: Walter Ferris, Julien Josephson, based on the novel by Johanna Spyri
Directed by: Allan Dwan
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 88
Date: 10/15/1937

Heidi (1937)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Their Side of the Mountain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Shirley Temple once cited Allan Dwan (along with John Ford) as herfavorite director. Dwan might have beenconsidered one of the greatest filmmakers of the studio era, in a leaguewith Ford, Hawks and Lang, if not for the fact that he was credited onmore than 200 films and was rumored to have worked in some capacity onabout 250 more. Granted, most of these films were made during the silentera, and most were one and two-reelers, and his output during the soundera was relegated to low-budget genre flicks. But all of these filmsbetray an easy, natural style, and a quick, economical approach.

Dwan and Temple made three films together, but only this one has made it to DVD. Temple stars as the little Swiss girl packed off to live with her grizzled mountain grandfather (Jean Hersholt). Just as they begin to warm to each other, she's packed off again to befriend a rich, crippled girl. It's depressing material, but Temple's universal warmth and appeal -- as well as Dwan's skill -- make it work. The disc comes in both black-and-white and (horrible) colorized versions.

In 2002, Fox released Heidi along with Temple's Bright Eyes and Dimples. Now the company has re-released Heidi and two new titles, Curly Top and Little Miss Broadway. Each title comes in both black-and-white and colorized versions, and each comes with its own charm bracelet.

Curly Top (1935) lacks Dwan's grace, and its storytelling can be pretty clunky, but Temple continually steals the film back from the brink of destruction. She plays an orphan who gets adopted by a millionaire, only he keeps up a bizarre charade, pretending that someone else is really her benefactor. Her pretty older sister gets to have a romance at the same time. It's all ridiculous, but watching Temple sitting on his lap, absently digging around in his pocket and playing with his tie is absolutely priceless. It's no wonder she was such a huge star, and why no one else could possibly replace her today.

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