Musical Monday: Little Miss Broadway (1938)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Little Miss Broadway –Musical #287


20th Century Fox

Irving Cummings

Shirley Temple, George Murphy, Jimmy Durante, Phyllis Brooks, Edna May Oliver, Donald Meek, Edward Ellis, El Brendel
Themselves: The Brian Sisters- Betty Brian, Doris Brian, Gwen Brian; The Brewster Twins (Barbara and Gloria Brewster)

Orphan Betsy Brown (Temple)is adopted by friends of her parents- Pop Shea (Edward Ellis) and his daughter Barbara (Phyllis Brooks) who run a hotel for performers. However, the hotel lead is held by Sarah Wendling (Oliver) and her brother Willoughby (Meek), and Sarah hates the show business tenants and looks for every way to shut down the hotel. However, when Sarah’s nephew Roger (Murphy) meets Betsy, he’s instantly taken with the child and finds himself attracted to Barbara. Roger sets out to help the show business hotel stay open.

George Murphy and Shirley Temple in "Little Miss Broadway."

George Murphy and Shirley Temple in “Little Miss Broadway.”

–Shirley Temple was 10 years old when this was made and losing her appeal with audiences. This film was made to recapture her original appeal with audiences, according to Robert Osborne, TCM host and film historian.
-Shirley Temple wrote in her autobiography “Child Star: An Autobiography” that she felt this film was bland and her mother was annoyed by the low budget.
-Around the time of “Little Miss Broadway,” Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck mentioned that Shirley Temple was getting chubby and said her mother needed to stop feeding her candy, according to Temple’s autobiography. Joan Crawford visited Shirley on the set of “Little Miss Broadway,” and had a box of candy. Temple recalled the Joan Crawford said, “Do you like candy or will it make you fat?”

Notable Songs:
 Be Optimistic performed by Shirley Temple
How Can I Thank You performed by Shirley Temple
We Should Be Together performed by George Murphy and Shirley Temple
– Little Miss Broadway performed by George Murphy and Shirley Temple

-Shirley Temple and George Murphy dancing together.

My Review:
Since 1934, Shirley Temple was America’s Sweetheart and number one in the box office. But by 1938 at age 10 years old, her popularity was waning. However, even though this week’s Musical Monday- Little Miss Broadway- was towards the end of Shirley’s heyday, I still enjoy this film.

Admittedly, this film is fairly forgettable among Shirley Temple’s other films, but it has an excellent supporting cast to back up Shirley Temple. First off, magnificent and largely underrated song and dance man George Murphy is a lead in the cast flanked by hilarious Donald Meek and Edna Mae Oliver playing his relatives. Meek and Oliver’s humor and Murphy’s fancy footwork really make this film for me.

Shirley Temple and Jimmy Durante in "Little Miss Broadway."

Shirley Temple and Jimmy Durante in “Little Miss Broadway.”

Jimmy Durante is also in the film, though he doesn’t have as much screen time as some of the other character actors but still provides his famous humor.

However, I have to say–as much as I adore Shirley Temple, she really didn’t sing or dance that well. I know I’m sinning just for saying that, but it’s honestly true.

It is obvious that “Little Miss Broadway” is trying to recapture Temple’s earlier charm, as Robert Osborne mentioned, by making her an orphan and singing and dancing her way through the film. While Temple was growing out of these roles, this movie still works as an entertaining piece. It’s only an hour and 12 minutes and has some snappy music and funny scenes.

Shirley Temple and Jane Darwell, who runs the orphanage, preparing Shirley's character Betsy Brown to go live with her adoptive family.

Shirley Temple and Jane Darwell, who runs the orphanage, preparing Shirley’s character Betsy Brown to go live with her adoptive family.

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1 thought on “Musical Monday: Little Miss Broadway (1938)

  1. Nice to see someone else who appreciates George Murphy! I really enjoy his dancing and find him delightful. I think he suffers from a bit of the “Ronald Reagan syndrome” – if you become a Republican politician, you can’t have been any good as an entertainer. But Murphy was good – witness his performances in Broadway Melody of 1938 and 1940 – he holds his own with Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire!


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