Musical Monday: Stowaway (1936)

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.

stowaway2This week’s musical:
Stowaway – Musical #544

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
William A. Seiter

Starring:
Shirley Temple, Robert Young, Alice Faye, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Treacher, Willie Fung, Philip Ahn, Allan Lane

Plot:
Barbara (Temple), nicknamed Ching-Ching, is an orphan in China after her missionary parents were killed and now lives with other missionaries. When there’s danger in town, Ching-Ching’s friend, Sun Lo (Philip Ahn) puts her on a boat for Shanghai so she will be safe. Ching-Ching gets lost in Shanghai and is befriended by American Tommy Randall (Young). Ching-Ching accidentally ends up on a boat for the United States. On the ship, Tommy and Susan Parker (Faye) care for Barbara/Ching-Ching, but neither can adopt her because they aren’t married. The two get married to give Barbara a home.

Trivia:
-“Stowaway” was the big Christmas release of 1936. Released in December of 1936, a Christmas song and scene are tacked on to the end since it was released at Christmas.
-Shirley Temple was required to learn several Chinese phrases for the film. She was taught by a UCLA student from Shanghai, according to Temple’s autobiography “Child Star.”
-Production for the film was held up for four weeks after both Shirley Temple and Alice Faye had the flu, according to Shirley Temple’s book.
-Robert Young was borrowed from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for this film
-Third and final film for Shirley Temple and Alice Faye

Shirley Temple with Robert Young

Shirley Temple with Robert Young

Notable Songs:
-Goodnight, My Love performed by Shirley Temple and then by Alice Faye and Robert Young
-You Gotta S-M-I-L-E To Be H-A-Double-P-Y performed by Shirley Temple
-One Never Knows, Does One? performed by Alice Faye
-That’s What I Want for Christmas performed by Shirley Temple

I apologize that the only YouTube version I could find is colorized:

Highlights:
-Shirley Temple doing impressions of Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
-Christmas ending scene

My Review:
“Stowaway” (1936) is one of Shirley Temple’s better films as a child star. Her character of an orphan living with missionaries in China is adorable and witty. And even though Shirley ends up as a “Stowaway,” there isn’t any mad-cap confusion, like other films would probably throw in.

I also find it pretty impressive that Shirley Temple learned multiple Chinese words, phrases and proverbs and delivers them fairly convincingly. The adult leads of Robert Young and Alice Faye flank Shirley well and also compliment each other. Faye is already engaged to another man when she meets Young and her travel companion is his meddlesome mother-in-law, played by Helen Westley.

Her performance of “You Gotta S-M-I-L-E to Be H-A-Double-P-Y” is fun and energetic. During the song she does impressions of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor which is a bit ridiculous, but fairly humorous.

We also hear Alice Faye’s deep melodic voice reprising “Goodnight, My Love” and later “One Never Knows, Does One?” According to Shirley Temple’s autobiography, Shirley was angry, knowing Faye had out-sung her in “Goodnight, My Love.” However, as a viewer, I feel that both performances give the song different meaning, almost as if it’s a separate song. Shirley’s is a sweet lullaby, nostalgic of what her mother used to sing to her. Faye’s is an uncertain romantic tune performed to the man she’s not engaged to.

stowaway

Shirley Temple in a publicity photo for the brief Christmas scene in “Stowaway.”

The film ends with a Christmas scene with Shirley Temple singing to Young and Faye “That’s What I Want for Christmas” on Christmas morning. It’s a cute scene and I’m not opposed to it, but the rest of the film has absolutely no connection or reference to Christmas (so you don’t start watching Stowaway and think it will be a Christmas movie). It seems that the Christmas scene was tacked on, since the movie was released in December of 1936. The film easily could have ended with the scene that takes place prior to the Christmas movie.

If you want a fun Shirley Temple film that has a hint of Christmas, this one is for you. This one may be one of my favorite Temple films, along with “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and “The Little Princess.”

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