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:
“Shirley Temple’s Storybook” presents “Babes in Toyland” (1960) – Musical No. 596
Shirley Temple, Jonathan Winters, Angela Cartwright, Jerry Colonna, Carl Ballantine, Joe Besser, Charles Black Jr., Lori Black, Bob Jellison, Ray Kellogg, Michel Petit, Hanley Stafford
Alan (Petit) and Jane (Cartwright) live with their cantankerous and stingy Barnaby (Winters). The children’s parents left them a great deal of money for when they grow up, so Barnaby hires three cutthroats (Colonna, Ballantine, Besser) to kill the children so he can get all the money. The children escape being drowned and journey through a gypsy camp, Spider Forest, Meantown and finally to Toyland.
-Aired on NBC on Dec. 25, 1960
-Season 2 and episode 14 of the “Shirley Temple’s Storybook” TV show. The show aired for two seasons.
-Shirley Temple’s children Linda Susan, Charles Jr. and Lori are on the show as co-hosts
-A version of Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta. This includes some songs from the original operetta and others not.
-Produced by William Asher
-Filmed in beautiful Technicolor
-Dancing gypsies and ballerinas
-“Toyland” performed by Shirley Temple
-“Floretta the Gypsy” performed by Shirley Temple
-“Life of a Sailor for Me” performed by Jerry Colonna, Joe Besser and Carl Ballentine
-“I Can’t Do the Sum” performed by Angela Cartwright and Michel Petit
I feel like each “Babes in Toyland” version I have watched is a little bit different:
-The 1934 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy version focuses on Mother Bo Peep losing her home to Barnaby. Barnaby wanting to marry Bo-Peep, who loves Tom-Tom.
-The 1961 Disney version focuses more on Annette Funicello as Contrary Mary, marrying Barnaby for her family. She has younger brothers and sisters, but Barnaby doesn’t have a niece and nephew that are inheriting money.
This 51-minute TV episode of “Babes in Toyland” tells the story of Barnaby’s rich niece and nephew who will only inherit the money if they live to adult age. It follows them as they work to escape Barnaby, but excludes the adult characters of Contrary Mary and Tom-Tom. The children journey through a gypsy camp, a horrifying Spider Forest (can you imagine?), Meantown and Toyland.
I feel like each of these versions tells a piece of the original operetta, rather than the whole thing. I think if you mashed the three together, it would tell the full story.
“Shirley Temple’s Storybook” was an hour-long TV show hosted by Shirley Temple Black that lasted two seasons. Filmed in color, Shirley would introduce each TV show and narrate a fairy tale. This particular episode begins with Shirley sitting with her three children, Linda Susan, Charles Jr. and Lori in front of a Christmas tree.
While this version of “Babes in Toyland” is well steeped in fantasy and colorful, but also has a lot of humor. Jonathan Winters is funny as the evil Barnaby, as well as his three stooges played by Jerry Colonna, Carl Ballantine and Joe Besser.
Shirley Temple looks as lovely as ever in her introduction. But she also plays a gypsy witch complete with grey hair and long fake nose and chin.
The niece and nephew are played by Angela Cartwright and Michel Petit. I haven’t seen Michel Petit in any other film or TV show, so I thought he was an interesting choice.
“Babes in Toyland” is often considered to be a Christmas story. The original operetta is Christmas themed and includes the song “Christmas Fair Waltz: Hail to Christmas.” In the 1934 version, Laurel and Hardy are helping Santa make his toys, and in the 1961 version, Annette and Tommy Sands find toys being made for Christmas by the toymaker and his apprentice.
This version doesn’t have a Christmas scene (other than Shirley Temple sitting in front of a tree with her children at the beginning), though it did air on Christmas day in 1960.
Before watching this, I had never seen an episode of “Shirley Temple’s Storybook” and thought it was really fun. I’ve seen all of Shirley Temple’s teenage films but seldom saw her in anything as an adult. She’s just as lovely. This made me want to watch more episodes! While obviously made with children in mind, there were humorous moments meant for adults as well. This was a fun 51-minute escape.
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