Musical Monday: Heidi (1937)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Heidi (1937) – Musical #621

20th Century Fox

Allan Dwan

Shirley Temple, Jean Hersholt, Arthur Treacher, Helen Westley, Thomas Beck, Mary Nash, Sidney Blackmer, Pauline Moore, Mady Christians, Marcia Mae Jones, Delmar Watson, Sig Ruman

Heidi (Temple) is an orphan who has been living with her aunt Dete (Moore) for six years since her parents died. Dete abruptly takes Heidi to her grandfather’s (Hersholt) when she has a job offer in Frankfurt. Her grandfather, Adolph Kramer, has the reputation of being as a grump in the village, because he has lived alone since turning out Heidi’s father when he married her mother. While the two are bonding, Dete returns to get Heidi so she can be a companion to a rich, wheelchair-bound girl (Jones).

• Based on the story by Johanna Spyri and published in 1880.
• The mountain scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead, Cali.
• The goat, Old Turk, who butts Heidi originally was butting Shirley Temple. She was outfitted with padding and wrote in her autobiography that it was fun. However, Gertrude Temple was unhappy about this and a stand-in was brought in. Temple was unhappy about this, because she felt like she wasn’t able to do the job, she wrote in her autobiography “Child Star.”
• When Shirley Temple was supposed to be milking a goat, she couldn’t get it to work, so the prop department surprised her and had the milk shoot in her face. Temple thought she did it, but then realized the prop dept did it, according to her autobiography “Child Star.”

Jean Hersholt and Shirley Temple in “Heidi”

Shirley Temple in costume for “My Little Wooden Shoes”

• The Christmas scenes

Notable Songs:
• “In Our Little Wooden Shoes” performed by Shirley Temple
• “Silent Night” performed Shirley Temple

My review:
Sometimes while I’m working on Musical Monday, I wonder if a movie really should be considered a musical. I’ve written about this several times, like with the movie Irene.

Lots of factors go into this decision. How many songs are in the film, if there are multiple dance numbers even if there aren’t many songs, and the length of the film.

In the case of “Heidi” (1937), I personally wouldn’t consider it a musical, however multiple reviews and write-ups on the film called it a musical.

“Heidi” (1937) only has two songs – a dream sequence of “In Our Little Wooden Shoes” and “Silent Night.”

“In Our Little Wooden Shoes” is a dream sequence while Grandfather is reading Heidi a story. Shirley Temple loses her signature curls for Swedish-like braids and dances around in wooden clogs.

“Silent Night” is sung by the cast and chorus during the Christmas scene. It starts out inside the Sesemann home, and then the camera pans out into the streets and people bustling in the streets and riding in carriages are singing as well.

Child actress Shirley Temple had been in film shorts since 1932 and feature films since 1933. In 1937, she was still a major box office draw, but director Allan Dwan felt that her career was slipping. Her mother was also concerned about her starting to act, rather than just using her personality, according to the autobiography “Child Star.”

Until this week, I hadn’t seen “Heidi” (1937) since I was 12 years old. I didn’t remember much about it, and ended up really enjoying the film. It’s a heartwarming tale, but also frustrating. Jean Hersholt is wonderful as the grumpy old man who’s heart is softened by a little girl. Mary Nash is perfect at playing the woman you love to hate who is caring for invalid child, Klara, played by Marcia Mae Jones.

While there is some uncertainty about if “Heidi” is a musical or not, I would certainly call it a Christmas film.

The climax of the film is set at Christmas. Heidi was taken from her Grandfather without his permission by Aunt Dete to be Klara’s companion. Grandfather has been hiking the 100 miles to Frankfurt to find Heidi and arrives on Christmas Eve.

Klara’s father, played by Sidney Blackmer, is often not home. He finally returns home for the holidays. He gives the two girls gifts, and Klara gives her father the wonderful surprise of her good health.

While Grandfather searches for Heidi, they narrowly miss each other in the street. He experiences issues with the police, because they think he is crazy, but finally the two are reunited.

The Christmas scene is also heartwarming as Heidi, who has never experienced such a lavish holiday or received gifts, walks up to the large Christmas tree in awe.

The tone of the story of “Heidi” is also perfect for the holiday season, since it is a great family story.

I would say this is one of Shirley Temple’s better roles, even if you aren’t a Temple fan, I would suggest checking this one out.

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