“ Genre: Children's DVDs / Theatrical Release: 1937 / Universal, suitable for all / Director: Allan Dwan / Actors: Shirley Temple, Jean Hersholt, Marcia Mae Jones, Mary Nash ... / DVD released 2005-04-18 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Colour, PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
When I was a youngster, one of my most treasured books was Heidi, written by Johnna Spyri, so when I came across the 1937 black and white version starring Shirley Temple, I had to give it a watch .
It's a real feel-good film, the story of an orphan dumped by her selfish aunt at the mountainside cabin of her grandfather, a man with a reputation as an 'Old Heathen', and greatly disliked by the villagers after he turned his back on his young son and wife many years ago.
Since then he has maintained a stony silence and a solitary lifestyle in his isolated shack,- a lifestyle changed immediately with the arrival of cheerful Heidi, who sets about melting his heart right away . It begins with practical things - him allowing her to use some old overcoats as blankets up in the hayloft, and making an extra wooden chair so she can eat at the table instead of sitting on the floor .From being a silent, grunting old man, he starts to become much more cheerful - reading her stories, and singing pleasantly to himself .
Heidi also makes friends with Peter, the goatherd, and his grandmother, blind Anna.
Just as she gets settled in to her new life, Heidis aunt comes to steal her away to Frankfurt without her grandfathers knowledge, where she is placed as a companion to an invalid, Clara, who is wheelchair bound after a spinal injury. Clara's governess, who is trying to make herself indispensible to Claras widowed father, is not happy to have Heidi there, and Heidi, missing her grandfather, is not happy to be there either, and although she soon works her own particular brand of magic on Clara, she misses her grandfather.
How can she go home when the happiness of Clara depends on her company, and how will her grandfather manage without his cheerful granddaughter to keep him from his demons .
The film is old, and as a result is very dated in places - for instance, one toboggan scene is clearly shot against a large TV screen showing mountainside scenes, and looks as false as it is . The sets and costumes are a bit cheesy, and the film doesn't have too many special effects .
The music in the film is mostly just background noise, although a couple of well known christmas carols are used to good effect, and there is a particularly good clog dancing dream sequence about a dutch girl and her magical wooden shoes .
Shirley Temple is at her sickeningly sweet best - tapdancing, singing, generally being sickeningly cute in an array of frilly dresses and with her curly ringlets framing her chubby cheeked little face. I think she was a good choice for the role of Heidi, and she manages to be clumsy and endearing .
The grandfather is a character I rather like - sort of like a grumpy Santa, with his big bushy beard. I like the way we see his character gradually warming up, becoming less hostile and slowly starting to smile and sing without realising .
My favourite character is Andrews, Claras family butler . He's your typical British accented formal butler, but you get a glimpse of an impish sense of humour and a lot of kindness beneath his well mannered exterior.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film . Sure, it's dated, it's soppy, it's cheesy, it's utterly predictable - but its just such a sweet, innocent feel good story that the cheesiness works. Its rated U, so it's suitable for all ages,although I suspect children nowadays will sneer at it for being in black and white . Personally, I think it's a real classic, and it makes a great film to watch when you want something happy and light .
Christmas is fast approaching, and one of the things that must be crossed off any shopping list for the season is stocking stuffers and "filler gifts". Filler gifts are basically inexpensive gifts to balance out between the children so that if for any reason, the "gift pile" looks uneven, little inexpensive bits of happiness can be unwrapped. Filler gifts also sit in the box ready to be handed out for those unexpected moments when someone else's child decides to spontanoeusly exchange gifts with yours, so that it would b rather rude not to reciprocate in some way. This happens to us every year, so it is best to be prepared!
For these little filler gifts, books and DVDs seem to be the most popular to receive, and thankfully, there are many excellent DVDs out there to had these days that cost very little. I like to go with classics, as most children seem to get the latest blockbuster as soon as it comes out, and as TV seems to not air these like they used to, it is a fair bet that the child has not seen the film yet. We own a fair amount of children's classic films, and they always prove a big hit when the children have friends over, so it is a win win :)
Shirley Temple is inaugurably an iconic figure in family entertainment. Grab a film with her name appearing in the credits, and you know that you can rest assured of a quality production with nothing remotely objectionable to be seen along the way. In 1937, the world was a frightening place very similar to our own. The economy was suffering in America, and the shadow of war was being cast over Europe, with rumours of dark political deeds stirring. People looked to the cinema for an escape, with families spending hard earned cash to send their children and themselves for carefree respite from what was often a darker reality. Sunny child star Shirley Temple fit the bill, with her dazzling dimpled smile, golden curls, and precocious singing, dancing, and acting skills. America's little sweetheart was to lighten the hearts of cinema goers that year as Heidi, the little orphaned girl from the Swiss Alps who changed the world of those who came to know her, all for the better.
Based upon the classic novel by Joanna Spryi, the film does take small liberties in a few places, and some bits are omitted. This does not detract from the value of the film at all, remaining a high quality dramatisation of the novel while allowing the best aspects of Shirley to shine. This is not to say this film is a mere vehicle, as the rest of the ensemble are every bit as important. Of particular note is the role of Jean Hersholt who played Heidi's grandfather. A very well known and highly respected actor, he admitted he was at first quite underwhelemed when he discovered he was to play opposite Shirley Temple, but after working with her, he quite warmed to her. This may have helped him to come to terms with the initial distance felt by the grandfather who later melted towards his granddaughter, as he runs through the complex emotions with a genuine sincerity that quite endears him to the viewer.
The film is not as frivolous as many of the Shirley Temple productions, with few close ups serving merely to show off pouts, but is a quite serious attempt at making a a "serious" family film. It pulls it off nicely, and though admittedly, there are songs in the film (most notably "In Our Little Wooden Shoes"), they are appropriately placed and do not detract from the overall character of the film.
The DVD itself is a bargain price, being just over £3, so perfect for those stocking stuffer and filler gifts I mentioned earlier, though the low price belies the quality of the DVD itself. All too often cheap price means a cheaply produced DVD, and if it is a classic, this also usually means a grainy picture, scratchy sound, and generally poor, unrestored quality. Luckily, this is not the case. In 2004, Shirley Temple Black took matters into her own hands and made a deal to have her films cleaned up and then colourised so that they could be enjoyed the way they were meant to be. This means that modern children who look askance at black and white films will have no such problems when viewing this, as it is in colour, having been digitally enhanced first for a clean print.
Overall, it is a lovely introduction to the story of Heidi, which can be nicely packaged with a quality edition of the original book by Joanna Spryi for children aged 6-12. Adults looking for a bit of escapism and who have not developed a Shirley phobia will also no doubt enjoy this piece of nostalgia.