Annie Rooney (Shirley Temple) is a pretty and sweet teenage girl who comes from a humble family. She lives a happy life with her grandpa and her father, who is an unemployed inventor.
When Annie finds herself falling for her classmate Marty (Dickie Moore), she’s sure she’s found the great love of her life. There’s just one problem: he comes from an incredibly wealthy family, and she isn’t sure she’ll be able to impress his higher-class family and friends.
Miss Annie Rooney (dir. Edwin L. Marin) is a remake of the silent film Little Annie Rooney, which starred Mary Pickford. The title was changed from “little” to “miss” because Shirley Temple was using the film as an attempt to break out as a teen actress and free herself from her child star persona. She was fourteen years old when the film was produced.
The plot of this film is quite simple, following the familiar formula of “poor girl meets rich boy and falls in love.” Knowing that Shirley Temple herself allegedly referred to this film as “terrible” years after it was made, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it. My hope was that it would be a simple but cute and enjoyable film with a pleasant lead performance by teenage Shirley.
Things got off to a bit of a rocky start in my viewing of this film on Netflix. Though it was apparently originally produced in black and white, the Netflix streaming version is colorized — and not colorized very well. Temple and the gang are rocking skin so orange you may confuse them for sci-fi creatures if you put the sound on mute. If you decide not to watch the film as a silent creature feature, the sound is also problematic, possessing a weird, echo-y effect at times.
Technical difficulties aside, Miss Annie Rooney is certainly a film that has enjoyable moments, sometimes for reasons of unintentional corn. Aside from the comical colorization (which was apparently not the fault of the filmmakers — it seems to have been added in the Wave of Colorized Terror that came decades after this film was released and affected many greats), there’s also the fact that the kids leading the film are meant to be playing 16 or 17 but look much younger. As a result, the characters come off as a bunch of kids playing dress up and pretending to be young adults.
That being said, Shirley Temple does give a perfectly pleasant lead performance. Not quite as bubbly and sugary as her childhood persona and not yet as refined as she was as an adult actress, she does quite a good job of pulling off her “average teen girl” character. It may have been more difficult for audiences at the time since one of the film’s big marketing points was “Shirley Temple’s first on-screen kiss!,” but I was easily able to separate her persona as a young star from her character here.
Despite that little peck on the cheek being the film’s big selling point to 1942’s audiences, I found the family aspects of the film’s plot to be much more interesting than the romance. The failed experiments of Annie’s inventor father are funny to watch but also kind of sad, seeing as he has so much passion for invention but so little success with it. He finds a sort of “redemption” by the film’s end, which is the most heartwarming part of the story’s trajectory.
Miss Anne Rooney isn’t a bad little watch. It would have been better had it focused on Annie’s family more than on her childish romances, but it’s a pleasant film either way. It’s nothing stellar, but an interesting watch, particularly for fans of Shirley Temple who are interested in exploring her transition from child star to grown-up, glamorous actress. The score: 2/5