A Little Princess (1995 film)
|A Little Princess|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfonso Cuarón|
|Produced by||Alan C. Blomquist
|Screenplay by||Richard LaGravenese
|Based on||A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Vanessa Lee Chester
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Editing by||Steven Weisberg|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Family Entertainment|
|Running time||97 minutes |
A Little Princess is a 1995 drama film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, starring Liesel Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, and Vanessa Lee Chester. Set during World War I, it focuses on a young girl who is relegated to a life of servitude in a New York City boarding school by the headmistress after receiving news that her father was killed in combat. Loosely based upon the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this adaptation was heavily influenced by the 1939 cinematic version and takes creative liberties with the original story.
Due to poor promotion by Warner Bros., the film hardly made back half its budget. However, the film was critically acclaimed and given various awards, such as an Academy Award nomination  for its significant achievements in art direction and cinematography, among other aspects of its production.
In 1914, Sara Crewe loves her childhood home in India, but she has to leave it when her beloved father, Captain Crewe enlists to fight for the British in World War I. He enrolls her at Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls in New York, the same school Sara's late mother attended, and spares no expense to make sure his daughter will be comfortable while he is gone.
Sara quickly becomes popular and well-liked by the other students, whose boring, mundane lives are made exciting by the wonderful stories from "The Ramayana" that Sara tells. The school's spoiled bully, Lavinia, becomes angry over Sara's increasing popularity. She often clashes with the severe headmistress, Miss Minchin, who attempts to stifle Sara's creativity and sense of self-worth. Sara attempts to befriend the school's African-American servant girl, Becky, but is told to avoid her. Miss Minchin throws Sara a lavish birthday party in order to extract more money from Captain Crewe. However, when word comes that Captain Crewe has been killed in battle and his estate has been seized by the British government, she forces Sara to become a servant. Miss Minchin also confiscates most of Sara's possessions, except for her favorite doll, Emily, given to her by her father before the war. Sara's belief that "every girl is a princess" is put to the limit and she stops telling stories. Her friendship with Becky grows and her other school friends sneak up to the attic to see her. Feeling sorry for her, Sara's friends decide to surprise her by stealing her locket back. Touched by this, Sara continues The Ramayana.
Meanwhile, in the mansion next door, a rich old man named Charles Randolph has recently received word that his son, John, also fighting in WWI, is MIA, resulting in his being relegated to a wheelchair. He is cared for by an Indian immigrant named Ram Dass who had traveled to America on the same ship as the Crewes. Ram Dass keeps an eye on Sara, knowing that she is a kindhearted girl. Mr. Randolph is called to a military hospital hoping an unidentified soldier suffering from blindess and amnesia due to exposure to poison gas is his son. However, the man is not. Ram Dass convinces Mr. Randolph to take the injured soldier in anyway, reminding him that the soldier may know what happened to John.
One evening, as Sara tells the girls a frightening tale of Ravana, the girls scream in terror and Miss Minchin finds them. She orders the girls to go back to their own rooms, and punishes Sara and Becky by denying them any food the next day. Miss Minchin then taunts Sara of still being a princess (believing it to be lie). But when Sara stands to her, and tells her that she and the rest of the girls were princesses: despite their miserable lives from "living in tiny old attics, dressing in rags and not being pretty, smart or young"; in frustration, she threateningly warns her she will be thrown out of the school, if she finds her with the girls again before storming out of her room, locking up both Sara and Becky and breaks down before leaving. To stay full rather than starve, Sara suggests to Becky that they eat a feast for the night before going to sleep. The two girls then pretend to have a banquet in the room as Ram Dass watches. The next morning, they wake up to find that the room has turned into a palace-like bedroom, with the same food they dreamed of eating the night before, courtesy of Ram Dass. Later in the night, Miss Minchin enters the room and accuses Sara of stealing everything (including her own locket). She turns her in to the police and the girls decide that Sara must try to escape. Using a plank as a bridge, Sara narrowly crosses from the school to Randolph's house. Miss Minchin and the police arrive and enter the house to find her, and to arrest Becky (for helping Sara escape) as well. In Randolph's house, Sara meets the soldier and realizes that he is Captain Crewe. He is unable to remember her however, even though she tries to remind him. Miss Minchin (who, the police, Ram Dass and Randolph, finds her with Captain Crewe, and realizes the reunion between father and daughter) tells the police that Sara has no family, though she clearly recognizes Sara's father. Just as Sara is being taken away by the police, however, Ram Dass helps Captain Crewe to regain his memory and rescue her.
The film ends with Sara, Captain Crewe, whose assets and fortune have been restored by the British government, and Becky all leaving for India together. Sara says goodbye to all of the girls and leaves them Emily as a present. Even the bullying Lavinia overcomes her jealousy and parts with Sara on good terms. Mr. Randolph learns of how Sara's father attempted to save his son's life in the trenches during the gas attack, and becomes the school's new headmaster. Meanwhile, Miss Minchin looks on, defeated and miserable, having been reduced to a chimney sweep, working for a boy she previously mistreated.
- Liesel Matthews as Sara Crewe: She is sent to live in a boarding school while her father goes off to fight in the war. She becomes known as a storyteller and a princess.
- Eleanor Bron as Miss Minchin, a selfish woman who forces Sara to work as a servant and tries to encourage her that she is no longer a princess. She is Amelia's older sister.
- Liam Cunningham as Captain Crewe/Prince Rama
- Vanessa Lee Chester as Becky
- Rusty Schwimmer as Amelia
- Arthur Malet as Charles Randolph
- Errol Sitahal as Ram Dass
- Taylor Fry as Lavinia
- Heather DeLoach as Ermengarde
- Darcie Bradford as Jesse
- Rachael Bella as Betsy
- Alexandra Rea-Baum as Gertrude
- Camilla Belle as Jane
- Lauren Blumenfeld as Rosemary
- Kelsey Mulrooney as Lottie
- Kaitlin Cullum as Ruth
- Amy Lewis as Lilly Thompson
Differences from the book
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2012)|
- The book takes place in Victorian era London, while the film is set in New York City at the time of World War I. Sara's father also fights in World War I here, which he did not in the book.
- Like the Shirley Temple film version, this adaptation changes the fate of Captain Crewe. While he dies of brain fever in India in the book, here he is said to have been killed in the war. He is revealed to have been alive all along only with amnesia, and the movie ends with Sara going to live with her father.
- In the book, Becky is a stereotypical Victorian-era Cockney girl. In the movie, she is African American, and it is heavily implied that her status as an ostracized servant is a result of racial tensions rather than her poverty. Additionally, she is fourteen years old at the beginning of the novel, whereas in the film she appears to be a child of the same age as Sara.
- The character of Carrisford is replaced by Charles Randolph.
- In the book, Ram Dass gradually fills Sara's attic room with fresh bed sheets, extra food, and other amenities over time, while in the movie, Sara and Becky wake up to find the room completely furnished and decorated for them with all the food.
- The book covers a period of roughly seven years, with Sara first arriving at the boarding school as a young child and eventually being rescued by Carrisford as a teenager. The movie does not appear to cover more than one year.
- In the book, Sara walks into the house to return Ram Dass's monkey and meets Carrisford there. The movie has an entirely different take on this; Miss Minchin discovers the decorated attic room and accuses Sara of stealing so she calls the police. Sara escapes from the police by crawling across into the other house where she finds her amnesiac father.
- In the book, Miss Minchin is allowed to keep the school but lives in terror that Sara could ruin her with one word to Carrisford. In the movie, Mr. Randolph takes over the school and Miss Minchin is reduced to working as a chimney sweep.
- In the film, it is implied that Sara's father has adopted Becky, rather than her becoming Sara's personal attendant like in the book.
- In the book, the story that Sara tells is a story that she makes up, while in the film she tells the story of the Ramayana.
|A Little Princess|
|Film score by Patrick Doyle|
|Released||May 9, 1995|
|Patrick Doyle chronology|
All of the tracks were composed by Patrick Doyle. Three of the tracks feature soloists. The "String Quintet in C major Perger 108, MH 187" by Michael Haydn is also used in the film. The film also features the New London Children's Choir.
- "Ramayana: A Morning Raga" (2:03)
- "Children Running" (0:53)
- "Cristina Elisa Waltz" (3:03)
- "The Miss Minchin School for Girls" (1:40)
- "Knowing You by Heart" (2:32)
- "Breakfast" (0:55)
- "Letter to Papa" (1:38)
- "Angel Wings" (1:07)
- "False Hope" (2:05)
- "The Trenches" (1:00)
- "Crewe and the Soldier" (1:22)
- "Alone" (1:19)
- "The Attic" (2:00)
- "On Another's Sorrow" — Catherine Hopper (1:16)
- "The Shawl" (0:54)
- "Tyger Tyger" (0:32)
- "Compassion" (0:37)
- "For the Princess" (1:38)
- "Kindle My Heart" — Abigail Doyle (the daughter of the composer) (3:00)
- "The Locket Hunt" (3:02)
- "Midnight Tiptoe" (1:13)
- "I Am a Princess" (1:14)
- "Just Make Believe" (1:33)
- "Touched by an Angel" (1:43)
- "Emilia Elopes" (1:38)
- "The Escape" (2:58)
- "Papa!" (2:32)
- "The Goodbye" — Liesel Matthews (4:19)
Despite its failure at the box office, A Little Princess was critically acclaimed; based on 32 reviews As of 2012[update] it holds a 97% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus, "Alfonso Cuarón adapts Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel with a keen sense of magic realism, vividly recreating the world of childhood as seen through the characters."
Janet Maslin called the film "a bright, beautiful and enchantingly childlike vision", one that "draw[s] its audience into the wittily heightened reality of a fairy tale" and "takes enough liberties to re-invent rather than embalm Miss Burnett's assiduously beloved story." She concludes:
"From the huge head of an Indian deity, used as a place where stories are told and children play, to the agile way a tear drips from Sara's eye to a letter read by her father in the rain, A Little Princess has been conceived, staged and edited with special grace. Less an actors' film than a series of elaborate tableaux, it has a visual eloquence that extends well beyond the limits of its story. To see Sara whirling ecstatically in her attic room on a snowy night, exulting in the feelings summoned by an evocative sight in a nearby window, is to know just how stirringly lovely a children's film can be."
Rita Kempley of The Washington Post called the film Cuarón's "dazzling North American debut" and wrote it "exquisitely re-creates the ephemeral world of childhood, an enchanted kingdom where everything, even make-believe, seems possible....Unlike most distaff mythology, the film does not concern the heroine's sexual awakening; it's more like the typical hero's journey described by scholar Joseph Campbell. Sarah, the adored and pampered child of a wealthy British widower, must pass a series of tests, thereby discovering her inner strengths."
|1995||Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award||Best Music
Best Production Design
Best Picture (2nd place)
New Generation Award (Alfonso Cuarón)
|1996||Academy Award||Best Art Direction and Set Decoration
|Young Artist Award||Best Family Feature - Drama
Best Young Leading Actress - Feature Film (Vanessa Lee Chester)
Best Young Leading Actress - Feature Film (Liesel Matthews)
Home video release
A Little Princess was first released to home video in August 1995. In 2004, it was released on DVD with a sticker on the container marked "From the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban".
- List of book-based war films (1898–1926 wars)
- Sarah... Ang Munting Prinsesa is 1995 Filipino film adaptation of A Little Princess.
- "A LITTLE PRINCESS (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 1995-09-14. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- A Little Princess at Box Office Mojo
- A Little Princess at Rotten Tomatoes
- Maslin, Janet (May 10, 1995). "Fairy Tale Doing a Child's Job: Reveling in Exuberant Play". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Kempley, Rita (May 19, 1995). "‘A Little Princess’ (G)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- A Little Princess at the Internet Movie Database
- A Little Princess at allmovie
- A Little Princess at Box Office Mojo
- A Little Princess at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Little Princess at Metacritic