Heidi (1937 film)

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Heidi (1937 film) poster.jpg
Promotional Poster
Directed byAllan Dwan
Screenplay byJulien Josephson
Walter Ferris
Based onHeidi by Johanna Spyri
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
StarringShirley Temple
Jean Hersholt
Arthur Treacher
Mary Nash
Marcia Mae Jones
Sidney Blackmer
CinematographyArthur Miller
Edited byAllen McNeil
Music byDavid Buttolph
Charles Maxwell
Ernst Toch
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date
  • October 15, 1937 (1937-10-15)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

Heidi is a 1937 American musical drama film directed by Allan Dwan and written by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris, loosely based on Johanna Spyri's 1881 children's book of the same name. The film stars Shirley Temple as the titular orphan, who is taken from her grandfather to live as a companion to Klara, a spoiled, disabled girl. It was a success and Temple enjoyed her third consecutive year as number one box office draw.


Adelheid, called Heidi (Shirley Temple), is an eight-year-old Swiss orphan who is given by her aunt Dete (Mady Christians) to her mountain-dwelling hermit grandfather, Adolph (Jean Hersholt). While Adolph behaves coolly toward her at first, her cheery nature turns him warm, and sees him open up to the nearby town.

Heidi is then stolen back by her aunt, to live in the wealthy Sesemann household in Frankfurt am Main as a companion to Klara (Marcia Mae Jones), a sheltered, disabled girl in a wheelchair who is constantly watched by the strict Fräulein Rottenmeier (Mary Nash). Heidi is unhappy but makes the best of the situation, always longing for her grandfather.

When Klara's body and spirits mend under Heidi's cheerful companionship, Rottenmeier (who has tried to keep Klara dependent upon her) tries to get rid of Heidi by selling her to the gypsies, but she is stopped by the police. Heidi is rescued and reunited with her grandfather.


  • Shirley Temple as Heidi, an 8-year-old orphan living with her hermitted grandfather in an Alpine hut. She is very happy, optimistic and adventurous.
  • Jean Hersholt as Adolph Kramer, Heidi's grandfather who is grumpy at first but grows to care deeply for Heidi.
  • Marcia Mae Jones as Klara Sesemann, a wealthy, disabled girl prone to tantrums. However, she shows kindness towards Heidi.
  • Sidney Blackmer as Herr Sesemann, Klara's busy father who dotes on his daughter, wanting nothing but happiness for her.
  • Thomas Beck as Schultz, the village pastor who tries to appeal to Adolph about Heidi's future.
  • Arthur Treacher as Andrews, the butler of the Sesemann household who is always kind to Heidi.
  • Mary Nash as Fräulein Rottenmeier, the no-nonsense châtelaine of the Sesemann household, who claims that her strictness is for Klara's well-being.
  • Delmar Watson as Peter, Adolph's goatherd and a good friend of Heidi's.
  • Mady Christians as Dete, Heidi's self-interested aunt who has taken care of her for six years prior to pushing her off on her grandfather.
  • Helen Westley as Blind Anna, Peter's grandmother.
  • Christian Rub as Baker
  • Frank Reicher (uncredited) as Police lieutenant


The Alpine scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead, California with cast and crew staying in the Lake Arrowhead Hotel or in private chalets. Temple lived in a trailer parked on a hillside and only left it at the last moment to do her scenes – after her stand-in had finished with lights and sound. Temple had at least eight bodyguards who escorted her to and from the trailer and about the area when necessary.[citation needed]

Midway through the shooting of the film, the dream sequence was added into the script. There were reports that Temple was behind the dream sequence and that she was enthusiastically pushing for it but in her autobiography she vehemently denied this. Her contract gave neither her nor her parents any creative control over the films she was in. While she enjoyed the opportunity to wear braids and to be lifted on high wire, she saw this as the collapse of any serious attempt by the studio to build upon the dramatic role from the previous film Wee Willie Winkie.[1]

During the scene where Temple's character gets butted by the goat, she initially did the scene herself while completely padded up. After a few takes, however, her mother stepped in and insisted that a double be used. One of the extras, a boy, was dressed up to look like her. The boy's father was so upset over him doubling for a girl that he prohibited him from ever acting again. The double, who was not named, would later share diplomatic duties with Temple in Africa. Temple also had trouble milking the goat. To remedy this, Dwan had a flexible piece of tubing installed in such a way as to make it look as if the goat was being milked.[2]

During the making of the film, director Dwan had new badges made for the Shirley Temple Police Force. This was an informal group thought up by Temple in 1935, which was, as she described "an organized system of obligations from whomever I was able to shanghai into membership."[3] Every child wore one after swearing allegiance and obedience to 'Chief' Temple. Everyone on the set was soon wearing badges with Temple strutting about giving orders to the crew such as "Take that set down and build me a castle." They went along with the game.[4]: 111 

Temple made one other film in 1937, Wee Willie Winkie. The child actress was growing older and the studio was questioning how much longer she could keep playing "cute" roles when Heidi was filmed, but she retained her position as number one at the box office for the third year in a row.[5]


Contemporary reviews were generally positive. Frank S. Nugent wrote that the film "contains all the harmless sweetness and pretty pictures one expects to find on the juvenile shelf," and found the supporting cast "quite up to Miss Temple's demanding standard."[6] Variety gave the cast "more than a modicum of credit for making the picture what it is" and singled out Hersholt as "excellent."[7] Harrison's Reports called it "a charming picture" that was "filled with human appeal."[8] "Shirley Temple's latest picture is one of her best," reported Film Daily. "In every way, the picture is grand entertainment with its sweet sentiment, and its socko hilarity is ever a source of rollicking laughter."[9] The Lewiston Evening Journal wrote that Temple had never been given "a more captivating role than that of Heidi," adding, "The story is of the old-fashioned type but we accept it uncritically with its improbabilities, its hectic race at the end, its tears, its laughter - it is so very human in its appeal."[10] John Mosher of The New Yorker was less enthusiastic, writing, "There seems something rather musty and familiar about most of the predicaments in this movie."[11]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shirley Temple Black, "Child Star: An Autobiography" (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1988), 192-193.
  2. ^ Shirley Temple Black, "Child Star: An Autobiography" (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1988), 190-192.
  3. ^ Shirley Temple Black, "Child Star: An Autobiography" (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1988), 89.
  4. ^ Edwards, Anne (1988). Shirley Temple: American Princess. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
  5. ^ Passafiume, Andrea. "Heidi (1937)". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  6. ^ The New York Times Film Reviews, Volume 2: 1932-1938. The New York Times Company & Arno Press. 1970. p. 1441.
  7. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. November 10, 1937. p. 18.
  8. ^ "Heidi". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 171 October 23, 1937.
  9. ^ "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 6 October 12, 1937.
  10. ^ "Shirley Temple Wins All Hearts As Orphan Heidi". Lewiston Evening Journal. Lewiston, Maine: 12. October 27, 1937.
  11. ^ Mosher, John (November 13, 1937). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 98.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.


  • Windeler, Robert (1992) [1978], The Films of Shirley Temple, New York: Carol Publishing Group

External links[edit]