The Little Minister
|The Little Minister|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Wallace|
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Written by||Jane Murfin
Sarah Y. Mason
Based on the novel and play by J. M. Barrie
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||Henry W. Gerrard|
|Edited by||William Hamilton|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|December 28, 1934|
The Little Minister is a 1934 American drama film starring Katharine Hepburn and directed by Richard Wallace. The screenplay by Jane Murfin, Sarah Y. Mason, and Victor Heerman is based on the 1891 novel and subsequent 1897 play of the same title by J. M. Barrie. The picture was the fifth feature film adaptation of the works, following four silent film versions. The original novel was the third of the three "Thrums" novels (a town based on his home of Kirriemuir), which first brought Barrie to fame.
Set in rural 1840s Scotland, the plot focuses on labor and class issues while telling the story of Gavin Dishart, a staid cleric newly assigned to Thrums' Auld Licht church, and Babbie, a member of the nobility who disguises herself as a gypsy girl in order to interact freely with the local villagers and protect them from her guardian, Lord Rintoul, who wants to keep them under his control. Initially the conservative Dishart is appalled by the feisty girl, but he soon comes to appreciate her inner goodness. Their romantic liaison scandalizes the townspeople, and the minister's position is jeopardized until Babbie's true identity is revealed.
Katharine Hepburn initially rejected the role of Babbie, then reconsidered, against the advice of her agent Leland Hayward, when Margaret Sullavan was offered the role. The film was budgeted at $650,000, which at the time was considered a high amount, and much of it was spent on exterior shooting in California's Sherwood Forest and Laurel Canyon and on the elaborate village set constructed on RKO Forty Acres back lot. (It later was used in a number of films, including Laurel and Hardy's Bonnie Scotland). It was RKO's most expensive film of the year and the most expensive film in which Hepburn had appeared.
The soundtrack includes the traditional Scottish tunes "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond," "Comin' Thro' the Rye," and "House of Argyle." The 3-CD set Max Steiner: The RKO Years 1929-1936 includes ten tracks of incidental music Steiner composed for the film.
Miss Hepburn films were most popular with New York audiences and held its world premiere at lavish Radio City Music Hall.
- Katharine Hepburn as Babbie
- John Beal as. Reverend Gavin Dishart
- Alan Hale as Rob Dow
- Donald Crisp as Doctor McQueen
- Lumsden Hare as Tammas Whammond
- Andy Clyde as Wearyworld
- Beryl Mercer as Mrs. Margaret Dishart
- Billy Watson as Micah Dow
- Dorothy Stickney as Jean Proctor
- Mary Gordon as Nanny Webster
- Frank Conroy as Lord Milford Rintoul
- Eily Malyon as Lady Evalina Rintoul
- Reginald Denny as Captain Halliwell
In his review in the New York Times, Andre Sennwald described the film as "a tender and lovingly arranged screen edition of Sir James's rueful little Scottish romance . . . in its mild-mannered and sober way, The Little Minister proves to be a photoplay of genuine charm."  The film was popular but its high cost meant it recorded a loss of $9,000 and thus began Miss Hepburn's reputation as "box office poison."
- Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
- Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. p79
- Max Steiner: The RKO Years 1929-1936 at ScreenArchives.com
- New York Times review
- The Little Minister at Turner Classic Movies