Adventure in Baltimore (1949): Wallace’s Feminist Drama Starring Robert Young and Shirley Temple

Richard Wallace directed Adventure in Baltimore, a drama starring Robert Young and Shirley Temple.

In 1905, Dinah Sheldon (Temple), a rebellious art student, is expelled from Miss Ingram’s Seminary for wearing two petticoats instead of five; she also attends political rallies and insists on studying nudes.  Sent home to Baltimore, Dinah’s understanding father, Dr. Andrew Sheldon (Robert Young), an Episcopalian pastor, forgives his daughter, but her mother Lily (Josephine Hutchinson) encourages her to be more conventionally feminine.

Dinah’s childhood sweetheart Tom Wade (John Agar) also believes she should settle down, and confesses that, in her absence, he has begun dating Bernice Eckert (Carol Brannon).

When Dinah is arrested during brawl in public park, Tom is asked to offer bail. Out of gratitude, Dinah offers to write a speech for Tom on equality, to be delivered at the Forum Society’s Spring Dance. While preparing the speech, a modified version of her own debate, Dinah learns that her exit from jail was witnessed by two women, who relayed the information to Dan Fletcher (Albert Sharpe), Andrew’s Scottish vestryman.

Andrew encourages Dinah’s dreams by confessing that, as a youth, he had a short career as ballroom dancer but gave it up to protect his father’s reputation. Tom is shocked to discover that her “equality” topic is female emancipation and is laughed at by the crowd.

Aware of Tom’s rejection, Andrew offers to be Dinah’s partner in a waltz contest, and father and daughter easily defeat Tom and Bernice. Later, Dinah visits Tom at the automobile garage where he works as a mechanic and begs him to pose for a portrait she intends to enter in a competition called “Spirit of Labor.” Although Tom at first refuses to help, Dinah soon talks him into posing by promising to disguise his face in the finished painting. She then dresses him in a bathing suit and hammer and paints his likeness in the seclusion of the family greenhouse. Dinah enters the painting in the contest anonymously, but because Tom’s face is clearly identifiable, her identity is soon surmised. In addition, because she painted Tom as half undressed, her reputation is called into question, and Andrew, who has been nominated to the bishop’s job, is suddenly embroiled in yet another scandal.

Tom is fired from his job and dumped by jealous Bernice. Pressured, Andrew reluctantly agrees to send Dinah to her aunt in Pittsburgh until his promotion is assured. Tom, meanwhile, defends Dinah’s honor to Bernice.

A suffrage parade is harassed by some jeering men, and Dinah and Lily come to the women’s rescue, causing a riot.  Andrew learns of the incident and bails his family and Tom out of jail.  Andrew’s firm and liberal stand moves his family, and just as Tom finally confesses love to Dinah, Andrew learns he has been made bishop.


Directed by Richard Wallace
Produced by Richard H. Berger, Dore Schary
Written by Lionel Houser, based on the story by Christopher Isherwood
Cinematography: Robert De Grasse
Edited by Robert Swink
Production and distribution: RKO Radio Pictures
Release date: April 19, 1949
Running time: 89 minutes


TCM showed the movie on March 31, 2020.