Kathleen (1941): Serio-Comedy, Starring Shirley Temple and Herbert Marshall as Daughter-Father

Harold S. Bucquet directed this tedious father-daughter serio-comedy, starring Shirley in her first comeback role since “retiring” from the screen a year earlier.

Grade: C- (* out of *****)

In the only movie she made for MGM, Temple plays the titular role, a motherless girl of 13, who lives in a big house with a nanny, a butler, and maids.

Her father John Davis (Herbert Marshall) is a workaholic, with no time for his daughter, who lies to her friends that she has a traditional loving. But this means that she cannot invite friends to her home.

As Kathleen and nanny Mrs. Farrell (Nella Walker)don’t get along, Mr. Davis dismisses her, and hires psychologist Dr. Angela Kent (Laraine Day) to look after the young girl.

Meanwhile, he is dating Lorraine Bennett (Gail Patrick), but his future fiancee and Kathleen also dislike each other. Instead, Kathleen envisions Dr. Kent as the perfect mother and wife.

When her scheme fails, Kathleen runs away. After a confrontation with Lorraine and Dr. Kent, Mr. Davis decides that he, too, prefers the doctor. The film ends happily, as Kathleen is reunited with her father and his new fiancée.

The film was a critical and commercial failure, indicating the fact that Temple was a charming child star but not an appealing teenager.  It didn’t help that in this film, she played a capricious brat, full of dreams, but caught in what one critic described as “stilted situations that even a Duse couldn’t carry off.”

There seemed to be a consensus that this was a dull, disagreeable vehicle for an actress like Temple, who inevitably experienced tough transition into teenage stardom.

Running time: 88 Minutes

Release date: December 18, 1941