Weekend Movie – Captain January

An Orphaned Shirley Temple Finds Wealth, Family and Happiness.

Shirley Temple in Captain January

(Musical, Drama, Family)

The lighthouse keeper of Cape Tempest Captain January (Guy Kibbee) rescued a baby from sea and decided to raise the girl. Her name is Helen Mason (Shirley Temple) but everybody calls her Star. They live happily in the lighthouse where Star spends her time mostly with adults and learns to sing and dance. Her best friends are Captain Nazro (Slim Summerville), Paul Roberts (Buddy Ebsen) and Mrs. Croft (Jane Darwell).

Yet, this somewhat unconventional life is bound to be over when truant officer Agatha Morgan (Sara Haden) asks for the child to be removed from the Captain’s care. Neither did the Captain adopt her officially, nor did he enroll her in school. Moreover, the lighthouse is being modernized and Captain January will be without a job soon. This is mixed with heartwarming performances by child star Shirley Tempe, including the famous “At the Codfishball” with Buddy Ebsen.

And they lived happily ever after… (Spoiler Alert)

The Captain and Star are devastated about being separated. In a fairy-tale twist friend Nazro is able to locate Star’s wealthy relatives. Her aunty and uncle from Boston are willing to raise the girl and arrive just in time to claim her. Luckily the affluent relatives are able to buy Star a yacht and provide her with the best crew possible; Captain January, Roberts, Nazro and Mrs. Croft.

The moral of the story is that love and care are not enough to provide for a child. Bureaucracy is not your friend and even though Nazro may look like the hero of this story, it is really money that enables all characters to improve their situation.

Despite some critique about Shirley Temple’s revealing outfits, the cheesy family movie was a box office success. It is a remake of the silent movie Captain January staring Baby Peggy (Montgomery) from 1924. Both are available on YouTube.

Why we love it: It is somewhere between Toddlers and Tiaras, Mary Poppins and Fairy Tales.

Recommended for: family movie night.

Shirley Temple as Helen ‘Star’ Mason
Guy Kibbee as Captain January
Slim Summerville as Captain Nazro
Buddy Ebsen as Paul Roberts
Sara Haden as Agatha Morgan
Jane Darwell as Mrs. Eliza Croft
1936, 20th Century Fox
Directed by David Butler
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Based on The Lighthouse at Cape Tempest by Laura E. Richards, 1890
Music by Lew Pollack