Cast & Crew
Heidi, an orphan, is taken by her Aunt Dete to live with her grandfather, Adolph Kramer, because she is going to work for a rich family in Frankfurt. Kramer, a bitter recluse, has lived alone on a mountain outside the Alpine village of Dorflo since his son Tobias married against his will. Although at first Kramer, whom Heidi calls "the grandfather," does not speak to her, he gradually grows to love her. When Pastor Schultz visits to encourage the grandfather to send Heidi to school and church, he angrily sends the pastor away, but after remembering Tobias and the story of the prodigal son, the grandfather takes Heidi to church where they are welcomed into the community. On Heidi's eighth birthday, Aunt Dete abducts her and takes her to Frankfurt to be the companion of Klara Sesemann, an invalid child whose rich father is away on business. Housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier wants Klara to remain ill so that Sesemann will think that Klara cannot live without her and so will marry her. Because she thinks that Heidi is uncouth, she pays Dete to take her back, but after Dete leaves, Klara throws a tantrum because she likes Heidi, and Fraulein Rottenmeier agrees that Heidi can stay the night. After Heidi tries to escape, Klara promises that if she is still homesick when her father returns for Christmas in two weeks, she will ask him to send Heidi back. Meanwhile, the grandfather begins the hundred mile journey to Frankfurt on foot. On Christmas Eve, Klara, to her father's delight, walks as the result of Heidi's training and inspiration. Sesemann, having heard of the grandfather's brutal nature from Dete, refuses to send her back and, suspecting Fraulein Rottenmeier's scheme, fires her. That night, the grandfather arrives in Frankfurt, but he is arrested when he disturbs people while looking for Heidi. Fraulein Rottenmeier tries to sell Heidi to gypsies, but the grandfather breaks out of jail and rescues her. After he is arrested again, Fraulein Rottenmeier claims that he stole "her" child, but the police captain sends for Sesemann, and the matter is straightened out. Later, Heidi, Klara and Sesemann return to the grandfather's house where they eat with Heidi's friends.
Marcia Mae Jones
Sidney D. Mitchell
Darryl F. Zanuck
Heidi came at the height of Shirley Temple's popularity, with the curly-topped child actress enjoying her third year in a row as America's top box office star. Heidi director Allan Dwan, however, saw Temple as someone whose career had already peaked at age 8 and was not keen on working with her at first. "In a kind of left-handed way, [Darryl] Zanuck gave me Heidi," said Dwan as quoted in Shirley Temple's 1988 autobiography Child Star. "'See what you can do with it,' [Zanuck] said. I liked to avoid children, especially those that were 'over.' [Shirley] had hit her peak and was sliding fast when I started working with her. It was sad that the spark lasted only to a certain age. Zanuck would have liked to make a trade, but nobody was interested."
In reality, Shirley Temple's star was far from fading at that point. Louis B. Mayer, head of rival studio MGM, was at that very moment trying to negotiate a deal with Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, that would allow Temple to be loaned out to star in MGM's big-budget production of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Fox told Temple that they had every intention of nurturing her career as she transitioned into adulthood. The first step was guiding her away from the cutesy singing and dancing vehicles that had made her famous and steering her towards more dramatic roles, beginning with Wee Willie Winkie (1937). Heidi would mark Temple's second "serious" role.
Many of the exterior scenes in Heidi were filmed on location high in the mountains of Lake Arrowhead, California, which doubled for the Swiss Alps. It was a pleasant shoot, according to Temple. Director Allan Dwan, who had taken on the project begrudgingly, eventually came to enjoy himself. "...during the making of Heidi," said Temple in her autobiography, "I had a director who was skeptical if not annoyed at the prospect of working with me. As Heidi progressed, however, Dwan's initial attitude of resignation warmed perceptibly."
The biggest challenge that Shirley Temple faced while making Heidi was working with goats. "Time came when I was to be butted by a trained billy goat named Old Turk," said Temple. "Padding was stuffed into my pants and I was told to bend over. I shut my eyes for good measure. Old Turk needed no rehearsal. With a short quick rush, head lowered on target, he sent me up and forward, sprawling facedown in the dust...Actually the butt was painless, and the sensation of flying pure fun...Several butts later Mother told Dwan a double must be found. Repetitive abuse like that could damage a girl. A boy my size was found, padded, dressed, and hatted in my clothes. Assuming my bent-over position with his face averted from the camera, he stole all my remaining fun."
A scene in which Temple was required to milk one of the goats also brought laughs. "No matter how I squeezed or tugged, the bucket remained stone dry. Not one drop...Others had instructed me how to milk," said Temple, "but nobody told the goat what to do. I desperately wanted to get that goat to produce." With Temple unable to successfully milk the goat, Allan Dwan decided to take matters into his own hands - without telling her. "Dwan sent for milk, the old-fashioned kind with cream floating on top," said Temple. "Invisible to both the camera and me, a thin piece of flexible tubing was glued to the far side of the goat's udder. It snaked its way unobtrusively offstage and into the bucket of milk. With little to show for our rehearsal except tender teats, the goat was now automated. Retrieving me from arithmetic lessons, Dwan said nothing about his scheme, dispensed with further rehearsal, and placed me on the familiar three-legged stool. The goat turned its head once to regard me with indifference as I approached that udder with renewed determination. As cameras rolled I squeezed and tugged. Not a drop. I really had no idea why. In frustration I tipped up one teat to peer into its end. At that instant, back with the hidden milk bucket, a propman squeezed his rubber bulb, sending a stream of milk smack into my eye. 'Look!' I shouted, wiping my face with my sleeve. 'I got some!'"
Halfway through production on Heidi, a musical fantasy sequence was hastily written into the screenplay. As Grandfather reads her a story, Heidi imagines herself as one of the characters and performs a number called "In My Little Wooden Shoes." Many sources later suggested that it was Temple's idea to add the musical number, but according to her, the studio was behind it. It was true, she admitted, that she enjoyed performing the song, which allowed her the thrill of flying through the air on aerial wires as well as a rare opportunity to trade her trademark curls for braids as she turned into a Dutch girl. However, Temple didn't see the big picture: that the studio was trying to milk every bit of her "Shirley Temple-ness" before puberty took its inevitable hold. "The studio blamed [my] Mother," said Temple, "saying the idea of returning to the tried-and-true past was hers. Quite the reverse. Several times recently and unsuccessfully she had petitioned Zanuck for roles which would require me to abandon my standard headful of curls...Her innate sense of timing told her it was time for a broad change."
When Heidi was released in the Fall of 1937, it was a hit, keeping Shirley Temple America's top box office draw for the third year in a row. Temple herself loved the film, which instantly became a family classic. "When Heidi did premier officially I attested to its quality in my own way," said Temple. "On the screen, Heidi is being refused permission to return home to her grandfather. Although desperately anxious to go, the girl remains completely dry-eyed. Not so me, seated in the darkened audience. That girl on the screen was in a fix worthy of genuine sympathy. I cried copiously."
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Director: Allan Dwan
Screenplay: Walter Ferris, Julien Josephson (writers); Johanna Spyri (novel)
Cinematography: Arthur Miller
Art Direction: Hans Peters
Music: David Buttolph, Charles Maxwell, Ernst Toch (all uncredited)
Film Editing: Allen McNeil
Cast: Shirley Temple (Heidi Kramer), Jean Hersholt (Adolph Kramer), Arthur Treacher (Andrews), Helen Westley (Blind Anna), Thomas Beck (Pastor Schultz), Mary Nash (Fraulein Rottenmeier), Sidney Blackmer (Herr Sesemann), Pauline Moore (Fraulein Elsa), Mady Christians (Dete), Marcia Mae Jones (Klara Sesemann).
by Andrea Passafiume
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Twentieth Century-Fox bought the rights to the book in September 1936 from Sol Lesser. The deal included the rights to a screen treatment already in preparation for Lesser. According to an April 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item, Otto Brower, who was originally scheduled to direct, completed background shots in Switzerland for the film. During production, Mary Nash replaced Violet Kemble Cooper, who was forced to withdraw because of an impending operation, according to Hollywood Reporter. Gene Reynolds is listed as a cast member in Hollywood Reporter production charts, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that this film, along with Twentieth Century-Fox's Ali Baba Goes to Town, would utilize a new three-tone tinting process, which had been under development for the previous ten months. The process involved a combination of sepia, amber and copper tones for daylight, and blue, orange and copper tones for nighttime. New York Times noted that the print shown at the Roxy Theatre in New York was tinted softly in sepia and blue. This film's preview in Glendale, CA on October 8, 1937, was attended by Shirley Temple and Jean Hersholt. Jule Styne, in his autobiography, states that he was Temple's vocal coach for this film. According to modern sources, some scenes in the film were shot at Lake Arrowhead, CA, and the cast also included Greta Meyer, Bodil Rosing, Elsa Janssen and Victor Kolberg. Other films and television programs based on the same source include a 1953 Swiss film and its sequel in 1955, entitled Heidi and Peter; a 1955 NBC-TV broadcast, produced and directed by Max Liebman and starring Jeanne Carson, Wally Cox, Elsa Lanchester and Natalie Wood; an Austrian film released in the U.S. in 1968 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, F6.2098); an NBC-TV special in November 1968, directed by Delbert Mann and starring Jennifer Edwards, Michael Redgrave, Jean Simmons and Maximilian Schell; and an NBC television special entitled The New Adventures of Heidi. The November 1968 NBC-TV special preempted the end of an exciting football game, which caused much dissatisfaction among viewers who missed an exciting finish and prompted the networks to adopt a policy of never preempting football games again.