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Film / Stowaway

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Yep, she's cute.

Stowaway is a 1936 film directed by William A. Seiter, starring 8-year-old Shirley Temple—possibly the biggest movie star in the world at that time—and Robert Young.

Barbara "Ching-Ching" Stewart is the orphaned daughter of missionaries, living in Sanchow, China with another pair of missionaries. A bandit raid of the kind that killed her parents also kills Barbara's missionary guardians, but not before they send Barbara to safety in Shanghai. Barbara is made less safe when the Chinese man sent with her steals her money and abandons her, but luckily for Barbara, she soon falls into the company of rich American playboy Tommy Randall (Young). She gets separated from Tommy but through some plot contrivances winds up hiding in the trunk of Tommy's car, and thus accidentally becoming a stowaway when Tommy's car is brought onto the cruise ship taking him back to America. Barbara then hides in the cabin of rich Mrs. Hope and her companion Susan Parker (Alice Faye). Susan takes an interest in cute little Barbara and gets introduced to Tony, and the two are immediately attracted to each other—which is a problem, because Susan is engaged to be married to Mrs. Hope's son Richard.


One of many smash-hit sugary-sweet Shirley Temple vehicles that she made at the peak of her stardom. Temple learned real Mandarin Chinese dialogue for her part in the movie.


  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Heard from some of the Chinese characters, like when a ship's steward says "Too sorry, missy have go shoreside."
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Not just Barbara, but the whole children's band that is seen in Barbara's first scene. Barbara is making a valiant attempt to play a Chinese erhu.
  • Divorce in Reno: The planned end of Susan and Tommy's Marriage of Convenience, but Barbara intervenes, getting Tommy and Susan to admit at the divorce hearing that they really do love each other. The film ends with Tommy and Susan and Barbara as a family celebrating Christmas.
  • El Spanish "-o": Tommy, who has no clue, says things like "Me lookee buy" when trying to buy a dragon's costume head.
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  • Idle Rich: Tommy happily admits that he's never had a job, saying that he didn't want to take one from someone who needed it.
  • Literal-Minded: Possibly because Barbara has grown up in China and is unfamiliar with American slang.
    Tommy: It's all Greek to me.
    Barbara: No, it's Chinese.
  • Little Stowaway: Accidentally. Although Barbara and Tommy hit it off splendidly, they're separated when Barbara runs off to chase after her dog. She returns to find Tommy gone and the heavens opening up with rain, whereupon Barbara dives into the trunk of Tommy's car for cover. She then falls asleep, and manages to remain asleep as the car is taken down to the docks and lifted via crane into the boat that Tommy's taking back to America.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Tommy winds up marrying Susan so that Tommy, being a married man, can adopt little Barbara and stop her from being put in an Orphanage of Fear.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Barbara resorts to one of these when caught hiding in the bathroom of Mrs. Hope's cabin.
    Crewmember: What are you doing here?
    Barbara: Hiding.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Hope insists on living with Richard and Susan, exercises veto power on Richard's romantic life, and absolutely forbids them to adopt Barbara.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Not for any of the Chinese dialogue.
  • Romantic False Lead: Richard, Susan's fiance. It's perfectly obvious from the get-go that he's not going to wind up with Susan.
  • Thunder Equals Downpour: Barbara is running around Shanghai when, boom, thunder, followed by pouring rain. This is what makes her hide in Tommy's car.

Example of: