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Film / Susannah of the Mounties

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Susannah of the Mounties is a 1939 Western film starring Shirley Temple. It was based on a 1936 children's novel of the same name.

On the nineteenth-century Canadian frontier, there has been an uptick in Indian attacks against the white settlers. Susannah "Sue" Sheldon (Temple) is the only survivor of an attacked wagon train. She is found and adopted by the Mounties, specifically Angus "Monty" Montague (Randolph Scott) and Pat O'Hannegan (J. Farrell MacDonald). At the same time, Vicky Standing (Margaret Lockwood), a Proper Lady from back east, has come to visit and charms all the Mounties, especially Monty. Sue is terribly jealous.

Meanwhile, the local Indian chief, Big Eagle (Maurice Moscovitch), tells the Mounties that he knows nothing about these attacks on the settlers, but promises to look into it. As a token of friendship, he leaves his son, Little Chief (Martin Good Rider), behind with the Mounties. Sue and Little Chief befriend each other, but will they also be able to bring their respective communities together?

This was Shirley Temple's last financially successful film with 20th Century Fox, and thus may be considered the official end of her "child star" career.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Susannah Sheldon, called "Sue"
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: How the Indians dress, naturally.
  • Brown Face: Big Eagle and Wolf Pelt are both played by white actors. Averted with Little Chief and the background Indians, who were played by actual members of the Blackfeet tribe.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original novel, Sue's parents were in India rather than dead.
  • General Ripper: Harlan Chambers on the side of the whites and Wolf Pelt on the side of the Indians. Notably, the movie is explicit that Chambers is not a Mountie because apparently Mounties can never not be good guys.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: This is a Shirley Temple film, after all. This time, she's orphaned by an Indian attack on the wagon train she was traveling with.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The named Indian characters are Big Eagle, Little Chief, and Wolf Pelt. Additionally, the Indians refer to Sue as "Little Golden Hawk." During the production of this movie, Shirley Temple was made an honorary member of the Blackfoot tribe and given the name "Bright Shining Star."
  • Oireland: Pat is very stereotypically Irish.
  • Peace Pipe: Sue and Little Chief make "treaties" with each other this way.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Vicky is always wearing one, even as she insists that she could make it as a hardy pioneer. In contrast, Sue's dresses are more practical and she even wears trousers on occasion.
  • Precocious Crush: Sue has one on Monty, which is her reason for being jealous of Vicky
  • Prevent the War: The good guys' whole goal is to prevent war between the settlers and the Indians. They actually fail to prevent the war entirely, but only Mooks (on both sides) are killed before they put a stop to it.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Indians, especially the more sympathetic ones, basically follow this trope.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The attacks on the settlers are being carried out by a rogue faction of Big Eagle's tribe.
  • The Savage Indian: The rogue Indians, led by Wolf Pelt. Averted with Big Eagle and Little Chief.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the earlier Temple film Wee Willie Winkie
  • Stay in the Kitchen: A running thread throughout the movie involves most of the male cast insisting that Vicky should return to Toronto because these uncivilized lands are supposedly too dangerous for a woman. Oddly, no one seems to have this objection about Sue, despite her being a child in addition to female.
  • Territorial Smurfette: Vicky is the only other white female for miles and Sue wants her gone
  • Textile Work Is Feminine:
    Sue: You shouldn't be sewing! That's a woman's work!
    Pat: Not in the army, darling. That's where I learned it.
  • Tonto Talk: Every Indian character talks this way.
  • The Wild West: It's the Canadian frontier rather than the U.S. frontier, but it's still the same period with all the same tropes.