• Steven Heller

Defusing the World’s Hot Spots, Hollywood Style

If you are wondering who can defuse a keg of dynamite on the Sub-Continent, the Middle East or Northern Africa, don’t think “Hurt Locker,” think Shirley Temple. Before she was an official ambassador, she was the defacto princess of simple solutions. The textbook for tinderbox relief is the long forgotten 1937 “Wee Willie Winkie” film and production book, which features her innocent brand of colonial diplomacy.

During the British Raj, Sergeant Donald McDuff (Victor McLaglen) escorts Joyce Williams (June Lang), an impoverished widow, and her young daughter, Priscilla (Ms. Temple), to a remote military outpost on the northern frontier of India, to live with her stern father-in-law, Colonel Williams (C. Aubrey Smith). Along the way, they witness the capture of notorious rebel chief Khoda Khan (Cesar Romero). Priscilla is nicknamed Wee Willie Winkie (not the avant garde Feininger comic strip), wins the hearts of all the soldiers, especially her grandfather and McDuff; even Khoda Khan is touched by her visits to cheer him up in his captivity.

Khoda Khan is rescued in a daring night raid. McDuff is fatally wounded while out on patrol. He dies as Winkie sings “Auld Lang Syne” to him. Winkie begs Khoda Khan to stop fighting when Mohammed-din, a soldier who is actually Khan’s spy, smuggles her out of the base and takes her to the rebel mountain fortress. Khoda Khan is greatly pleased; he thinks that the colonel will bring his entire regiment in a hopeless attempt to rescue her. The rest follows a logical path to redemption and good cheer. And isn’t that the endgame we all look forward to.

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