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A Little Princess
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Produced by Alan C. Blomquist
Dalisa Cohen
Amy Ephron
Mark Johnson
Written by Novel:
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Richard LaGravenese
Elizabeth Chandler
Starring Liesel Matthews
Eleanor Bron
Liam Cunningham
Camilla Belle
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Editing by Steven Weisberg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) May 10, 1995
Running time 97 min.
Language English
Gross revenue $10,019,307

A Little Princess is a 1995 film directed by Alfonso Cuarón based upon the novel, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This adaptation was heavily influenced by the 1939 cinematic version with Shirley Temple and took great liberties with the original story. The action was moved to New York during World War I.

Two of the songs in the soundtrack ("Tyger Tyger" and "On Another's Sorrow") used the words from poems by William Blake as lyrics.


Plot summary

Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) loves her childhood home in India, but her beloved father (Liam Cunningham) enlists to fight for the British in World War I. He enrolls her at Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls in New York, the same school Sara's late mother attended, and spares no expense to make his daughter comfortable while he is gone. Sara quickly becomes popular and well-liked by the other students whose boring, mundane life is made exciting by the wonderful stories Sara tells, much to the rage of spoiled bully, Lavinia, who is jealous of Sara's popularity. She often clashes with the severe headmistress, Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron), who attempts to stifle Sara's creativity and sense of self-worth. Sara attempts to befriend the school's black servant girl Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester) but is told to avoid her. Miss Minchin throws Sara a lavish birthday party in order to extract more money from her father, but when word comes that her father was killed in battle and his estate has been seized by the British government, she forces Sara to become a servant. Miss Minchin also confiscates all of Sara's possessions, including a locket her father gave her. Sara's belief that "every girl is a princess" is tested to the limit and she stops telling stories. Her friendship with Becky grows and her other school friends sneak up to the attic to see her. Feeling sorry, Sara's friends decide to surprise her by stealing her locket. Touched by this, Sara continues "The Ramayana".

Meanwhile, in the mansion next door, a rich old man named Charles Randolph (Arthur Malet) has recently received word that his son John, also fighting in the WWI, is MIA, resulting in his being relegated to a wheelchair. He is cared for by an Indian immigrant named Ram Dass (Errol Sitahal) who had traveled to America on the same ship as the Crewes. Ram Dass keeps an eye on Sara, knowing that she is a kind hearted girl. Mr. Randolph is called to a military hospital hoping an unidentified soldier suffering from blindess and amnesia due to exposure to poison gas is his son. Ram Dass convinces Mr. Randolph to take the injured soldier in anyway, reminding him that the soldier may know what happened to John.

One evening, as Sara tells the girls a frightening tale of Ravana, the girls scream in terror and Miss Minchin finds them. She punishes Sara and Becky by denying them any food the next day. To stay full, Sara suggests that they eat a feast that night. The two girls then pretend to have a banquet in the room as Ram Dass watches. The next morning, they wake up to find that the room has turned into a palace-like bedroom, with the same food they dreamed of eating the night before, courtesy of Ram Dass. Miss Minchin enters the room later that day and accuses them of stealing everything. She turns them in to the police and the girls decide that Sara must try to escape. Using a plank as a bridge, Sara narrowly crosses from the school to Randolph's house. The police arrive and enter the house to find her, and to arrest Becky as well. In Randolph's house, Sara meets the soldier and realizes that he is her father. He is unable to remember her however, even though she tries to remind him. Miss Minchin tells the police that Sara has no family, though she clearly recognizes Sara's father. Just as she is being taken away by the police, however, Ram Dass helps Captain Crewe to regain his memory and rescues her.

The movie ends with Sara, her father, whose assets and fortune have been restored by the British government, and Becky all leaving for India together. Sara says goodbye to all of the girls and leaves them her favorite doll, Emily, given by to her by her father before the war, as a present. Even the bullying Lavinia overcomes her jealousy and parts with Sara on good terms. Mr. Randolph, learns of how Sara's father attempted to save his son's life in the trenches during the gas attack, and becomes the school's new headmaster. Meanwhile, Miss Minchin becomes a chimney sweep, working for a boy she previously mistreated.


  • Winner: 1995 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Music and Best Production Design
  • A Little Princess was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Cinematography.


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