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The Little Minister

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Wallace
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Jane Murfin
Sarah Y. Mason
Victor Heerman
Based on the novel and play by J. M. Barrie
Starring Katharine Hepburn
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Henry W. Gerrard
Editing by William Hamilton
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) December 28, 1934 (1934-12-28)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Little Minister is a 1934 American drama film directed by Richard Wallace. The screenplay by Jane Murfin, Sarah Y. Mason, and Victor Heerman is based on the 1891 novel and subsequent 1897 play of the same title by J. M. Barrie. It was the fifth feature film adaptation of the works, following four silent film versions. The original novel was the third of the three "Thrums" novels (a town based on his home of Kirriemuir), which first brought Barrie to fame.



Set in rural 1840s Scotland, the plot focuses on labor and class issues while telling the story of Gavin Dishart, a staid cleric newly assigned to Thrums' Auld Licht church, and Babbie, a member of the nobility who disguises herself as a gypsy girl in order to interact freely with the local villagers and protect them from her guardian, Lord Rintoul, who wants to keep them under his control. Initially the conservative Dishart is appalled by the feisty girl, but he soon comes to appreciate her inner goodness. Their romantic liaison scandalizes the townspeople, and the minister's position is jeopardized until Babbie's true identity is revealed.


Katharine Hepburn initially rejected the role of Babbie, then reconsidered, against the advice of her agent Leland Hayward, when Margaret Sullavan was offered the role. The film was budgeted at $650,000, which at the time was considered a high amount, and much of it was spent on exterior shooting in California's Sherwood Forest and Laurel Canyon and on the elaborate village set constructed on the RKO back lot. (It later was used in a number of films, including Laurel and Hardy's Bonnie Scotland).

The soundtrack includes the traditional Scottish tunes "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond," "Comin' Thro' the Rye," and "House of Argyle." The 3-CD set Max Steiner: The RKO Years 1929-1936 includes ten tracks of incidental music Steiner composed for the film [1].

The film had its world premiere at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.



In his review in the New York Times, Andre Sennwald described the film as "a tender and lovingly arranged screen edition of Sir James's rueful little Scottish romance . . . in its mild-mannered and sober way, The Little Minister proves to be a photoplay of genuine charm." [2] However the film ultimately lost $9,000 and contributed to Hepburn's reputation as "box office poison." [3]


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