I just finished reading the book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved this movie when I was growing up. My sister and I used to watch it over and over. Shirley Temple was so cute with her little blond girls and I just loved the story. Well, if you have seen the movie but you haven't read the book there are spoilers ahead. So if you plan on reading the book, which I totally recommend, I would stop reading now. I will try not to give too much away though. Most of the movie and the characters follow along with the book pretty nicely, but there is one major plot point that is totally different in the book. Just for the record, I loved the book and I don't understand why they felt it necessary to change it. A Little Princess is a story of a girl who, even though she went through the worst of times, she never lost sight of the important things in the life. It's the opposite of the rags to riches story. She had great wealth but never let it go to head and then she lost in all and regained it again.
In the book, Captain Crew is not a soldier, but an investor. He brings Sarah to the school, so he can go back to India and invest in a diamond mine with a friend. The diamond mine, or so he thought, had no diamonds in it. Captain Crew is so grief-stricken over losing his fortune that he dies of brain fever. After hearing of her father's death, Miss Minchin keeps Sarah as a servant and a teacher for the younger kids. Even though she is dealing with hard times, she still views herself as a princess and treats everyone, even "beggar children" with great kindness. Well it turns out the friend that lost all her father's money comes back and regains the fortune and finds diamonds in them mine, but it's too late Captain Crew is dead. The friend becomes very heart sick at the lost his friend and begins to look for Sarah. With Sarah's great kindness and the fact that he is searching for young child, she attracts the attention of the Indian gentlemen that has moved in next door. Sarah is drawn to the new neighbor because she was born in India and he reminds her of home. The Indian gentleman's servant showers the Sarah and her fellow servant, Becky, with secret gifts in their room. He feels that if he helps Sarah then maybe he won't feel so bad about his friend's missing child. This man is Sarah's father's friend but they don't know it yet. Through the course of events Sarah meets the Indian gentlemen in person and it is discovered that Sarah is the little girl he has been looking for. Sarah leaves the cold attic she had been living in under Miss Minchin's care and goes to live with her father's dear friend and she brings Becky with her as her servant/assistant. Sarah again has wealth because she now owns half of a diamond mine and regains her status as a "princess", even though in her heart she always was one. It has a great happy ending and I loved how it all worked out. It seemed to flow very nicely and all the characters were well developed. The ending of the book is not as "Hollywood" as the movie, but it's true to Sarah's character.
In the movie, after Sarah finds out that her father is presumed dead she is made into a servant for Miss Minchin. An Indian man moves next store and Sarah befriends him. He showers her with secret gifts. The man feels sorry for Sarah and says he will help her find her father if he is still alive. Sarah runs away to the veteran's hospital certain that her father is still alive and finds her father in a dark room and even the Queen makes an appearance in the movie. The movie has a "happy ending", but I don't think the book had a sad ending. Sarah is greatful and happy at the end of the book with her new friends.
I grew up on this movie and I always loved it, but in my opinion the book was 100 times better and a must-read. I don't understand why they changed the character of her father. Maybe they thought that having a soldier has a father was more romantic for the movie, then her father being an investor. Maybe they thought the happy ending of her father still being alive was better than the happy ending of his friend coming to find her.