Fun Size Review: Little Orphant Annie (1918)

This twee early Colleen Moore picture is about an orphan who faws in wuv and tonstant weader fwowed up.

The film is a late release from Selig and a chance to brand Colleen Moore as “the Riley Girl” as the film was based on the writings of James Whitcomb Riley. As you can probably tell, I am not the audience for this film. If you like things sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, or are a Colleen Moore completist, you will probably enjoy it. Me? I practically needed a shot of insulin.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

The wittle orphant’s bae goes a-fighting and either dies tewwibwy or not and something, something, heaven, the angels were lonely, took you because they were lonely, now I’m lonely too, sonny boy. Goo goo, ga ga. Can you tell I wasn’t into it at all?

Read my full-length review here. (Note: This is the review that was the target of a bonkers and slightly scary 3,000 word, 12-part rant in which I was instructed on how I should watch a silent movie. I have also had people suggest that I should think about revising my review, something that has NEVER been asked of any other movie I have covered. Quite a hill to die on, I must say. Change my review? I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that and even if I were so inclined, I certainly will never do it now. Yes, I am aware of the restoration. Yes, I think it’s great. No, I still don’t really care for this kind of movie. Are we done? Can I leave?)

If it were a dessert it would be: Sensuous Chocolate Truffles. Doesn’t sound bad? It’s canned frosting with extra powdered sugar added and then plopped on a plate. Hope you’ve saved up for those fillings!

Availability: There is a restored version but the edition easiest to obtain is the old Grapevine one.

P.S. A little more by way of explanation. I hate baby-talk. I hated it when I was a tiny child. If I accidentally baby-talked and adults proclaimed it cute, I immediately corrected myself and made sure to never to say it again. I was a very serious little tot and resented any attempts to cutesy me up. (Which, ironically, was probably pretty cute but I didn’t realize that at the time.) So, yeah, this film stuck in my craw. I’m really, truly happy for you if you enjoy it but please give me space on this.


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  1. Dulcy Freeman

    I supported the restoration of this film because I felt it was important to do so and because of Colleen Moore being…Colleen Moore. Does that mean I liked the film, liked Riley, liked cheap, manipulative sentiment? Junk is junk, no matter when it was made or by whom. Thanks for keeping the silent film fan-base sane with your reality checks!

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, I think there is sometimes the attitude that rare/lost/restored = good. I absolutely laud the efforts of restorers but that’s when I am wearing my fan hat. When I’m wearing my review hat, the gloves come off and I don’t care if a film was lost, restored, found in a suitcase that washed up on the banks of the Volga. The restoration and the restored content are two totally different animals.

  2. donnahill441

    I also helped fund the restoration. I like Moore, she’s okay, but, I knew I was unlikely to be in love with the film. Your review was vastly more entertaining. πŸ™‚ β€œIt’s as if Walt Disney had a baby Elmo at the Sanrio store.” LOL that line just slayed me!

  3. Steven E R

    There are certainly some silent films that a restoration (or new sound track) will alter one’s feelings about a film drastically. Of course being able to see a film clearly may make a review even more negative. As someone who drinks their tea unsweetened and coffee black, I have to get sweetener form something, so I look forward to the restoration. Also as a non-reviewer I can turn the film off and come back later; watch the scenery and fashions, look at it from a sociological perspective and still consider it time not completely wasted.. when the film is over, I’ll be able to say “well .. that was certainly something …. wasn’t it?”, without having to try to tell others to view or not. I had a friend who was a reviewer, who was threaten with loss of advertising for his negative reviews, so he changed his negative reviews to include a short summary, and wrapping it by quoting Artemis Ward β€œFor people who like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing they like.” A strange world where we insist that everybody like the same things we do ….

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, quite so. If you’re into this stuff, it’s for you. Me? I’m a grumpy ex-tomboy who would rather see people swinging from the chandeliers with rapiers. I don’t know if it’s the internet but the absolute tantrums people throw when a critic fails to like a film are downright bizarre. I haven’t had it too bad but I remember one woman was threatened with death when she panned Batman vs. Superman.

  4. Gene Zonarich

    Colleen Moore has some seriously rabid fans out there, too, and you don’t shy away from controversy πŸ™‚ cuidate, mi amiga !


    My brother married a woman from Indiana, in the hometown of James Whitcomb Riley. His poems were read at the wedding reception. There was no alcohol served. Rough gig.

  5. Marie Roget

    And to think that lucky Dotty Parker could have had the privilege of seeing Little Orphant Annie fresh out of the cans when it premiered, tonstant weader πŸ˜‰

    I dearly love Colleen Moore, but after reading both the fun size and full length reviews of this early effort, must give a pass.

  6. Alan J T

    This will be the first film I ever participated in crowd funding for restoration. I knew nothing of the story and I’ve never seen a Colleen Moore film, so this seemed as good a way as any to do so. I’m still waiting for my disc to arrive here in Australia, so reading your reviews have been useful in managing expectations. I still have not the slightest idea whether I’m going to enjoy it or not.
    Although now, learning of your… distaste? for dialect in captions, I’m very curious to learn what your reaction will be to an Australian silent film I very much hope you will review one day: “The Sentimental Bloke” (1919). All the title cards are in 19th Century Australian slang verse… I’m afraid?
    While I’m very fond of it, I certainly won’t be offended if you don’t find it soβ€”because I know the resultant review will be so entertaining.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      It all really depends on whether the rest of the film makes up for the presence of something I dislike, that is, the dialect title cards. My main issue is that such writing (while extraordinarily popular in the 19th century) is not read so much as translated and you find yourself trying to sound out “gobble-uns” when the plot has already moved forward. But, for example, The Secret Garden is full of Yorkshire dialect cards and I still loved the book so it is possible to overcome.

  7. Scott Lueck

    I’m happy to see that you call them as you see them in your film reviews, and that you don’t let popular opinion sway you. As someone that holds some pretty unpopular opinions on some major works or stars (try telling people you think Easy Rider is the worst movie you’ve ever seen or that you think Marilyn Monroe was a mediocre actress and see how far that gets you), it’s good to see someone that stands by their convictions. And, to be honest, your reviews are so well written and so funny that I wouldn’t care if you trashed all my favorites, I’d still read them. Good writing is good writing, whether you agree with it or not.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Thanks so much! Yes, I love strongly opinionated reviews myself and I rarely agree with some of my favorite reviewers but I love to read their thoughts on the movies. If the reviewer is passionate, it really makes their work a pleasure to read.

  8. Gloria Naldi

    I loved your review, I laughed so hard at that last bit (still am) but now I’ll have Sonny Boy stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I spent a lot of time in Indiana growing up and back in highschool they always included Riley’s work into the curriculum. I couldn’t agree more with your review, great!

  9. waverboy

    Unabashed Colleen Moore fan here, and Kickstarter backer of this restoration project. Having never seen the Grapevine version reviewed here, which by all accounts is a butchered misordered visually compromised mess, I was most anticipating the opportunity to see a proper restoration of the earliest surviving film starring one of my two major silent screen crushes (Clara is the other one). Eric Grayson went through restoration hell to put this film back together, taking various bits and pieces from five different prints, making it complete at last and using every trick in the book to get it looking and playing as closely as possible to original release prints, including a replication of the original tints. He did an incredible job. The film is coherent, and often looks pretty damn good especially considering the state of available elements. And best of all, it’s a pretty cool little film, with lots of nifty goblin and witchy imagery during the story sequences, and well-played good old-fashioned unsubtle melodrama in between. Colleen Moore is ideal as Annie, just a darling. Great piano score by Ben Model too.

    Fritzi, I know you can’t stand it, but if any of the others out there reading this are fans of Miss Moore and/or super-old-school double-exposure supernatural creature imagery (that’s me on both counts, natch), I would highly recommend they give this properly restored version a chance; Eric G says it will be available on Amazon soon. I hope you might consider giving it another go-round in its restored form sometime. πŸ™‚

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Oh yes, just because I can’t stand glurge, I would never stand in anyone else’s way. (Just beware of the Riley fans, which will certainly get you eff you don’t watch out.)

  10. Gene Smiley

    The point of every Colleen Moore film I’ve ever seen seems to be to show us just how incredibly cute Collen Moore is. It pains me to say so because I have an arcade card autographed by her to me – I mailed it to her in the early 1980’s – but for me she just gets in the way of her own movies.

    1. waverboy

      Aw c’mon, ELLA CINDERS, ORCHIDS AND ERMINE and WHY BE GOOD? are dynamite. But I also love TWINKLETOES, LILAC TIME, IRENE, THE BUSHER, and of course, the newly restored Blu-ray of LITTLE ORPHANT ANNIE with all footage restored to the film and in the correct order. Yep, I’m a fan, can’tcha tell? πŸ™‚

      I guess there are two types of people in this world: Colleen Moore fans, and people who need to get with the program. πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

      1. Fritzi Kramer

        I think it’s possible to like Colleen Moore but at the same time acknowledge that she wasn’t given the strongest material. Clara Bow and Billy Haines had similar woes.

  11. waverboy

    Her films seem to be mostly “star vehicles”, but I’m fine with that; she’s such a fabulous star. Could she have made great films if she’d been given more challenging and complex material? Most likely, and that would have made her cinematic legacy (what remains of it) even greater, but even as it is, I’m very thankful for the films she did make that survived, because I think they’re lovely. She’s an absolute natural for light comedy, and I love that particular genre. As for Clara, same thing. IT, for instance, is considered by many to only be of interest because of her star power, but whatever; I think IT’s fabulous all around, one of my top ten films of all time and the best shopgirl comedy ever made, with WHY BE GOOD? (admittedly an IT clone, but so good it doesn’t matter to me) and MY BEST GIRL right behind it. Sure, IT wouldn’t be nearly as good without her, but that matters not, because IT’s got her, and with the colorful supporting cast, that makes it celluloid platinum. I guess I’m just a guy who loves fluffy silent shopgirl comedies.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      There’s nothing wrong with liking something light and fun. I think film scholarship in general could benefit from an appreciation of the programmer. But then again, there were programmers and there were programmers.

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