Shirley Temple stars here as Elizabeth "Curly Top" Blair, a baby-faced blonde. She and her older sister Mary (Rochelle Hudson) are the orphaned children of circus performers. Promising their dying parents they would never to be separated, the pair has come to live at Lakeside Orphanage, a private institution. Young Elizabeth rooms with the rest of the homeless girls, while the almost-adult Mary works in the kitchen.
It would be a satisfactory arrangement if the irrepressible little ward could just shake off her inherited desire to entertain. Encouraged by her peers, the twinkle-eyed tot belts out tunes like Animal Crackers in My Soup, and knocks off impersonations of the home's sanctimonious trustees. These violations (added to the night she brought her pet pony in from the barn so he could sleep in a dry bed) have caused some consternation for the strict matron in charge of her care.
However, there is one person totally charmed by her antics: Edward Morgan (John Boyles) the youngest, richest and most recently appointed member of the board. Stepping in to save the incorrigible child, he invents a benevolent benefactor in order to keep anonymous his desire to give the dimpled darling a home where she will be appreciated.
The only catch to his planned adoption is Mary -- who's a non-negotiable part of the package. But one look at the beautiful sibling convinces the wealthy bachelor she may be an added bonus feature to the already good deal.
Of course it will take until the end of the movie for the two of them to work out the romantic details, giving the golden-haired girl plenty of time to dance and sing. And that's the real attraction of a Shirley Temple picture anyway.
Perhaps the best-known child actor of all time, her angelic portrayals cheered a nation struggling through an economic depression. Decades later, she is still warming the hearts of family audiences--especially those with daughters.