Hepburn's Minister of Mischief
Turn off your phones, silence the clocks and put a do not disturb sign on the door because you will want silence to watch "The Little Minister" the 1934 adaptation of the J.M. Barrie novel. I say this partly because it is an enthralling drama about love and loyalty as a new minister of a conservative Scottish church finds himself falling for a gypsy woman. But I also say this because we have an old movie with heavy Scottish accents which require your full concentration to understand and unless you concentrate it is easy to become confused by what is actually not the most complex of stories.
Young Gavin Dishart (John Beal - Edge of Darkness) arrives in rural Scotland to take over as minister of Thrums' Auld Licht church, a conservative place of worship who quickly warm to their young minister. But Gavin finds himself warming to Babbie (Katharine Hepburn - On Golden Pond) the Gypsy who teases and manipulates him, hiding the truth about who she really is from him whilst also tricking him into helping lead the villagers in a skirmish against the soldiers. But as the church elders come to realise that their minister has become distracted by a woman, especially one that they all believe to be a gypsy they feel they need to act.
To get my only real negative out of the way with and that is "The Little Minister" is full of heavy Scottish accents and it makes it hard to understand much of what is being said. It forces you to concentrate on every word and it makes it hard going which is a shame because it is not a complex story by any means of the imagination.
Now as to the actual storyline well it is a nice little drama about a minister who despite his best attempts to stay loyal to his church can't help falling for Babbie, the gypsy woman. And because he ends up distracted by Babbie, missing a prayer meeting amongst other things his position as the minister of a strict church is questioned. There is more because theoretically we also have the mystery of who Babbie is but in truth is not much of a mystery because a less than subtle clue tells us who she is very early on. But all this comes together in a tale of love and loyalty leading to a moment of high drama as things come to a head.
Now whilst John Beal delivers a nice restrained performance as Gavin and both Alan Hale and Donald Crisp deliver decent characters "The Little Minister" ends up being about Katharine Hepburn as Babbie. It is worth knowing that Hepburn initially wasn't interested in making the movie till she learnt that Margaret Sullavan wanted to play Babbie and it changed her mind. With that in mind it almost feels like Hepburn was sending out a message as she shines through out the movie, being beautiful and fun during the first half as Babbie tricks and teases Gavin but then delivering the drama during the second half.
What this all boils down to is that "The Little Minister" is despite being a bit hard to understand an entertaining movie. But whilst the storyline is good as is the direction of Richard Wallace it is the scene stealing performance of Katharine Hepburn which makes it so entertaining.