A Little Princess

1987 | United Kingdom

While staying in India with her wealthy father Ralph, Sara Crewe is struck with an illness and the only remedy is to move her to a milder climate. So, Sarah's widower father sends her to England where she attends Miss Minchin's school for young ladies, where her mother had been educated. For a time all is well, and the girl begins to make a full recovery whilst enjoying all the comforts that wealth brings. But tragedy strikes when her father, who had invested and lost most of his fortune with a business partner, Carrisford, in an African diamond mine, dies leaving her penniless. 

Miss Minchin, who had previously openly fawned over Sara for her money, but secretly despised her for her wealth, moves Sara out of her luxurious room and into the attic and puts Sara to work as a servant among the people who used to wait on her, leaving the young girl to cope with the humiliation. She does this by pretending to be a little princess. For the next several years, Sara, who had never dispalyed any arrogance or snobbery is abused by Miss Minchin and the other servants. In the meantime, Carrisford discovers that the diamond mine wasn't the disastrous investment he was led to believe and it is now worth a fortune. But Carrisford has no idea of Sara's whereabouts and begins searching for her. Carrisford returns to England and coincidentally moves into a house next door Miss Minchins school. Because he has not met Sara previously, when their paths do cross he just assumes she is a servant. 

This was the fourth adaptation for television of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1905 novel, A Little Princess: The Story of Sara Crewe. Born in 1849, Burnett was a prolific author of novels for adults but is best remembered for her work for children: in particular for the immensely popular Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), and The Secret Garden (1911). It is an expanded version of the short story "Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's", which was serialized in St. Nicholas Magazine from December 1887. 

The first two TV presentations (BBC television 1951 and 1957) went out under the title Sarah Crewe, whilst the third and fourth (BBC 1973 and LWT 1987) as A Little Princess. This version boasted an all-star cast with Maureen Lipman as Miss Minchin, Miriam Margoyes as Miss Amelia and Nigel Havers as Carrisford. Amelia Shankley starred as Sara. Jeremy Burnham adapted the story for television and Carol Wiseman directed. Several other versions have appeared since but this version remains a firm favourite and was awarded the BAFTA for Best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama) in 1998. 

Published on November 29th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.