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The Blue Bird

The Blue Bird title card

Year - 1940
Studio - 20th Century Fox
Stars - Shirley Temple, Johnny Russell, Spring Byington, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard, Russell Hicks, Jessie Ralph, Helen Ericson
Director - Walter Lang
Writing Credits - Ernest Pascal (screenplay), Walter Bullock (additional dialogue), Maurice Maeterlinck (original play)
Music - Alfred Newman


Mytyl (Shirley Temple) is a spoiled and selfish young girl, to the concern of her loving parents (Spring Byington and Russell Hicks). In the woods, she and her little brother Tyltyl (Johnny Russell) catch a brown bird and take it home. That night, the children are awakened by a good fairy (Jessie Ralph) who tells them that, to find happiness, they must leave their home and go in search of "the blue bird." To accompany them, she changes the family dog, Tylo, and cat, Tylette, into humans (Eddie Collins and Gale Sondergaard). As the night is dark, she summons a beautiful fairy princess, Light (Helen Ericson) to offer guidance and to illuminate their path.

The Blue Bird poster

Mytyl and Tyltyl are first instructed to enter the Past, which is an old, frightening graveyard. But that leads them to a cottage and the spirts of their grandparents, who are delighted to see them again. They ask the children to think of them often, for that is the only time they find contentment.

They are then led to the "Land of Luxury" and to a magnificent palace owned by Mr. and Mrs. Luxury (Nigel Bruce and Laura Hope Crews). The old couple invites the children to stay, but confines their "dog" to the kennel. At first, Mytyl and Tyltyl happily play on a carousel in the mansion, but soon begin fighting over the toys. They realize that happiness is not to be found there. They run away, despite their deceitful "cat" Tylette trying to prevent their leaving.

Tylette goes into a forest where she summons representatives of all the trees, "Oak," "Beech," "Hickory," "Crab Apple," etc., and warns them that the children of the woodcutter are coming, and are a threat to them. Oak (Edwin Maxwell), the leader agrees and orders that they call in Wind, Thunder and Fire to destroy the children. When Mytyl and Tyltyl enter the forest, a huge windstorm begins, followed by a massive forest fire. They run for their lives and barely manage to escape the blazing inferno.

Light leads the children to a staircase that ascends into the clouds, and tells them to climb to the top, which is The Future. There they find hundreds of happy, toga clad children, who tell them that they are waiting to be born on Earth. Father Time arrives and reads the names of those children who will today board a ship with silver sails on their journey to be born.

Mytyl wakes up, back in her own bed, and she and Tyltyl try to tell their bemused parents about their adventure. Their mother, delighted that Mytyl's attitude seems to have gone a wonderful transformation, shows her the cage she had made for the bird they had captured. To Mytyl's amazement, the bird has turned bright blue. She takes it to a sickly young girl to whom she had previously been rude. When the girl accidently releases it and it flies away, she exclaims that they can never find it. Mytyl smiles and replies, "We know how to find it." She turns to the camera and adds, "Don't We?"

Show Spoilers

Preview Clip

The Blue Bird was apparently 20th Century Fox's attempt to emulate the success of MGM's The Wizard of Oz, where their young star, Shirley Temple, had originally been planned for the role of Dorothy. Like that classic film, The Blue Bird starts in black & white and changes to Technicolor when the fantasy aspect of the story begins.

The Blue Bird was suggested for this site by Karine Philippot.