Adelheid, called Heidi (Shirley Temple), is an eight-year-old Swiss orphan who is given by her aunt Dete (Mady Christians) to her mountain-dwelling hermit grandfather, Adolph (Jean Hersholt). While Adolph behaves coolly toward her at first, her cheery nature turns him warm, and sees him open up to the nearby town.
Heidi is then stolen back by her aunt, to live in the wealthy Sesemann household in Frankfurt am Main as a companion to Klara (Marcia Mae Jones), a sheltered, disabled girl in a wheelchair who is constantly watched by the strict Fräulein Rottenmeier (Mary Nash). Heidi is unhappy but makes the best of the situation, always longing for her grandfather.
When Klara’s body and spirits mend under Heidi’s cheerful companionship, Rottenmeier (who has tried to keep Klara dependent upon her) tries to get rid of Heidi by selling her to the gypsies, but she is stopped by the police. Heidi is rescued and reunited with her grandfather.
While sad in many ways, Shirley Temple’s films are a classic. A must watch especially when this was produced during World War II but this was such an important note on how children were treated during the war and continue to be treated as adoptees on many levels.