Top 5 Cheesy Frock Flicks I Have Secretly Loved


Kendra had her list, so here’s mine! I’ve talked endlessly about how PBS Masterpiece Theater made me fall in love with history (especially Elizabeth R priming me for renfaire), but honestly, I wasn’t only into high-brow stuff. Notice all how I’m the one reviewing musicals around here? Yeah. Those aren’t my only guilty pleasures…



Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983)

Little House on the Prairie

Like, IDK, every red-blooded American female in the past century, I devoured the Laura Ingalls Wilder book series (low-key racism and all!). But as a child of the ’70s, it was the TV series that really made my heart sing. Not only did I identify with child star Melissa Gilbert who was so close to my age, but the show added the best little-girl nemesis evar in Nellie Olsen. Nope, I wasn’t in it for the calico, bonnets, and butter-churning, I was there for the prairie equivalent of teenage drama (kids, this was what we did before the CW).


The Little Princess (1939)

The Little Princess (1939)

I really wanted to be Shirley Temple when I was a kid — just like millions of little girls from my grandmother’s generation, I guess. Maybe I’m an old soul? Or maybe I was just an only child with a TV in my bedroom watching a ton of black-and-white movies every Sunday afternoon. All of Temple’s movies are my cheesy faves, but I love both the book A Little Princess and this movie, even though this isn’t an accurate telling of the book. I keep planning to write a full review of this and the 1980s version, which are inaccurate in their own special ways.


Mary Poppins (1964)

Mary Poppins (1964)

Beloved childhood classic or way too many spoonfuls of sugar: what’s your judgement? I can and will watch this over and over again, plus sing the songs. OBVIOUSLY, I ignore Dick van Dyke’s crappy accent, but his dancing is great. And yes, quit bugging me to review the sequel — it just came out on Netflix so I added it to my queue and will get to it soon enough!


Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983)

Laverne & Shirley (1976)

“Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated / We’re gonna do it!” I may find Grease and other 1950s nostalgia annoyingly cheeziod, but I loved these two ladies! They were working, on their own, they were best friends, living together, they were gonna make their dreams come true, doin’ it their way! This was historically accurate female empowerment of the ’50s — created in the ’70s! — and it still holds up pretty well in that respect. Laverne was the stronger, more adventurous one, while Shirley was a bit meeker and more emotional, so they complimented each other. I still sing the theme song around the house and call my cats Boo-Boo Kitty.


The Pirate Movie (1982)

The Pirate Movie (1982)

A shitty version of “Pirates of Penzance”! Just what every drama nerd teenager needs, right? Right! Hey, it was a big hit with my dorky friends at the time, and I have fond memories of our sing-a-longs. Totally the least historical of the bunch, but that’s pirates for ya. Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through my adolescence.



What are some of your cheesy historical favorites?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

29 Responses

  1. Roxana

    I prefer Pirates of Penzance but The Pirate Movie was a hoot. Shirley Temple makes me hyperglycemic but I love Mary Poppins with all my heart.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I never liked Little House nor the books. I was a total European children’s books nerd. From Lloyd Alexander to Beatrix Potter.
    But my cheesy movie list includes The Dark Crystal, King and I – both the musical and the Rex Harrison movie, Quentin Durwood, and any Judy Garland and Shirley Temple movies. Also Deanna Durbin. I’m a sicker for Opera. Also any version of Camille.

  3. mjsamuelson

    Loved (and still love) the Little House books, but the series always scratched my eardrums. To this day, all I can really stand is the pilot episode.

    But oh man, those Shirley Temple throwbacks! Such good stuff. I’m also a sucker for all interpretations of Little Women – and there are some real doozies in the mix if you dig deep enough.

  4. Roxana

    I may be the only woman in America who didn’t love the Little House books. As near as I can recall it was a death of dialogue that put me off.

  5. Yanina

    Where to start so I could stop… My favourite cheesies are French historical flicks with Jean Marais, top favourite being The Hunchback (Le Bossu). I do no know how many times I watched it (and was always jealous of main guy’s hair. He always had it immaculately in place even after wild horse chase and sword-fighting dozen evil henchmen and jumping off the bridges whatever). The film is my comfort food, along with some less known like The Mysteries of Paris (kind of Cinderella and lowlifes in 19th Paris), The Miracle of Wolves (15th century Burgundy, and politicking there is actually good), Captain Fracasse and Princess of Cleves. They follow the same formula, lots of sword fighting and damsels in distress in sparkling if inaccurate costumes, perfect for cheering myself up.
    And another bunch of my favourites are screen adaptations of operettas and older Spanish comedies, made in USSR in 1970-80s. I have absolutely no idea why they would do it in Soviet Union, but they did at least dozen of it, and they were always rerun on tv, so I’ve seen them a lot as a kid. Strauss’s Fliedermaus is all-time favourite, it is hilarious, and I start to laugh even when I think of it. The Dog in the Manger is also great, and all those had lots of catchy songs.
    And The Shadow with Alec Baldwin, although I am not sure it could classify primarily as historical flick. But I wanted all the costumes Penelope Ann Miller wore!

    • Roxana

      Oh yes, I love The Shadow too, and I ADORE Margot Lane’s costumes! They are simply gorgeous. My favorite is the green evening dress with bead trim.

    • picasso Manu

      You must be my long lost sister or something! Yes to all of that!

  6. Not Grace!

    My parents let my older brother and sister name me. They were reading the Little House series out loud at bedtime, so I became Baby Carrie. I am so, so grateful Baby Grace hadn’t shown up yet.

    My guiltiest pleasure is probably “Pompeii.” Tsunamis! Enormous fireballs! Kit Harington’s abs! And finally, gorgeous, gorgeous costumes on Emily Browning. That movie was such a miss, because so much €€ and energy was poured into recreating ancient Pompeii, but the script was just crap.

  7. Jonathan Belmares

    I love the pirate movie as well and Laverne and Shirley so im with you there.

  8. Erin E.

    Oh my goodness! Are we twins!? Love your list! Although I actually DID like the calico and boots. There will always be a special place my my heart/closet for some granny boots.

  9. avrilejean

    The Pirate Movie was filmed mostly at Werribee Mansion, in outer Melbourne, and has a bunch of aussie actors in it, like “The Freak” from Prisoner. As a kid I thought this was the best thing ever. Americans in Melbourne! AMAZING!
    As an adult I rewatched it and laughed my ass off, omg the cheese.

  10. Cecily

    The Court Jester, quasi-medieval Robin Hood knock off musical featuring Danny Kaye, Basil Rathbone, Glynis Johns, Agnes Moorehead, and Angela Lansbury.
    The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. The reason I want a monkey puzzle tree one day

    • Eronn

      I love the Court Jester so so so much. I thought it was so funny and I’ve always had a soft spot for Danny Kaye and Angela Lansbury.

      • Roxana

        The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace holds the brew that is true.

    • Susan Pola Staples

      I too love the Court Jester. I still remember ‘The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle and…’

  11. Eronn

    I loved the Little House tv show too, although I mostly watched it in re-runs. We also randomly had a video collection of all of the shows Christmas episodes. Because if it was Christmas-related, my mom bought it.

    In terms of other cheesy stuff, I was way too into Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman for my own good.

    • Katie O'Donnell

      I looovved (and still love lol) Dr. Quinn! I was a little too young when it first came out but I started watching it in syndication when we first got cable when I was 9 and I remember begging my mom to push my bedtime back a half hour because I kept getting packed off to bed in the middle of an episode! Now I just own the whole series (I bought it on a whim on Black Friday two years ago, best impulse buy ever)

      • MoHub

        What I really loved about Dr. Quinn was that they actually dealt with the Rational Dress movement. I don’t believe I’ve seen that on any other TV show from that period.

  12. picasso Manu

    I have strong feels, not of the positive kind, about little house on the prairie. First, not my culture, since I don’t even know if the books made it to France.
    They certainly made it on TV. THE THING HAS NEVER STOPPED RUNNING! It’s getting downright ridiculous at this point. That bloody family and Dr Quinn give me hives now, every time I hear the theme music. Grr!

    • Saraquill

      Not a Frock Flick, but the various Star Treks when they do a period piece on the holodeck.

  13. Boxermom

    If I have to pick a favorite, I guess it would be “Zorro, The Gay Blade” starring George Hamilton. He not only plays Don Diego Vega, but also his foppish twin brother Bunny Wigglesworth. Think I’ll watch that this weekend!

  14. jean

    The Shirley Temple “Little Princess” is my favorite. It’s so cheesy and heartfelt at the same time. I think about the (book inaccurate, of course) reunion scene a lot. It always made me cry as a kid.

    “Sarah… Sarah…”
    “But I’m Sarah!! I’M Sarah!!”

  15. Nzie

    So many Shirley Temple movies! Many of them were set in the time of the film, but several were historical settings. :-) I used to wake up before anyone else, and I think I must’ve been a perfect daughter because I pretty much just went downstairs and quietly watched either Shirley Temple movies or infomercials (anyone remember that one in the early 90s with the vacuum and the bowling ball)? My grandma is a few years younger than Shirley, but she also did a lot of tap so she showed me a few steps. :-)

    I would add the 60s western tv shows… for some reason I just really liked those in junior high, which is when they played in syndication after school. I’m sure almost none of the costumes were accurate. I also liked Doctor Quinn for a while.

  16. heratech

    chuckles I wonder if a childhood spent watching Laverne and Shirley is why I insist on calling all my kitties Boo? (Currently I have a boo-boy and a boo-girl in the house).

  17. Channa Wasserman

    I first watched The Pirate Movie as part of a Bad Movie Musicals triple-feature. One of the others from that night was The Apple (poor Miriam Margolyes had a part in that one…but hey, a girl has to pay the bills).