Shirley Temple (United States, 1929- )


Figure 1.--.

Shirley Temple was simply put the most famous child actor of all time. She virtually single handedly save a studio and provided a little cheer in the dark days of the Depression. Her mother was her guiding light. She was with her every minute, helped her learn her lines (especially before she could read), and coached her during the shootings. When ever Shirley had to be bubbly, her mother would whisper, "Sparkle, Shirtley Sparkle". She was always well prepared for her parts and in the process of learning her lines would know the lines of the actors appearing with them. During rehesals she would someuimes correct them if they made a mistake--but in an innocent sort of way, not wih a marty-pants attitude. Shirley was a box office sensation and for several years during the 1930s her films had larger earnings than the major adult film stars, bith men and women. The famous child actor appeared in a large number of movies. Several of the films are pertinent to HBC because boys also appeared to them. As Shirley was often cast as an orphan, there were smartly dressed boys in her film but they provide some insights as to how children dressed in the 1930s. She often wore very short dresses. I'm not sure how common these short dresses were when she began wearing them in the 1930s, but they certainly became popular after her films appeared as did her trademark curls. Her films were pretty smaltzy, but I must say she was very genuine and natural--totally unlike the kids you commonly see on TV nowadays. Many think her films too sugary today, but almost no one really dislikes Shirly.

Parents


Childhood

Shirley's childhood was spent in Hollywood on and around the shooting of movies.

Childhood Clothing

Shirley dressed just like she appeared in her early films. She usually wore short dresses with short socks. I can't remember her wearing kneesocks. I'm not sure why that was. For some reason her mother dod not like them. She often wore very short dresses. I'm not sure how common these short dresses were when she began wearing them in the 1930s, but they certainly became popular after her films appeared as did her trademark curls. I remember once seeing her at about age 10 in a pair of long pants bib overalls, but a pair done for stylish children--not the rural looking denim kind.

A View of Shirley

A anadian reader has provided us this view of Shirley in which her clothes were an important part of her image. "Her hair was curly, her dress short as well as her socks. She usually wore short dresses, She was a kind of symbol of the "cute" child, something like a dreamed child so far removed from the realtities of the Depression and World War II. She was a minature replica of fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and to parents and children around the world, she expressed a kind of Dr Spock's kid. No constraint, just a joy of living. This was a real trademark of American culture around the world. A free kid for a free world . It began by bare legs which was for so long a taboo. That is the image, the icon of the free American. It is always the same image emanating from Shirley temple. Through her spontaneity, she created a weltanchaung, a new way of life ."

Career

Shierley Temple was the most famous child actor of all time. She virtually single handedly save a studio and provided a little cheer in the dark days of the Depression. Her mother was her guiding light. She was with her every minute, helped her learn her lines (especially before she could read), and coached her during the shootings. When ever Shirley had to be bubbly, her mother would whisper, "Sparkle, Shirtley Sparkle". She was always well prepared for her parts and in the process of learning her lines would know the lines of the actors appearing with them. During rehesals she would someuimes correct them if they made a mistake--but in an innocent sort of way, not wih a marty-pants attitude. Shirley was a box office sensation and for several years during the 1930s her films had larger earnings than the major adult film stars, both men and women.

Films

The famous child actor appeared in a large number of movies. Shirley made quite a number of films. In the fitst she was young enough to appear in daippers. In 1934 she made an astonishing eight films.

??????? (19??)

This film has a scene pertaining to boys' clothing. Shirley was growing up in a rough part of town. At one point she helps a shy boy whose mother dressed him like a sissy. She made the local bully change clothes with him. Shirley threatened to beat the bully up if he didn't, so the bully had to don the sissy's velvet suit.

The Red Haired Alibi (1932)

She would be to young here to be the unknown film.

To the Last Man (1933)


Out All Night (1933)


Carolina (1934)

Unlikely to be the unknown film, I think Shirley was too young.

Mandalay (1934)


Stand Up and Cheer (1934)


Now I'll Tell (1934)


Change of Heart (1934)


Little Miss Marker (1934)

Shirley's desperate dad loses at the betting parlor and kills himself. Shirley is adopted by the bokkie and his semi-hood pals. This was not the unknown film.

Baby Take a Bow (1934)


Now and Forever (1934)


Bright Eyes (1934)


The Little Colonel (1935)

This is one of Shirley's best known films. She did a marlelous tap dance routein with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. It was a a bit in of film history, for several raesons. It was the first Black/White dance routein shot in Hollywood. It also fueled a craze for tap dancing. Many parents until this film avoided tap dance for their children because it had a "Black" image, rather like jazz. By 1935 little girls all over America were having their hair curled and klearning tap dancing. Many mothers with stars in their eyes also enrolled their boys in tap dancing classes as well.

Our Little Girl (1935)

I don't think that this isthe unknown film. Shirley patches up her parents' troubled marriage

Curly Top (1935)

This beloved Shirley Temple vehicle had perhaps the most destinctive leading credits of all her movies. Her trade-mark curls begin flashing on screen before we see her smiling face. The plot is loosely premised on the the Jane Webster story "Daddy Long Legs" which was a Broadway hit in the 1910s ahd fimed in 1931 with Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter. "Curly Top" is perhaps the most popular movie Shirley made. The movie has a Dicksonian beginning. It opens on a dark, stormy evening at the Lakeside Orphanage. A group of pefectly behaved little girls, Shirley (Elizabeth Blair) march upstairs in perfect order. The girls wear bib-front overalls. We are not sure about the costuming. I don't think American orphanages outfitted the girls in overalls. The well-to-do bachelor Edward Morgan (John Boles) becomes enchanted with curly-haired orphan, Elizabeth Blair. Elizabeth has an older sister, Mary. Morgan arranges to adopt both using the alias "Mr. Jones." As spends his time with them, he falls in love with Mary. Shirley also made 'The Littlest Rebel' in 1935. They were two of the most popular films of the year. One of the film’s musical numbers was 'Animal Crackers in My Soup', one of Shirley's best loved numbers.

The Littlest Rebel - (1935)

Another film set in the South during the Civil War.

Captain January (1936)

Orphan Shirley is being chased by the law who want to take her away from her guardian. She is cared for by a dottering old mariner who keeps the lighthouse. A boy about 8 or 9 is decked out in a short pants suit which is topped off with a big bow.

Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

This may be the unknown film. For a change Shirley isn't an orphan, so she runs away.

Dimples (19360

This film was set in pre-Civil War New York and Shirley practically sells herself to a rich lady to save her father.

Stowaway (1936)

Set in China.

Wee Willie Winkle (1937)

Set in India. The story was made for a boy, but rewritten for Shirley. She wears kilt.

Heidi (1937)

This was the first of the litrary classics that Shirtly did. It was of course set in Switzerland.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (1938)

Another of her film classics.

Little Miss Broadway (1938)

This also may be the unknown film. Shirley is about the right age. Shirley goes from orphanage to live in the Hotel Variety, a boardinghouse for broken down vaudevillians.

Just Around the Corner (1938)

This also could be the unknown film. Set in the depression era.

The Little Princess (1939)

This was based on the book by Francuis Hodgsen Burnett, the authoress of Little Lord Fauntleroy. It was an important production, one of the earliest films shot in color. This is the only film where you see Shirley Temple in long black stockings. Not all girls in England at the time wore long stockings, but they give the image of a conservative school. Shirley was a student at the school and reduced to a servant when her father was wounded and believed lost in the Bohr War. Thus the checks for her tuition stop coming. I thought that blooner outfit was one that all the girls wore.

Susannah of the Mounties (1939)


Blue Bird of Happiness (1940)

The boys and girls all wear little Greek robes. Several big boys wear real short ones. Shirley's brother wears lederhosen. He is a younger brother. This was Shirley's rather disappointing answer to Judy Garland's "Wizzard of Oz". The producers wanted Shirley, but MGM wouldn't release her. It was based on Maeterlinck's moralistic children's book.

Young People (1940)

Probably not the unknown fiolm. A show biz couple raise orphan Shirley. A few boys have small roles, some wearing shorts. This is set mostly in a small New England town.

Kathleen (1941)


Miss Annie Rooney (1942)

This was Dickie Moore's first picture with Shirley Temple. They reportedly got along quite well. Dickie said later, Shirley was, and is, great ... she is just great ... free and fun and unpretentious."

Costuming

Several of the films are pertinent to HBC because boys also appeared to them. As Shirley was often cast as an orphan, there were smartly dressed boys in her film but they provide some insights as to how children dressed in the 1930s. She wore short dresses in her early films as most were set in contemprary times. Her later films were more likely to be historically costumed.

Assessment

Shirley's films were pretty smaltzy, but I must say she was very genuine and natural--totally unlike the kids you commonly see on TV nowadays. Many think her films too sugary today, but almost no one really dislikes Shirly.







HBC




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Created: December 22, 2003
Last updated: 7:28 PM 8/7/2010