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The Cultural Blender

The Official Shirley Temple Website

Shirley Temple on Wikipedia

Loretta's Shirley Temple Dolls

Shirley Temple Fans Site

Shirley Temple's IMDb page

 

She's very young, but she's been through a lot. She's intelligent, vivacious, and cute. She always seems to be in some kind of fix, but her pluck and resolve know no boundries. Her eyes widen. She begins to pout her lips, "Oh My Goodness", Shirley exclaims, showing great exasperation. America took one look and fell in love. America rooted for her, a little girl with loads of talent and oozing charisma, who became the number one box office star from 1933 to 1935. The country was in a rut. The Great Depression had it's clutches firmly around the feelings of the populace. To escape the doldrums, the lack of sustenance, and the dismal mood of reality, America went to the movies in droves. In the early thirties, the movie industry was at it's peak. In 1928, "silent" movies learned to "talk" and one of the voices America heard was that of this short little girl in bouncy curls. Her depression era films are, in the words of one of her most famous songs, ever "optimistic." Most people adore her, and there is probably no one alive who hasn't at least heard of this cultural icon from a time long before most of us were born: Shirley Temple.

She made 40 movies during the 30s and 40s, most of them before she was 12 years old. She has become a sought after collector doll. A drink is named after her. So young, so talented, and the right tonic for an ailing country at the right time in history, Shirley Temple is a treasured icon in the Cultural Blender. From "Captain January"

Born Shirley Janine Temple on April 23, 1928, and later known as Shirley Temple Black, an American diplomat, one of fildoms early child stars is known worldwide in the cultural blender as Shirley Temple. She is truly one of those iconic figures in American lore. She passed mere stardom years ago, and hasn't made a film since 1949. She grew to young ladyhood onscreen, but then faded from the public view until she re-emerged as a diplomat in her adult life. Her films have always lived on however, first in syndication on television in the 50s and 60s, and then on video in the 80s and 90s. A lot of her old black and white movies from the 30s have been colorized, introducing generation after generation of both young boys and girls to the phenomenal talent of forever young Shirley, America's Sweetheart for nearly 80 years.

Some of the plotlines are a bit sappy, forcefed hokum for the masses during the Great Depression, but the musical numbers in most of the films, and some of the more notable films themselves, like "The Little Colonel" and "Captain January" are excellent examples of what the movies were all about back before television, when the country could, and did, fall in love with the little girl with the beaming smile, sincere dimples, and powerful voice.

In her autobiography, "Child Star", Shirley says that her earliest memories are of performing before a camera. Her first short films, for the Educational label, were in 1932 and 1933, starting when she was only 4 years old.

The first movie which really gained young Shirley a lot of attention was 1933's "Stand Up and Cheer", made by the Fox Studio, which later became 20th Century Fox, where Shirley would make most of her hit movies.

Because she became so famous so quickly, her birth certificate was altered so it seemed she was younger than she actually was, and she didn't even know her real age until she reached 12. Always the consummate professional, this major star always had her lines memorized and knew all the dance steps in her numbers, performed with some of the greatest dancers of all time, including Buddy Ebsen and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

The Ideal toy company came out with a Shirley Temple doll that is a prized possession for a lot of collectors even today. Benefitting from her fame, Fox tied her image with a host of products. America has always turned most of it's icons into an advertised "brand", and Shirley was no different. Today, the "Temple Brand" even has it's own website, where adoring fans and clueless citizens alike can purchase DVDs of her work.

A lot of the songs from her films were popular hits of the time. This was when American popular music for the most part came from the movies and the theater. Standards like "Animal Crackers" and "The Good Ship Lollipop" are still popular with kids and adults alike.

Shirley Temple dollsUnlike a lot of later child stars, who could be categorized as precocious and wise beyone their years, Shirley, although the consummate professional even as a very young star, always played her age (or younger). She had the spunk and the wherewithal in every situation however, to "be optimistic" and to find the silver lining in every cloud.

While other less talented but momentarily famous child stars come and go, Shirley will remain the penultimate young child star in the Cultural Blender of time.

 

WHY SHIRLEY TEMPLE? She was one of the first child stars in the "talking pictures", and she's not only lasted, she has outlasted almost every other child star to follow her in the Cultural Blender of pop history. My sister was enamored of Shirley, and I and my siblings saw all of her movies on television multiple times as children in the 60s. She is always considered the most famous female child star of all time. In the "Blender" she represents every child star, but her reputation is more than just a performer. Even though she did have an "adult career" separate from her acting, the fact that she "retired" early, while still a teen, helps to cement her status as an icon who doesn't age, giving her timeless appeal. The times in which she grew up and grew famous were hard and unforgiving for most of the people in the country, and it is her unflagging "optimism" in the face of the worst odds imaginable which reminds us collectively how we got through those hard times.

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Photos obtained from various websites using a Yahoo image search. The movie footage has been embedded from a user at the YouTube site.

A studio still from the late 30s. Shirley was growing up a bit when this photo was taken.

A publicity shot for "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm". This image has been "colorized". Temple's films, with the exception of the 1940 film "The Blue Bird" were all in black and white.

Shirley strikes a pose.

A 30s movie magazine with a painting of Shirley on the cover.

A Shirley Temple mousepad collage.

A magazine advertisement featuring the young star.

A set of stamps celebrating the film "Bright Eyes.

 

Shirley and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in a dance number from "Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm" (1938)

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Cultural Blender uses images and references to American Popular Culture. So even though, in the interest of science, images and references are used, full credit will always be given, or at least attempted, within the context of this document. If you see a photo., part of a composite, mention of a trend or a feature of American Popular Culture which you do not believe I have documented correctly,please email the webmaster.

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