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
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
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
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.
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
Photos obtained from various websites
using a Yahoo image search. The movie footage has been embedded from
a user at the YouTube site.
studio still from the late 30s. Shirley was growing up a bit when
this photo was taken.
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.
strikes a pose.
30s movie magazine with a painting of Shirley on the cover.
Shirley Temple mousepad collage.
magazine advertisement featuring the young star.