Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 February 10, 2014) was arguably the most famous child actress in film history. She was the top box office draw for four straight years, 1935-38, a record no other child star has come close to.
Her specialty: tap dancing orphans who strike it rich. Rarely do her parents actually die onscreen as in Bright Eyes, which is ironically one of her darker films despite the "Good Ship Lollipop" song. She was very popular during the desperate times of The Great Depression, but her brand of sugary goop is likely to cause Diabetic overload today. So successful was the formula that 20th Century Fox changed the titular character from Wee Willie Winkie to a girl. Expect a suave man about town, a lemon-faced aunt, and a Cool Teacher to also make an appearance.
A triple threat at age ten, she was most often paired with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, one of the few times that a black man got a free pass during the days of The Hays Code (which didn't allow interracial pairings). You'd be hard-pressed to find a more winning picture of values dissonance than these two. Temple and Robinson became close friends and were considered something of a Dream Team in their day, yet the on-screen relationship was clearly not an equal one. Dynamic duo or capitalist tools? Your mileage may very. Poor Shirley also had a memorable blackface scene in the The Littlest Rebel, a film which manages to out-cringe even Al "My Mammy in Alabammy" Jolson, one of her contemporaries.
Temple's career trailed off as she approached adulthood, partly because she wasn't offered any good roles, and possibly because audiences weren't too comfortable with Shirley "Dimples" Temple being replaced with a very foxy young lady. She retired from show business in 1949 at age 21. However, from 1958 to 1961, she was the host and narrator for an NBC children's anthology of fairy tales called Shirley Temple's Storybook, and would occasionally play parts in episodes. Her children also played parts in some episodes. Her daughter Lori later became a bassist for Melvins.
In later years, she talked about the child abuse that occurred on the set of the Baby Burlesk short films: misbehaving children would be locked in a cupboard with a big block of ice, and left to freeze. When she was 12 (and considered for the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), an MGM producer exposed himself to her in his office; not knowing what was going on, she just laughed. When she told her mother about the incident, it was decided that Fox wouldn't loan her to MGM and the role went to Judy Garland.
After leaving the stage, Temple entered politics, serving terms as chief of protocol and the U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia. In 1988, she released her autobiography, Child Star: An Autobiography.
She became Shirley Temple Black in 1950, when she married businessman Charles Alden Black. They remained married until his death in 2005.
Temple died at the age of eighty-five in February 2014 as a result of COPD from a lifetime of smoking. She was among the last of the stars from The Golden Age of Hollywood to pass on.
Temple lent her name to a popular non-alcoholic cocktail, usually served to children, made with ginger alenote and a splash of grenadine syrup to give it the characteristic pink color, garnished with a maraschino cherry and sometimes oranges or other citrus fruits. The drink was traditionally held to have been invented for the express purpose of being served to her during her peak years (i.e. when she was a minor). Even though this drink is popular with children, ironically, Shirley Temple hated the drink for being too sweet, and in her adult years Temple (having been served them as her drink order by bartenders the world over) professed not to be a fan at all, actually hating them. Of being served her namesake drink or of the "saccharine sweet, icky" taste. (That the drink named for her had the exact same qualities as her movies seems especially appropriate.)
For some reason, characters based on her tend to be Spoiled Brats, despite Shirley not really being prone to misbehaving in films or real life. She was, however, chided by her mother for being "brattish" in 1938 when she hit Eleanor Roosevelt in the rear with a slingshot.
Be careful not to confuse her with Darla Hood.
Shirley Temple films listed on this wiki include:
- Bright Eyes (1934)
- Little Miss Marker (1934)
- The Little Colonel (1935)
- The Littlest Rebel (1935)
- Dimples (1936)
- Stowaway (1936)
- Wee Willie Winkie (1937)
- Heidi (1937)
- The Little Princess (1939)
- Susannah of the Mounties (1939)
- The Blue Bird (1940)
- I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
- Since You Went Away (1944)
- The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
- That Hagen Girl (1948)
- Fort Apache (1949)
This actress provides examples of:
- Cheerful Child: Ms. Temple's usual role.
- Cute, but Cacophonic: A mild example: she couldnt carry a tune and her singing voice was rather mediocre, but she didnt sound much worse than your average child, and it just made her come off as adorable.
- George Lucas Altered Version: With the exception of The Little Princess, all of Shirley Temple's 1930s films were shot in black-and-white. Almost all of them are available in color now. Some were colorized twice, first in the 1980s and again in the early twenty-first century, the latter handled by Legend Films. Typically, the DVD/Blu-Ray lets you choose between watching the original black-and-white version and a colorized version presumably as a way to appease purists who aren't exactly pleased with colorized footage.
- Gosh Darn It to Heck!: In Little Miss Broadway: "You mean ol' pumpkin!" She should have offered some ointment for that burn.
- Heartwarming Orphan: She often (but not always) played these in her films.
- If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: In Poor Little Rich Girl, Temple's character, Barbara, is forced to eat spinach, and says something along the lines of this. Barbara even performs a song on the radio based around this.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Shirley Temple's characters are usually the ones who make the villains have a change of heart, because she is so innocent and well meaning. See: the ode to Shirley in Curly Top:You're just so full of sunshine
You could supply the world
With Vitamin D!
Two eyes that make
The heavens proud to be blue
It's just a copy of you!
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: The studio lied about her age, saying she was younger for ages.
- Perpetual Smiler: She started school and her teachers asked her mother what was wrong with her, because she was smiling all the time.
- Pretty in Mink: She wore a white rabbit fur coat in one movie, and that's been the most common real fur choice for girls' coats since.
- Public Domain: The Little Princess, due to Fox failing to renew the copyright. As a result, it can be seen for free on the internet. The same goes for Captain January, reportedly due to a legal loophole. All of her other movies still have their copyrights.
- Regal Ringlets: She was famous for her curls; one of her films was even called Curly Top.
- She Is All Grown Up: Her later films, like Since You Went Away and The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer. Audiences of the time didn't take it well.
- Shoddy Knockoff Product: Besides licensed products featuring Temple's likeness, her popularity had also spurred tons of unauthorised goods with her face on it, such as "an army of unlicensed dolls, clothing and oddities came marching onstage" and even cigars with her likeness printed on the bands. While she was in retrospect appalled by the "elusive commercial scoundrels" unfairly cashing in on her childhood fame, she concluded that it made no financial sense to go after the counterfeiters considering the costs of litigation and the economy of the time. They did however go after a few high-profile cases, one of them being Ideal filing a $100,000 patent infringement suit against a certain Lenora Doll Company. Temple herself was named as a co-plaintiff befitting her celebrity status during the height of her popularity.