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Film / Bright Eyes

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Bright Eyes is a 1934 film directed by David Butler and starring Shirley Temple. Temple, who was six years old when this film was made, plays Shirley Blake, the daughter of a commercial air pilot who was killed in a crash. Shirley spends most of her time hanging out at the Glendale, California airport, where her godfather, James "Loop" Merritt, still works as a pilot. Shirley's mother Mary works as a maid for the mean-spirited Smythe family. Anita and J. Wellington Smythe don't like Loop coming to visit Mary and little Shirley, but their uncle Ned, the family patriarch (who still spells his name "Smith"), takes a shine to Shirley and prefers her to Anita and J. Wellington's bratty daughter, Joy.

Shirley is orphaned when her mother is killed in a traffic accident. The Smythes want to get rid of her, and Loop wants to take custody of her, but after Uncle Ned insists on keeping Shirley, a custody battle develops.

Bright Eyes features as its one musical number Temple's Signature Song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop". It was the first film made especially for Temple and made her a huge star—in fact, she would soon become the biggest box-office draw in Hollywood and would remain so for the rest of the decade. Interestingly, it was also the Star-Making Role for Jane Withers who played Spoiled Brat Joy Smythe, and went on to her own series of children's movies in which she played girls who weren't quite as sugary sweet as Temple.


  • As You Know
    • Loop and Shirley have a little talk explicating that her father was killed in a crash and Loop is her godfather.
    • The Smythes have a helpful conversation explaining that they are basically waiting for Uncle Ned to die so they can inherit his money.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Shirley is the only person that treats Uncle Ned with genuine interest. It's why he's so insistent on keeping her around, despite protests of his family.
  • Cheerful Child: As she was in all her roles. Even her mom getting killed doesn't keep Shirley down for long.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: One of the pilots turns on the radio just in time to hear a news bulletin about the storm that is grounding all air traffic.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Smythes are hosting as their guest Adele Martin, an East Coast socialite—who also happens to be Loop's ex-girlfriend.
  • Dramatic Irony: "I'll never forget this day. It's the best I've ever had in my life", says Shirley, right after her mother's been killed.
  • Evil Counterpart: Mean, screeching Joy is certainly a contrast to angelic little Shirley.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Shirley comes downstairs just in time to hear the Smythes talk about how they can't stand her and would get rid of her if it weren't for Uncle Ned. She runs away.
  • For the Evulz: Shirley picks up a doll that Joy had thrown in the trash. Joy proceeds to take the doll back and rip it apart.
  • Free-Range Children: Shirley, who in the movie is five, is introduced hitchhiking to the airport. Later, she again makes it to the airport by herself after running away from the Smythe household.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: After her mother is run down by a car.
  • Let Him Choose: The judge at the custody hearing asks Shirley to choose. She says she wants to live with both Loop and Uncle Ned. Loop and his old girlfriend Adele decide to get married and make a home together with Uncle Ned and Shirley.
  • Little Stowaway: Shirley has come back to the airport to tell Loop she wants to live with him. Loop says she has to go back to the Smythes temporarily, especially since he is about to make a dangerous flight in bad weather. Shirley crawls into the baggage compartment of Loop's plane, and then shocks him by popping up in the cockpit.
  • Spoiled Brat: Joy is loud and obnoxious and very, very bratty.
  • Title Drop: "Bright eyes" is Uncle Ned's nickname for Shirley.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Shirley could not be more cute and sweet, while Joy likes to play games like "trainwreck" and pretend to be a doctor who hacks the limbs off her dolls. Although, because of The Hays Code, both the tomboy and the girly girl wear dresses.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: After Loop has to bail out on his plane, with Shirley hanging on, they parachute down to a bluff. They're nearly pulled over a cliff by the wind until Loop cuts the parachute loose. Shirley then asks if they can do it again.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Shirley's custody case is front-page news in every LA paper.