The young cannot know what an enormous star died
last night. For that matter, neither can I, or most of us who weren't around
when Shirley Temple was hands-down leading boxoffice for most of the 30's. I
guess she was the last truly major name from that decade still around, other than Mickey Rooney (depending upon definition of "major," of course, as there is still Jane Withers and Gloria Jean, among child players who achieved prominence, but not at Temple's level).
There were two if not more distinct screen careers Shirley had, a first and
most successful as child sensation, then as ingénue working for
Selznick and loaned for likes of Fort Apache, probably the most notable
teenage part she had along with Since You Went Away. I can't claim to have
watched her kid stuff that used to be on afternoon television, probably the
only vintage group I'd studiously ignore, but how to wed an adolescent boy to
travail and concerns of a seven-year-old girl? Temple pics were but fitfully funny and much
about loss; parental, economic (being Depression conscious), and hardship
visited upon moppetry that was common lot even in dream factory merchandise.
What clips are shown as TV tribute will likely be
she and Bill Robinson dancing up the stairs, anchor persons exchanging baffled
look over how such remote persona could haveenchanted a long-ago nation.
I'll bet not one of a hundred of those reporting her death ever saw a Shirley
Temple movie. There were attempts at marketing her for newer generations with
colorization, release of DVD's, carpet-bombing of the Fox Movie Channel. Did
any of devices work? From what I hear, there are still Shirley Temple fan
groups, but charter membership must be long gone. She wrote a blunt memoir back
in 1988 that left blisters on some big names. The marriage to John Agar was the
biggest event since Cleopatra swept into Rome,
but you had to be there to know its cultural impact, and I wasn't. Everybody
wants to live long, but for movie stars, even biggest ones, it can a tough
sunset. Shirley Temple had sense and stability plus family for support, so a
public's forgetting probably didn't matter so much. She wasn't like Mickey
Rooney forever trying to convince everybody that he once was the biggest star
I reproduce these ads to show just how big
Shirley Temple was. 30's folk without dimes scraped them up somehow to see
whatever she was in. The pictures being formula didn't matter a toot. I suspect
grown-ups went for her more than their kids, ST a hopeful child giving same to
adults. Theatres didn't have to stage-support Shirley, or worry lots about double-featuring,
she being money's worth alone. Her stuff was sock right to the end of a decade,
and I'll bet Fox sold whole seasons just on basis of Temples promised. Years later NTA,
leaseholder of 20th backlog for TV syndication, had a dedicated package of
eighteen Shirley Temple features that was sold into 212 broadcast markets
during the sixties, Saturday/Sunday afternoons reliably loaded with her. If I chose to watch The Brain Eaters on Channel 12 instead
of Curly Top on Channel 9, well maybe that was my loss.
Also see Greenbriar's Shirley Temple Glamour Starter from 7/2/06HERE.