Tough Transition To Teens
Shirley Temple Is Miss Annie Rooney (1942)
I wonder if better pictures might have helped Shirley Temple jump fence to adult stardom. She had looks to equal Deanna Durbin, latter's transition greased by gloss Universal-applied. Was it Shirley's still childlike voice, I should say delivery, that seemed pouty when not cheerful? Or bald fact of her being not so effective with onset of puberty (columns by age 12 called Shirley a "has-been"). I don't see much progress through the 40's. That Hagen Girl, seen on TCM a few weeks ago, and then Miss Annie Rooney, played like a same character in a roughly-same movie, despite six year lapse between the two. Would Shirley have just as soon quit? --- but then parents needed cash, made clear in ST memoir that details their blowing the 30's wad. What lacked was a major studio being (more importantly, staying) behind her after Fox. The MGM contract had died on vines. Their music wing thought her talent limited, as in fall-short of Leo standard. They had Judy
A doting mother helped queer Metro relations (she turned down, on Shirley's behalf, Babes On Broadway and Panama Hattie). Dad got into beef with agent and admitted shark, if not outright criminal, Frank Orsatti, and accepted Miss Annie Rooney for ST in order to ease in a new rep. Independent-producing was Edward Small, him an ongoing asset to distributor United Artists. Being UA, access was had to Annie Rooney story/character via charter exec Mary Pickford, who latched onto Shirley as potential re-enactor of girl with curls silent work. That scheme got no further than Miss Annie Rooney, the remake no shade of Mary's version beyond the title. Producer Small belied his unfortunate (for
TCM ran Miss Annie Rooney, a license from Sony/Columbia (just how spread are these old UA's? --- everyone seems to own at least a few beyond flocks that are PD). The thing at least looked great, being HD. Such obscurity merits close eyeball of TCM, much of programming same old bearded transfers, but then --- surprise --- a favorite in first-time High-Def (like The Secret Six this past weekend). Miss Annie Rooney commands all of help it can get. Best of 82 minutes is jitterbugging plus swing-talk by jalopy-load. Did teens back then have more fun? Old movies suggest they did. When Shirley and pals dance, it's light on, but back home and coping with tiresome grandpa Guy Kibbee, let alone loser and loud-mouth pop William Gargan, well --- include me out. So much of "Classic Era" amounts to duty watch. I sat for HD sake and to cross off another I'd read about, but ... never again. Still, there is peculiar aspect of Miss Annie Rooney to startle still, like Dickie Moore in revamp of Peter Lorre and The Face Behind The Mask, not intended so, but every bit as creepy.
|ST Dances With Masked Dickie|
Miss Annie Rooney was sold on Shirley's emerging maturity, "First Love, First Kiss" referred non-stop by sellers. That last was bestowed by Dickie Moore, who in 1984 wrote of the big moment in tingling terms to make passage of forty years seem mere moments (his OOP memoir now goes for $50 at least on Amazon). "Queen Of The Teens" Shirley was keyed aggressively to what was hep in 1942, a peak year for kids hopped up on swing. The only thing Miss Annie Rooney lacked was a name band for specialty numbers (would that have helped? Broadway's Rivoli might have thought so: "poor notices and is doing poor business" being Variety's verdict, "(Rivoli) would seem entitled to better product." Overall biz was morose, $610K in domestic rentals. Shirley would be offscreen two years, then back for David Selznick, him using her name more than talent, especially where it came to publicity he'd rev for Temple-Agar wedding event. Work was focused during interim on radio's Junior Miss, of which apparently no ST episodes survive, a letdown because my elementary school band teacher Priscilla Lyons (known to us as Mrs. Priscilla Call) played Shirley's best friend "Fluffy Adams" through the series.