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Friday, April 28, 2017

Oh, You Beautiful Dolls


The Tampa Finds Way To Outwit Depression

Two forces at work: 1--- Overcome a still-ongoing Depression via chance at free tickets for Shirley Temple's newest, and 2 --- marshal her fan force by stage-introducing a newest line of Shirley dolls. So what does this ad reflect of changed times? I'll say first it's having your name set among want ads, even where it qualifies for free admission. Privacy invaded! Imagine repercussion today. But want ads were a first section many readers went to in 1936, as in job hunting. Desperate job hunting. And what more reassuring than to see your own name and an invite to the Tampa for gratis sampling of Shirley? Which brings us to the dolls. How many families could invest in a Temple doll for the little girl (or parent) who's interested? What sort of stage ritual informed the unveiling of new Shirley dolls? I'm wondering if each year brought fresh offering to reflect her increased maturity. Presently active collectors might tell us. I could guess how little boys felt about the doll focus. Or the whole Shirley madness, for that matter. William K. Everson, who grew up in the era, wrote that mothers took children to Temple as a "special treat," but it wasn't necessarily considered so by the kids. Everson suspected Mom, or perhaps Dad (see Graham Greene), were the more engaged parties. Did boys develop crushes on Shirley? I bet between she and Deanna Durbin, more went for Deanna. We're quickly losing the folks who could tell us. They'd be approaching nineties now, at least.

3 Comments:

Blogger Donald Benson said...

I remember when Shirley Temple movies were effectively a weekly TV series. We watched them for the same reason we watched the Little Rascals: They were set in a kid-centric world, even when Shirley was the only kid present (although there were often other kids to serve as sidekicks and even villains). The stories were about a kid, and all the grownups were less important than she was. That the central kid in this fantasy was a girl was something we boys learned to live with.

For all their aggressive purity, Shirley's movies and the Rascal's shorts were more empowering than, say, "Leave It to Beaver" and "Dennis the Menace". In sitcoms, budgets and network timidity kept kids in orderly schools and channeled their energy into socially approved outlets, except when Learning an Important Lesson. No junkyard clubhouses, no unsupervised theatrical ventures, no dog-powered railroads careening down the street.

Shirley got to do cool stuff, usually with all the adults' full attention and indulgence. Heck, they'd let her play soldier or mountie in uniform with the real troops. Even boys could dig that (albeit imagining doing a tougher, manlier job of it). I was a ham at an early age, and envied how adults were not only a willing audience for whatever her characters wanted to do, but her songs and dances had Production Values. The one that sticks is "Little Miss Broadway", where a courtroom transforms into a miniature New York and ends with a rear-projected Times Square behind the judge's desk, which she appropriates as a stage. I got that this was movie make-believe, but at the same time wondered if there was real-world possibility behind it. Were we supposed to assume Shirley's friends snuck in at night to install all the effects?

Never had a Shirley crush. To the extent I was into girls at that age, they were older women like Hayley Mills and grown-up Annette Funicello in Disney movies. In any case I'd abandoned Shirley Temple movies well before puberty, discovering (or finally getting) the wise-guy humor of Bob Hope and the like. Vintage Paramount and Universal comedies got heavy weekend play on local television; it was kids raised on these who made the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields trendy.

By my teens Shirley Temple movies weren't running nearly so often; or maybe they just weren't on my personal radar. My niece somehow grew up with them; perhaps on VHS. As a parent she showed them to her own daughter and was shocked by how grim many of the plots were.

9:45 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This ad from Cuba is actually nicer and it was actually a template used in all of Latin America.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/43/b4/77/43b477205b0842cb7b6729c72afa6c1f.jpg

This is probably the only of the Shirley Temple movies that I still like. The others are quite an endurance test.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

Shirley Temple had a vast influence on our culture in her time. My mother was named Shirley Temple Jones.

8:53 AM  

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