Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 06, 2007

Shirley'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade

This Easter Sunday,American Movie Classics will be showing a Shirley Temple marathon of some of her biggest films,such as The Little Princess,Heidi,Bright Eyes and The Little Colonel. Apart from ABC Family's Sound of Music repeat viewings and the Ten Commandments(I just love it when Yvonne De Carlo goes "Moses,Moses,you stubborn,stubborn fool!"),this seems to be the only holiday programming scheduled anywhere.

That's fine with me,I haven't seen a Shirley Temple film in a long time and Easter is as good of an excuse as any to catch up here. Shirley is the ultimate child star icon,a sweet hearted little miss who only wanted to do her best for others
and could break into a song and dance number at a moment's notice.

She's the standard which all other cute little girls in movies must measure themselves by. People of all ages and backgrounds adored Shirley and tons of tie in merchandise,from dolls to hair ribbons,are still hot items on the collectables market. Also,unlike many young stars who we've seen crash and burn in LaLa Land,Shirley didn't slide into the dark side of fame. True,her career onscreen ended during her teens(she did host a couple of television series,Shirley Temple's Storybook and Shirley Temple Theater in the late 50s/early 60s)but she had a pretty full life afterwards. One of her best known achievements was to become a US Ambassador(using her married name of Shirley Temple Black)-let's see Dakota Fanning try that in the future!

Okay,but what's the big deal here,you might ask? Some curly haired kid in a few old movies-why should I watch even one of them? Well,let's take a look at what you've been missing there,friend:


Bill"Bojangles" Robinson was one of the top entertainers of his day but sadly,due to the racial attitudes of the time period,was given the typically stereotype roles of manservant onscreen. Fortunately,he made several films with Shirley(as well as coaching and developing her routines for many other films)where his dancing skills were given a fabulous showcase.

One of their most famous and controversal bits was this staircase number from The Little Colonel. Theaters in the South edited the scene where the two of them held hands(how pitiful is that?!). This routine is a wondeful example of elegant movement within a restricted area(no pun intended):


This is one of Shirley's signature songs,from the 1934 film Bright Eyes. The film is a typical ST story,cute kid in custody battle but it has the distinct of being the movie for which Shirley recieved a special Academy Award for. One interesting sidenote here is that the dog in Bright Eyes later on played Toto in The Wizard of Oz,where at one point, Shirley was offered the part of Dorothy but the studio didn't want to trade her over to MGM. Take a sweet trip to Shirley's musical candy shop:


It's not on the AMC lineup but it's a film I remember well;Shirley plays Marky,the daughter of a gambler who leaves her as collateral on a loan with his mob cohorts. Dad winds up killing himself and the gangsters send her to live with bookie Sorrowful Jones(Aldolphe Menjou)who reluctantly bonds with Marky as well as gun moll Bangles(Dorothy Dell). LMM was remade twice,most recently in 1980 with Walter Matthau. The original,however,still stands up today and is the best version as far as I'm concerned:


Another well known Shirley song and while I really don't like colorized b&w films,this was the best clip I could find of the song. It's from the movie Curly Top,which will be shown this Sunday:

Well,whatever you watch or do,have a Happy Easter,folks. To send you off with a smile,here's a Shirley Temple tribute courtesy of Janet Jackson:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm currently working my way through all of Shirley Temple's movies. Loved Little Miss Marker!!!