With the passing of Shirley Temple it comes to my attention that not all film fans are familiar with her work, and I have to wonder why. How can this be? This girl was once responsible for the happiness of a nation and everyone should know why. Fortunately, there are many easy ways that they can.
Known forever as "America's Little Darling," Shirley Temple passed away at the age of 85 at her home in Woodside, Calif. The day before she passed away I had asked my students how many of them had seen The Wizard of Oz. Sadly, only one of them had. How can this possibly be? A beloved family film that during my childhood had become an annual television event was unknown to those who were just a generation beyond me. This seemed odd. And yet, these are the kids who with the dawning of DVDs, the internet and video games, and cable TV that allows for hundreds of channels have a vast array of entertainment accessible to them. So, I suppose it’s plausible. Although it makes me wonder just what kind of parents they have who don’t share their own beloved childhood favorites with their offspring.
Additionally, I had mentioned that Shirley Temple had been the original choice for playing Dorothy. Undoubtedly my students had heard of her. But they had not. What the what?! Shirley Temple? My reaction was strong, but I feel justified. I do realize that during my childhood the local TV stations played a lot of Temple’s films because they were in the public domain. But that’s all the more reason Temple should not have faded away from the public consciousness. Her films are out there for all to see for absolutely nothing (most of them any way). So, I say let’s bring her back. And why not? It won’t cost anybody anything. And who couldn’t use a little Shirley in their life? For those who don’t know what that means, or for those who may have forgotten, let me explain just what that means.
Shirley Temple was the biggest star in the world during one of the darkest times of the United States known as the Great Depression. Millions of Americans were out of work and in desperate need of alleviation from their every troubles. People wanted some joy, and simple escapism from the reality that faced them in the stark, bleakness of the world that was their lives. Shirley did all that with a simple song, a little dance and the charm of an adorable child.
The funny thing is that Temple was not all that terribly talented. Don’t get too mad at me. After all, the facts are hard to dispute. Yes, she could dance. But her ability was not much more than that of a good mimic. All right, a very good mimic. Yes she could sing. But again, her pipes were not skilled beyond that of what’s expected of a child at a family gathering. What she did have was charisma by the boatloads, a very simple and intangible quality that film producers for generations have been trying desperately to capture in another child star. But it is not to be. There will never be another Shirley Temple. Nor should anyone ever try to be. She was original, and unique, and will always be with us through the films she left behind.
Fortunately, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will be giving everyone the opportunity to discover (or rediscover) Shirley when they pay tribute to the Hollywood legend with a night of her films on Sunday, March 9. "Shirley Temple was a good friend and an extraordinary human being who, after being the most famous person in the world at age 6 and Hollywood's pint-sized Queen at age 7, grew up to be such a lovely, civic-minded citizen, wife and mother, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to two countries," said TCM Host Robert Osborne. "There will never be another one like her." TCM's tribute to Temple will open with a special afternoon showing of the classic Heidi (1937) and will include such beloved favorites as Stowaway, Bright Eyes, The Little Princess, and The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer. The complete schedule is as follows:
TCM Remembers Shirley Temple Black – Sunday, March 9
4:30 p.m. – Heidi (1937)
6:15 p.m. – Stowaway (1936)
8 p.m. – Bright Eyes (1934)
9:30 p.m. – The Little Princess (1939)
11:15 p.m. – I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
12:45 a.m. – The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947)
2:30 a.m. – A Kiss For Corliss (1949)
4:15 a.m. – That Hagen Girl (1947)