Taking a short break from Summer Under the Stars to reminisce about some of my favourite childhood films: Shirley Temple.
I’ve seen quite of them at one time or another, but certainly not all. Around the middle of her career, she was a very prolific actress, performing in movies at rates that would astound even the most often used of current actors. She made 11 movies in 1933 and 12 in 1934. That said, I’m only going to talk about a couple of favourites.
My fanship of Shirley Temple probably started (i.e. my first favourite was…) Heidi. Heidi is just classic. Based on the children’s book of the same name, Shirley Temple plays the orphan Heidi who, after being passed around to various relatives, goes to live with “the grandfather,” a rather gruff man who almost never speaks. [Why did I love this? Probably because I was very close to my own grandfather. My best guess.] However, they develop a very close relationship, until she is taken to stay with the wealthy by infirm Clara.
Her culture shock there leads to one of my favourite movie quotes, when presented with their elegant dinner, Heidi replies: “I think I’ll just have some cheese.” I loved watching Heidi help Clara gain her independence and the strength they found in each other- even when I was little. The cruel coldness of her aunt and her developing relationship with Clara are very similar to the dynamics in the children’s novel The Secret Garden and reflect, albeit more distantly, A Little Princess (another she portrayed on film, that I love, but will not review in this post).
A few years after Heidi, however, my tastes turned to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. They have some striking similarities. [So I have a shameless pattern.] The cold aunt who understands nothing except her own opinions. Rebecca comes to stay with her aunt, who refuses friends’ attempts to put Rebecca’s singing talent on the radio. Eventually, they sneak her out and she becomes a public sensation. Shirley Temple endearing herself to everyone else. The music routines in this are some of my personal favourite examples of what made her the famous child star. Rebecca is the kind of young character that explains how Shirley Temple movies were able to light up the Depression era. Clearly, my love of musicals started at an early age.
When she was older, Shirley Temple continued to work in a few films, but not as many. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer was one such film. To her credit, she gave an excellent performance as a young girl who has fallen in love, somewhat inappropriately, with Cary Grant. Overall, the movie is really very funny. It probably could not have been made today, even though the theory used to push the plot forward (by having Cary Grant “date” her, to encourage her to spend time with boys her own age) is technically quite sound. The notion is not at all accepted today, and for very good reason. However, all works well in the end, particularly because Cary Grant ends up with Shirley Temple’s much older sister. Though a bit disturbing for me to see Shirley Temple in this particular role (I mean, this is Heidi!), I enjoyed the movie, and has another one of my favourite lines, that is much too long to type here. Watch the movie if you get a chance–keep watch for her tirade to Cary Grant about school and people her own age and how they don’t understand and what a sad plight her life has become.
Well, I’m going to conclude my reminiscing for now, and take some time this summer to re-watch some of my Shirley Temple favourites. I’d love to hear about yours, so please feel free to comment!