Shirley Temple Dances Out of Our Lives — But Lives on in Classic Movies
Who loved Shirley Temple more than me? Nobody.
Shirley Temple, dead at 85, was once a curly-haired, dimpled, spunky cherub who could sing, dance and connect with audiences. She had a role in her first feature, "The Red Haired Alibi," in 1932 at four. By 1934, the year she turned six, she was already a studio trooper, making ten movies, including the classics "Little Miss Marker" and "Bright Eyes."
Long before the Power Puff Girls or the long string of Disney stars who stripped down for "Spring Breakers," I had Shirley Temple. She was never a one-named star, always together like the virgin cocktail.
Shirley Temple was my idol growing up. I wanted to sing like her; I could never carry a tune. I wanted to dance like her. I tried. I took tap-dancing lessons, but my mother sent me to the local activity center in sneakers. And, well, you can't shuffle to Buffalo when your rubber soles keep catching on the gym floor.
For every little girl aching to be in the spotlight, there was only one who had the talent and cheek and, yes, heart to make it happen. Shirley Temple was as much an American treasure as Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon.
A true phenom of talent and stardom at such an impossibly young age, Shirley Temple was the anti-Honey Boo Boo. She was never, ever vulgar. She lived in a society where children were children — and "seen, not heard" was a mantra.
In one way, she was exactly the kind of star that W. C. Fields decried with this quote credited to him: "Never work with children or animals." But with Temple, she didn't upstage the actors around her. Her firecracker glow made everybody around her look good.
Take her classic duet with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in "The Little Colonel" in 1935. Set in the Deep South, their famous sequence together begins with her character's pouty declaration that she doesn't want to "go upstairs" to bed. And then Robinson charms her upstairs by initiating a dance using those same steps as a prop.
[Photos: Shirley Temple's 15 Most Memorable Roles]
"Bojangles" does a blissful routine up and down the stairs and then the actress, her pout now melted, giggles – oh, that giggle – and says, "I want to do that, too."