Shirley Temple is gone. She wasn't of my generation. As a matter of fact, she was the same age as my mother, but because she was eternally "a little girl," I believe all generations of little girls felt she was ours.
I grew up on Shirley Temple movies thanks to the Four O'clock Early Movie on television five days a week.
That was when there was just one television in the house - a huge console. Thinking back, it was really something that my mother would actually let us turn the console around so it faced us at the dinner table in the kitchen so I could finish watching whatever movie was on.
Thanks to my mom, I probably know more about the 1930's and 1940's than many of my generation. Interestingly enough, Shirley seemed to have lived through all those years and made history interesting.
Thanks to movies, she met Queen Victoria when her father was in an army hospital in London, she lived in the Alps in the 19th century, she was a "little colonel" on a southern plantation after The Civil War, she charmed the savage Indians with the Canadian Mounties, she charmed the people of India itself as "Wee Willie Winkie" and often ended up in New York City as a child entertainer who saved the day.
My daughters and I loved old Shirley Temple movies even though there was certainly a pattern to them, no matter what century or country you put her in. She had more crusty old grandfathers than any other actress in movie history.
And the poor child never seemed to have parents. Somehow, one parent was always dead or dying or had mysteriously left her in the hands of some female villain. If you watched enough Shirley movies, you became very familiar with these women.
Mary Nash was the mean housekeeper, Fraulein Rottenmeier, (and she was rotten) in "Heidi" and then she was the mean school mistress in "The Little Princess" who forced our Shirley to become a servant because her absent father no longer paid her tuition.
I don't recall ever seeing child actress Marcia Mae Jones unless she was on screen with Shirley. In "Heidi," she portrayed Clara, who was confined to a wheelchair until Heidi decided to teach her to walk. She was Shirley's snooty nemesis in "The Little Princess" who Shirley eventually covered in soot as we cheered.
But no matter the time or setting, Shirley danced and sang her way into the nation's heart. Is there truly anyone who doesn't know the songs "Animal Crackers in My Soup" or "On the Good Ship Lollipop" or can't recall that tremendous tap dance sequence with the formidable Bo Jangles Robinson on the staircase of the old plantation?
With her exacting 56 banana curls (my mother fixed my hair in banana curls for my First Communion, ala Shirley) she saved Fox Studios and brought hope to people of The Great Depression.
In a world where a Honey Boo Boo is now celebrated, let us rejoice that at one time, there was a genuine child star, Shirley Temple.