Friday, March 21, 2014


Shirley Temple, after the first time I saw her in a movie, was who I wanted to be.

Shirley fit the words in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
"There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good,
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad,
She was horrid."

Horrid was something I didn't allow myself to be. I held on to good. 

"Good" for me  meant doing what Shirley did, learning all the verses in the songs she sang, and being able to dance like she did. I knew, already, that I wanted to be ballerina, not a tap dancer, but I danced up and down the steps in our house the way she did, and practiced the perfect way she curtseyed and bowed.

"Good" was wearing pretty dresses with lots of ruffles and bows. Good was knowing how to talk with adults and look like I was listening even if I didn't quite understand what they were saying, "Good" was knowing how to behave -- being bright-eyed with a smile, even when it was hard to smile. If you had to cry, you bowed your head and covered your face with your hands, and tried not to make boo-hoo noises. Good was also liking other girls -- being friendly nice even if they made you uneasy.

Good meant table manners, and everything to do with being clean, tidy, neat. And it meant never eating too much or too fast, even if you were very hungry.

I asked my parents to buy me a Shirley Temple doll, and toe shoes. For one of my birthdays I was given an a doll with black hair -- it was an Elizabeth Taylor doll. I played with her but got bored with her -- she wasn't nearly as beautiful or interesting as Shirley. A year later I got the toe shoes.

Shirley Temple became, for me, the image of girlish perfection, and even as my ballerina dream grew, though I wasn't a singing, tap-dancing, adorable Shirley, aspects of what I am today come from her.

Of course I saw all her films, some more than once. I did feel a bit sad as she grew a little older, and seemed less perfect, but I was taking ballet lessons and that was more important than any good girl stuff. Actually, after she co-starred with Cary Grant in "Bachelor and the Bobbie Soxer," I didn't spend much time keeping close tabs on what she doing.

Oh sure, I continued gathering celebrity information. I knew she married John Agar, had a child, divorced, married Charles Black, had two more children, became an ambassador, and as Shirley Temple Black, emerged as a Republican, but being a liberal with a career of my own, I didn't play close attention till I saw a news report about her leaving the world.

Golly, I wonder if the Good little girl was part of what Elizabeth Taylor was -- or Cher, Lilly Tomlin, Madonna, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, even Mylie, Selena Gomez, or someone like Rihanna?

Golly, all the famous, sexy somebodies, with their outrageous, overly revealing outfits, doing their bumps and grinding dancing, shout-singing orgasmically, conveying slutty wickednesses -- that, -- nowadays, is infecting, inspiring the very young little girls, who probably never heard or saw Shirley singing, "On the Good Ship, Lollipop."

Ah Shirley -- little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead -- what a beautiful powerful sense of goodness you gave us, and our mothers and sisters....

It still makes us smile, and influences what we create to wear, and how we behave out in the world, even today.


Poet_Carl_Watts said...

Focus on the beauty and rightness, let that be your anchor lest you be swept away into the morass of despair of those who focus on it.

Life is grand! Take the best, leave the rest. Do you you can to improve all. Everything WILL be alright.

Shirley did the best she knew how given her information, that you can be certain of. Just as you have and will continue to do.

Love you♥

Unknown said...

First of all let me start by saying R. I. P. Shirley Temple and even though I'm young I still remember her. She was very talented and very classy. I also believe in my humble opinion she can't be compared to people like Beyonce, Miley, Madonna or whoever because Shirley was a different time in history when morals and class meant something unlike today and with the people you mentioned I feel there's no comparison.

Carola said...

Of the pictures you showed, I like the middle one the best, when she was a teen-ager (or perhaps in her 20s).

Aquileana said...

Hello Emily;
What a beautiful and meaningful tribute to Shirley Temple... I loved when you told us that you wanted a Shirley doll and you got an Elizabeth Taylor doll instead...
All the imaginary created around that little blonde curly girl has turned her into a Hollywood icon... She was witty and truly cute... Simply unforgettable.
Best Wishes; Aquileana ツ