An era of sorts ended Monday with the passing of Shirley Temple Black at age 85. Shown above with Carole Lombard in 1934's "Now And Forever," Temple -- then six -- was the last surviving co-star of a Lombard film. (A few bit players still may be with us.)
"Now And Forever," which also starred Gary Cooper, isn't your formula Shirley Temple vehicle...perhaps because at the time it was made (the summer of 1934), such a thing didn't exist. That would come later, as 20th Century-Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck made Shirley the studio's meal ticket (which it needed after the death of Will Rogers in August 1935) with musicals and other uplifting fare. In contrast, this was a drama shot at Paramount, where she had starred in "Little Miss Marker" earlier that year. (One of her co-stars was Dorothy Dell, who again was to work with her in "Now And Forever," but Dell died in an automobile accident in June and Lombard was assigned the role.) Cooper plays a confidence man, Temple his daughter and Carole plays his accomplice, whom Gary falls in love with. She eventually persuades Coop to change his ways for the sake of his little girl.
Lombard, a Los Angeles resident of 20 years in 1934, tended to be a skeptic where child stars were concerned; she had seen too many parents come to Hollywood and live vicariously through their children. (Her own mother, Elizabeth Peters, made certain Jane Alice was sufficiently educated before she pursued a career in films. Once her daughter did that and soon became Carole Lombard, mom gave her sufficient space.) But Carole soon saw that Shirley was a welcome exception -- knowledgeable and professional beyond her years, precocious without being cloying. In turn, Temple liked Lombard for her easygoing manner and that she didn't patronize her.
A mutual admiration society formed, and while they never teamed up on film again, they were at times seen together in public, such as at this early 1941 benefit for Greek war relief:
Note the reference to Shirley's "Metro contract"; Fox declined to renew it the year before, after her later films proved disappointing at the box office (she had been the industry's number-one attraction from 1935 to 1938). There were fears that growing out of childhood would spell disaster for her career, as this late '30s cartoon attests:
And while the '40s Temple was nowhere as popular as she'd been in the '30s, she made quite a few good movies in that decade, making the transition from star to character actress in films such as "Since You Went Away," "The Bachelor And The Bobby Soxer" and "Fort Apache." By the end of the decade, at age 21, she left films, though she moved to TV in the late '50s to host (and occasionally act in) an anthology show of children's classics. Then an entirely new career beckoned -- diplomacy.
She was part of the U.S. United Nations delegation for several years, then followed that up by serving as ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. But just as she did as an actress, she did her homework and won plaudits -- not easy when you're carrying the ghost of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in people's perceptions. She moved to northern California, raised a family and aside from her diplomatic and political work stayed out of the limelight.
Turner Classic Movies in in the midst of its "31 Days of Oscar," but announced Tuesday that it will air eight of her films Sunday, March 9. Here's the schedule (all times Eastern):
* 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)
It's a nice way to honor the "little princess" of Hollywood.