Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do Call Me Shirley

I make me sick.

Not for something I've done or because I've got the stomach flu. This movie I'm watching is so adorable and cute and sweet that I kind of want to vomit rainbows and sunshine. In a good way.

I'm rewatching The Little Princess. (Enough said?) Made in 1939 starring a 10 year old Shirley Temple and based on the charming little book by Frances Hodgson Burnett that I read as a child and perhaps deserves another read through. Yet, I digress.

When I was little, I wasn't the carefree child from fabric softener commercials. I was a little ball of
anxiety. I didn't sleep, make friends or do my school work. So the school councilor told my mother to put a tv in my room. When I woke up in the middle of the night I could put the tv on for company and after my homework was done, I could watch cartoons and decompress. On one of these long nights when sleep wouldn't come, I switched on my little black and white tv. (Literally, there was a dial to switch on... and bunny ears to adjust. Younger readers should google this...)

On one of the 6 stations I could get, there was a movie starting, staring the teeny Shirley. The Set-up: Her wonderful, doting father was headed off to a "little" war but was leaving the sweet, beautiful and rich Sara Crewe in the capable hands of Ms. Minchin who ran a posh boarding school. Most love the kind Sara, except a few who are jealous. (Ahem, the EVIL little Lavinia) Things take a turn though when she receives word that her father has been killed in battle and with no more money coming in, the wicked Ms. Minchin
sells all her nice things and makes her a maid in the house for all her school mates. She rooms with Becky, the other house maid girl and they create fantastic fantasy worlds to keep their spirits alive. Sara will often sneak out at night to search the wounded solider hospital, for she is certain her father would never die and leave her all alone. Time passes and Sara grows tired. She is worn down by the work and has a moment of hopelessness, hunger and hatred for those that are so cruel, something one doesn't see often in Temple films. On the final trip through the wounded hospital, running from Ms. Minchin and certain doom, she goes room to room, bed to bed and walks right past her father, in a head bandage. He doesn't remember her. It tears your god damned heart out. Just as she is walking away, he mumbles, "Sara...Sara..."

The tears flow, Ms. Minchin gets it good and Sara, her father and Becky live happily ever after. And I was enthralled.

Shirley is credited for saving the entire film industry at the time. She attributed herself to Rin Tin Tin, saying people in the depression needed cheering up so they fell in love with a girl and a dog. And that probably explains why I loved her movies. When you little and a little freaked out by the world around you, Shirley Temple is a beacon. A warm light in the cold night.

Shirley fell out of fame slowly as she got older. She focused on humanitarian efforts in Ghana and Czechoslovakia and did a lot of good in the world. In 1972 she went public with the news of her double mastectomy, something that was not talked about back then, which was pretty damned brave and awesome. She also supported Nixon and the Vietnam war... We're not all perfect I guess.

I'm truly sad to see her go. I'm going to eat some gum drops and watch Bright Eyes in my tap shoes.