"[An] elucidating cultural history of Hollywood’s most popular child star…a must-read." —Bill Desowitz, USA Today
For four consecutive years she was the world’s box-office champion. With her image appearing in periodicals and advertisements roughly twenty times daily, she rivaled FDR and Edward VIII as the most photographed person in the world. Her portrait brightened the homes of countless admirers, among them J. Edgar Hoover, Andy Warhol, and Anne Frank.
Distinguished cultural historian John F. Kasson shows how, amid the deprivation and despair of the Great Depression, Shirley Temple radiated optimism and plucky good cheer that lifted the spirits of millions and shaped their collective character for generations to come.
As historian Kasson eloquently points out in this often repetitive but useful survey of Temple's role in Depression America, the young star entertained America at one of its lowest points, winning the hearts of a nation and giving hope to a hopeless society. "In all her 1930s movies beginning with Stand Up and Cheer!, Shirley Temple helped viewers summon the emotional resources to persevere in the world." Kasson confines his deft critical writing to the 1930s, the height of Temple's popularity, chronicling her rise to fame, her lasting impact on the movies and society, and her view of herself as a professional actor and not a child laborer. At the height of her popularity, he observes, "Shirley Temple's films, products, and endorsements stimulated the American consumer economy at a crucial time, so much so that to some she appeared to be a relief program all by herself." Kasson's insightful book looks back to a moment in American society when, he argues, the movies mattered and when one magnetic star could help change people's minds and hearts.
Little girl who fought the great depression
After reviewing the sample I decided against buying the book. Since the entire sample consisted of a review of the depression, Herbert Hoover, and FDR in particular, I assumed that there wasn't a lot left to say about Shirley Temple. I may have enjoyed her story, but wasn't willing to sit through any more of the FDR "bio" to get to it. I loved all the Shirley Temple movies-- who wouldn't? But for $15 I wanted a little less Franklin Delano, and a little more "Bright Eyes"!