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Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

  1. Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.  
  2. Virginia  Weidler,  Babes On  Broadway,  1940.      Momma Gertrude  said No… At age 11 (publicity said  ten),  her #1 years with  (publicity said) 135,000  eighth birthday gifts, were over.  She was still earning $300,000 a movie, had  $3m in the bank, when MGM signed her at 13 to join its teenage roster.  She was dropped after just one of a bunch of Shirley-vehicles  including...
  3. Virginia Weidler,  Barnacle Bill, 1940.       Due  as the first MGMovie for for Fox’s ex-child star.  But Mommma Gertrude said No…  Quite rightly. ’Twas a zero role as Wallace Beery and Marjorie Main were the movie and no one else. Virginia Who? Well, in 1939, John Barrymore said his 13-year-old co-star in The Great Man Votes was Hollywood's greatest actress.  In a suprising, diplomatic mode, Metro chief LB Mayer preferred to wait for a better vehicle. 
  4. Jackie Horner, Panama Hattie, 1942.        Playing Dan Dailey’s daughter, Geraldine in  this Cole Porter songfest was supposed to mark the end of Temple’s MGM contract before starting another for Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick.  Not so. Momma Gertrude  said No… Ethel Merman's  Broadway musical was hardly Temple material, but  Metro had  plenty of newcomers chasing her fame and capable of singing Cole Porter. And being instantly forgotten.
  5. Virginia Weidler, Best Foot Forward, 1942.      When Columbia’s detested chieftain Harry Cohn couldn’t get Temple and Rita Hayworth for a film of the Broadway hit, he let MGM buy him out for $150,000.  Enter Ball as herself - and Weidler  (Temple’s greatest rival) in her final screen role - at age 16, after 45 films in eleven years. In 1939, John Barrymore called her Hollywood’s greatest actress. 
  6. Elizabeth Taylor, National Velvet, 1944.     Momma Gertrude said No… Well, it was she who pinned up each and every  one of Shirley’s 36 curls, after all.  MGM overlord LB Mayer bought the Edith Bagnold book specifically for Shirley  -  and Tracy. Her determined replacement really put the nails in the Temple  coffin.  Fed up with Momma Gertrude by now, LB shoved Temple into Kathleen, 1940, to finish her  her Metro contract.
  7. Ann Blyth, Mildred Pierce, 1944.      As Mommie Dearest’s  daughter. Now that would have been worth seeing - Shirley vs Joan Crawford!  Bonita Granville, Ann Rutherford, Martha Vickers and Virginia Weidler also tested for Veda, spoilt brat daughter of the titular Joan Crawford’s classic film noir. This was Blyth’s finest hour - she should have won an Oscar like Crawford. For her next 42 roles Blyth simply played pretty and safe.
  8. Jean Porter, Till The End of Time, 1945.      Change of Teenage Minx Next Door to Guy Madison’s GI home from WWII and doing well enough before Robert Mitchum showed up and (effortlessly) stole this lite Best Years Of Our Lives. Three years on, Porter (a great friend of Temple’s main rival, Virginia Weidler), wed director Edward Dmytryk  and supported him during his infamous blacklisting as one of The Hollywood Ten - until his 1999 death. 
  9. Elizabeth Taylor, Life With Father, 1946.      According to info within the USC Cinema-Television Library, both Temple and Britain’s Ann Todd had been in the mix for Mary – romancing the Jimmy Lydon, as the eldest son of William Powell and Irene Dunne in the film of the Broadway hit.
  10. Janet Leigh,  Little Women, 1948.       Producer David O Selznick couldn’t decide between Temple and Dorothy McGuire for Meg to support his wife Jennifer Jones (his very own Susan Alexander!) as Jo. Finally, the over-tired DOS cut his losses, canceled shooting (after a strike) and sold the project to MGM… who had no use for Temple at all!

       
     

    Temple testing for little Meg. [Selznick Intl Pictures, 1946.]

     
     
  11. Elizabeth Taylor,  The Last Time I Saw Paris,  1954.      Fourteen years earlier, producer Lester Cowan tried to set up a film from F Scott Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisited at RKO. With Cary Grant and Temple as father and daughter, James and Helen Ellsworth.  Auteur Richard Brooks made his own version of a script by the Casbalanca twins, Julius J and Philip G Epstein, and fell for Liz - “the most  beautiful woman  I’d  ever met.” 
  12. Betty Hutton, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1951.     Three years before CB De Mille made his old dream of a circus film (and inspired a six-year-old Phoenix kid named Spielberg to make movies),  the Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick planned risking $6m on a big top number named after the slogan of the Ringling Bros circus. The DOS line-up would have featured Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Dorothy McGuire, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Shirley Temple and Alida Valli.  Obviously the DeMille  epic had a different script, but it’s safe to surmise  that the characters would have been much the same… trapeze stars, lion-tamer, elephant girl, circus boss…
  13. Sandra Descher, The Last Time I Saw Paris, 1953.        Fourteen years earlier, producer Lester Cowan tried to set up a film from F Scott Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisited at RKO. With Grant - and Temple as the real star as it’s all told from her viewpoint as Grant’s daughter. This rewrite by Casablanca’s Epstein twins (Julius J and Philip G), had little time for young Descher, shifting focus to the mother, Elizabeth Taylor - “the most beautiful woman I’d ever met.” director Richard Brooks.

 

 

 

 





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