Shirley Temple, who was a well-known child actress, passed away on February 10, 2014.
To commemorate the acting career of the legendary Shirley Temple, I have created a list in alphabetical order of her best movies.
Bright Eyes (1934)
Along with actor James Dunn, Temple gave a great performance in the 1934 film Bright Eyes. Temple’s character is a young girl who is the focus of a custody battle between her godfather and an older male character who has much wealth. The film is notable for the song “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” and for helping Temple win a Juvenile Award at the 1935 Academy Awards.
Captain January (1936)
Based on the children’s book of the same name, this film stars the late actress as a homeless girl who is helped by a captain of a ship. Like many of the movies on this top-10 list, this movie helped launch Temple’s acting career. It was also one of the earliest ones that featured the child actress in a prominent role.
Curly Top (1935)
If I were to create a list of Shirley Temple’s best movies, the film Curly Top would certainly be on it. Known for Temple singing the song “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” the film is about Temple being adopted and adjusting to a life with the man who adopted her. Film critic Andre Sennwald of The New York Times gave Temple a positive review for her performance. He noted, “Shirley herself, far from showing signs of deterioration or overwork in Curly Top, actually hints in her work at an increased maturity of technique … With all this, she has lost none of her native freshness and charm.”
The film Heidi also deserves to be on my list of the 10 best Shirley Temple movies. In my opinion, the film is actually her best. In the film, Temple plays an adorable orphan who is kidnapped from her grandfather by an aunt. Both Temple and her grandfather, played by Jean Hersholt, were outsanding in this affectionate picture.
The Little Colonel (1935)
One of the best movies starring Shirley Temple is The Little Colonel, which also featured the legendary Lionel Barrymore as a Colonel from the Civil War. It received praise, and its signature moment was when the young actress danced with the family’s butler, played by Bill Robinson.
The Little Princess (1939)
Also featuring Richard Greene and Anita Louise, The Little Princess is about a young girl who is distanced from her father because he has to serve in the Second Boer War. More than that, the film is about a character played by Temple who learns to adjust to life in a boarding school for girls. This the last popular film starring the actress when she was a child.
The Littlest Rebel (1935)
Another film that features both Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson is The Littlest Rebel. Temple plays a six-year-old girl whose father owns a plantation; as for Robinson, he plays a slave of the father. The legendary actress received great reviews for her performance in the financially-successful film, including from Sennwald. The film was also a play with Temple and Claude Rains in 1940.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938)
The 1932 film Rebecca of a Sunnybrook Farm was also a great movie starring the late actress. Like her other films, Temple plays an orphan in a featured role. This film details her winning a chance to be on a breakfast cereal radio commercial. Also, Temple does a fine performance of singing and dancing with Robinson. On an interesting note, the late Gloria Stuart, who became famous to modern audiences for her role in Titanic, had a minor role in the film as Temple’s cousin. The film also received positive reviews, including one by Variety magazine. The magazine noted, “The national No. 1 box office star has seldom shone so brilliantly in her singing, dancing and repartee. That means she is going right ahead to bigger and better grosses.”
Stand Up and Cheer! (1934)
This 1934 film does not feature Temple as the star, but I included it on my list of the best Shirley Temple movies because it helped her become a star overnight. Along with Temple, the film stars Warner Baxter and Madge Evans. Another reason this film is on this list is that Temple’s radiance helped give Americans something to be cheerful about during one of America’s darkest hours, the Great Depression.
Wee Willie Winkie (1937)
The last film on this list of the best movies with the highly-likable actress is the 1937 film Wee Willie Winkie. Directed by the greatest director of all time, John Ford, the film is about the British Raj. It is also about a sergeant, played by Victor McLaglen, and Priscilla “Winkie” Williams. On a final note, Temple was also in another film directed by Ford, Fort Apache. I would have included it on my list, but John Wayne and Henry Fonda really stole the show in that film.
Andre Sennwald, “Movie Review – Curly Top (1935),” The New York Times.
Aljean Harmetz, “Shirley Temple Black, Screen Darling, Dies at 85,” The New York Times.
Martha Mendoza, “Shirley Temple, iconic child star, dies at 85,” Yahoo! Movies.