April 9, 2007

A profound movie experience.

I'm watching one of the first movies I ever saw... from back in the days when TV played "The Early Show," "The Late Show," "The Late Late Show," and -- if I'm not mistaken -- "The Late Late Late Show." I only watched "The Early Show" back in the 1950s, when I was a child, and only when my mother called my attention to something. I now realize she was being highly selective. Perhaps the second movie I ever saw in my life -- the first was "The Little Fugitive" -- was the Shirley Temple movie "Captain January."

This dance, with Buddy Ebsen, is supremely charming:

"Come Along and follow me, to the bottom of the sea..." Did that influence Robert Zemeckis in "Back to the Future" to make the prom theme "Enchantment Under the Sea"? There's a scene right after the dance where a bunch of crusty old sailors teach Shirley how to spit. That had to be the source material for the spitting scene in "Titanic."

And speaking of influences, I can see how much this influenced me. Shirley is angrily defiant as she stands up to the prissy female truant officer who doesn't like the feisty attitude she's learning from the men. The truant officer wants to put her in an institution, away from Captain January, the kindly lighthouse keeper who found her after a shipwreck.
You should be taken home and spanked! What kind of man is this Captain January to allow you to run around?
This is some heavy dialogue for a young child to hear. (Shirley has just been looking at a picture she thinks is her dead mother and has tried to sing the song "Asleep in the Deep.")
Helen: How can anyone sleep in the deep?
Capt. January: That's the long last sleep, Star.
Helen: Does everyone have to die?
Capt. January: Yes, everyone does.
Helen: Even you and me?
Capt. January: Yes, when the time comes.
Helen: Do you think we'll make it till Christmas?
Capt. January: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if we did.
Yes, Shirley reminds you of death, then tries to cheer you back up with Christmas and short term hopes.

ADDED: Want to see more Buddy Ebsen? Here -- "Broadway Melody of 1936"-- he dances with a full size woman (his sister Vilma).


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Oh wouldn't it have been a treat to see them as Dorothy and The Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz"?

Joan said...

This is a classic Althouse post -- fantastic!

Thanks, Ann.

Ron said...

Security around Shirley back then was extremely high because of the Lindburgh kidnapping, and the fact that she was the cash machine of the studios back then. Some of her fellow child stars weren't even allowed to walk on the same studio streets as Shirley when they weren't working!

Maxine Weiss said...

I'll pay money to see Althouse with her hair curled like Shirley Temple's.

I could do it with just a blow dryer and a small round brush. Well, maybe a few hot rollers.

It would open up a whole new world for Althouse. Her life would change.

I owe everything to my hot rollers.

Peace, Maxine

Ann Althouse said...

Well, how much money will you pay? There's the PayPal button over there. Maybe for $2000 I'd do it!

Craig Landon said...

I go a week or two with the blog diva toing and froing, artsy fartsy Austin, thinking "I'm done here", and then you dish out a Shirley Temple/Buddy Ebsen. Dirty Pool.

peter hoh said...

So it was Shirley Temple on the TV and Playboy on the coffee table. Interesting.

David Walser said...

Thanks, Ann. I've never seen that particular Shirley Temple movie (watching Shirley Temple movies was NOT something guys did when I was growing up). The dance scene was wonderful.

Joan said...

Isn't it funny how we remember things from our childhood so vividly, but only as adults can we put them into context and see how they've influenced our lives? Thinking about this post and Ann's admiration of Shirley's spunk, I realized that my girlhood hero was Laura Ingalls Wilder -- I had read all of the "Little House" books by second grade, and Laura's courage and determination awed me. She never let anyone stop her from doing what she wanted to do, never mind that she was a girl and supposed to wear corsets and hoop skirts! To this day I can recognize her influences on my life.

This is best kind of blog post, interesting in and of itself, but also helping the reader (OK, maybe it's just me) connect with her own past and realize something about herself.

LutherM said...

In my city, there was a "Late Show", where I was introduced to Wendy Hiller when I first watched "Major Barbara" and "Pygmalion".
Watching a film based on a play by G.B. Shaw, with superb casts, had a lasting impact on my appreciation of films, plays, perhaps even the enjoyment of life. It wasn't until I was much older that I appreciated Buddy Ebsen.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I noticed how un-JonBenet-like her dancing was. How childlike and refreshing! Plus, that was one talented little girl.

MadisonMan said...

My first movie was Mary Poppins, but I've seen it so often as an adult, with my own kids, that I really don't recall any impressions it made on me. The first movie I saw twice in the movie theater was The Sound Of Music -- my Mom really liked Julie Andrews. Her Christmas album (I Saw three ships come sailing in, come sailing in, come sailing in) was worn out on the stereo.

My favorite Shirley Temple is the Little Princess.

LutherM said...

American Studies exam questions;
(1) Compare and contrast Shirley Temple and Freda ("I have naturally curly hair") from the "Peanuts" cartoon strip
(2) Essay - TRUE or FALSE; Shirley Temple was a moderately acceptable politician, by California standards. GIVE EXAMPLES

MadisonMan said...

Luther: It's Frieda.

The obvious difference: Frieda never grew up!

Bruce Hayden said...

Even as a guy, there was something alluring about Shirley Temple. And I haven't been able to explain it to the next generation.

I think that part of why she became probably the most loved child star ever, is that she was cute and showed so much spunk all through the Great Depression (ok, not really until FDR took the helm). The result was that she gave hope to America during a very difficult time.

So, I think that we watched her movies because they had meant somthing to our parents when they were growing up in the Depression. My mother was 5 years older than STB, and my father 6. We watched her movies together on TV, and I think some of my parents' warm feelings towards her spilled over onto us.

blake said...

Ugh. Colorized.

Ben said...

Joan mentioned Laura Ingalls Wilder and the "Little House" books. I should point out that, in all likelihood, the original inspiration for the Shirley Temple scene where the sailors teach her to spit is from "Little House on the Prairie". In that book, a Mr. Edwards ("a wildcat from Tennessee") teaches Laura to spit for distance, but Laura was frustrated that she could never spit so far or so well as Mr. Edwards could. Ma Ingalls, as you can imagine, did not approve.

Galvanized said...

How did Shirley Temple's mom keep her daughter sane through all the childhood fame? She must have done a pretty polished Pollyanna preface for each acting gig, and a psychotoxic cleansing as well. Is there another child star that fared as well in adulthood?

mike said...

Ann, you should rent the movie "Broadway Melody of 1936." It was Ebsen's first film role. His loosey-goosey dancing on a New York rooftop as he extols the virtues of singing before breakfast is a sight.

mdchaney said...

It's very interesting that he's wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt.

MadisonMan said...

It's an interesting juxtaposition of the puffing coffeepot and Buddy, who is dancing with his sister.

Strayhorn said...

While in college a dancer of my acquaintance showed me a clip of Ebsen's audition for the role of The Tin Man. I was amazed to see Jed Clampett dancing so well.

Someone else who danced better than you might expect - tough guy James Cagney.

Buddy Larsen said...

Buddy Ebsen's dancing is great, but his first name is what I always liked best.

John Burgess said...

Thanks for the reminder of "Little Fugitive"! While not my first film (those would have been a double bill of 'House of Wax' and 'Naked Jungle'), "Little Fugitive" had perhaps the more lasting effect, though the first two certainly left scars.

Shirley Temple films were pretty much restricted to TV broadcasts. Even as a male, I appreciated her spunk as well as the music and dancing her films always feature. I think "Little Princess" was the only one one I saw in a theater, thanks to a visiting aunt. I think that was double billed with "Miss Robin Crusoe".

Hucbald said...

I hadn't seen those scenes in decades!

Brought a smile.

Thanks! :^)

Meryl said...

Judy Garland was a far superior Dorothy than Shirley would have made. I love Shirley Temple, but she could never sing, and that role required a good singing voice. Plus, Garland was every bit as great a dancer, and, I think, a better actor.

Buddy Ebsen would have made a fine Tin Man. Jack Haley was fine. The role wasn't that big a deal. But the role of Dorothy played by Shirley Temple would have made it a Shirley Temple movie, not a movie that's turned into a timeless classic.

robert said...

Wow, someone else who knows about "Little Figitive". I can count on one hand the people who know what I'm talking about when I mention it, and half of them are family members*.

*And one of them is my mother, who knows everything. We thought we had her when we asked who starred in "Algiers". We were wrong.

CW said...

Buddy Ebsen was slated to be the Tin Man, however, he had an allergic reaction to the make-up and almost died. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some early practice choreography from TW-Oz on YouTube or on some MGM archive website.


Beth said...

CW, I have seen some tape of him as the Tin Man, so I'm going to search for that on YouTube. I don't have good recall, but I'm thinking it might have been among the extras on a DVD release of Wizard of Oz.

He's just soooo good. He's so smooth it's as though he's boneless.

Ann Althouse said...

"He's so smooth it's as though he's boneless."

Seems wrong for the Tin Man! He should have been the scarecrow. Has the right face for it.

Buddy Larsen said...

"Boneless" dancing--don't forget Oz's Scarecrow, Ray Bolger. Some of the Oz crew did a western "The Harvey Girls" a few years after "Oz", and Bolger's routine at the big hoe-down is almost supernatural--plastic man, no trix pix. When it rotates back up on TCM, don't miss it.

Meryl said...

Beth, there are clips of Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man in the anniversary edition of the Wizard of Oz. I only have it on VHS, not on DVD, so I can't upload them.

If you like boneless dancing, go rent Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and take a look at Dick Van Dyke's jack-in-the-box scene. He did that with no ropes. It's unbelievable.

Here's a Harvey Girls tidbit: The Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe scene, with a cast of hundreds, was done in a single take. When Judy wasn't on the drugs, she was a consummate actress. Nobody better.

Meryl said...

Galvanized, Shirley Temple's parents protected her from the wealth and the fame by having her life live as a normal child when she wasn't filming.

She would get thousands of birthday presents from fans all over the world, and her parents made her give those away to charity and only have what a normal child would have. No party life for her.

Shirley Temple Black has been featured on 60 Minutes at least once, and seems like someone you'd want to be friends with, even today.

She counts her ambassadorial work in Africa as the most important she's ever done.

Beth said...

Maybe the Scarecrow makeup wouldn't have bothered him. He was great in the screen test for the Tin Man, though, so let's add multi-talented to boneless.

meryl, you're right; I remembered it's on the VHS anniversary edition. I'd watch it but it didn't survive Katrina. I hope there's a DVD release someday.

I wouldn't change a thing about the cast of Wizard, even though I adore Buddy E. Meryl's right about Judy-- a consummate performer and a great talent.