Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Shirley and the SF Film Festival

Once Shirley finished her “Storybook” TV shows in 1960, she continued to increase her involvement in volunteerism, which paved the way for her adult political career. Here she is with the 1965 San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Award. At the same time, Shirley had also been appointed to the executive committee of the ninth San Francisco International Film Festival. Not one to just sit back with a title, she was actively involved, both behind the scenes and in front of them. “The Blue Bird,” the 1940 fantasy film that she starred in was revived to positive accolades at the festival. As recalled by reporter Ruthe Stein, not all was so pleasant for Shirley at the Festival:

Before the screening of another film, an aging beatnik with shaggy hair and a scraggly beard fails to stand up with everyone else for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner." Seated behind him, the world's most famous former child star jabs the man's shoulder, then hits him even harder. “At last, thoroughly angry, she wound up and gave him a belt that might have jolted Cassius Clay,” columnist Herb Caen reports the next day, "but he didn't even glance back to see who was hitting him. Thoroughly defeated, Shirley Temple Black gave up." A few days later, she's on the phone attempting to reach Roberto Rossellini in Santiago, Chile, to invite him here to accept a festival award for "Open City." When the noted Italian director hears an operator say, “Shirley Temple is calling,” he hangs up, sure it's a joke. The operator calls back with the same message, and he testily says to stop bothering him — at which point Shirley pipes in with, “Tell him Ingrid Bergman is calling.” Rossellini takes the call and promises to come (how can you say no to Little Miss Marker?) but is a no-show.

A year later, the film “Night Games” made the headlines. Directed by Mai Zetterling and starring Ingrid Thulin, it was so controversial that it was shown to the jury in private when it premiered at the Venice International Film Festival.


What made even bigger headlines was the effect it had on Shirley, causing her to resign from the SF Film Festival as chair. Temple denounced the film as “pornography for profit” and was against it being shown. In the photo below she reads a statement explaining her resignation because the selection board had endorsed showing “Night Games” which she said merely utilized pornography for profit.


A few years later in a 1968 interview Shirley let the public know that she was definitely not a square:

It's not that I'm a prude. I don't mind nudity in a film, and I don't mind sensuality. Today's films are frank and honest and I think that's probably good. What I don't like is pornography — or what I think is pornography — things thrown in just to attract the baseness in people.

She also went on to say that she was sorry that there weren't more purely funny and entertaining movies. She liked the Beatles, and thought pop art was an effort to “tell the world the artists want something different and new” and wasn't against student protests and demonstrations “as long as they are without vulgarity and without violence.” She believed women should take an active part in politics “because they usually aren't tied down with a regular job, and they can stick more to their ideals because they haven't made so many deals with people.” You go, Shirley!

As for “Night Games,” which few remember today…film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about it:

Mai Zetterling's “Night Games” is an absorbing, even brilliant film, but it fails to evoke much of an emotional response. It is a film made entirely in the mind, as if the heart were no concern, and it can be seen that way — as a cold, aloof study of human neurosis. But not for a moment did I care about any of the characters. …It is a movie based almost entirely on technique and intellectual calculation. Miss Zetterling seems to be influenced by Fellini; we get orgies attended by grotesque people who play themselves as if they were trapped inside. And we get the hero, grimly picking his way through this maze, trying to figure out what went wrong. But his problem is the movie’s problem: no heart.

Digressing for a bit, columnist Herb Caen also had a few other amusing Temple Tales that he shared before he passed in 2015:

My most embarrassing situation occurred when I escorted Shirley Temple during the filming of “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College.” Following The Dinner Show in the Sky Room, she turned to me and said, “Aren’t you going to ask me to dance?” I replied that Terpsichore was not my forte and besides she had danced with all the great dancers in Hollywood. She insisted and as we approached the dance floor, I asked her if I could “lead.” She replied with a four-letter word. Following the dancing, we adjourned to the Sky Room bar and I asked her if she would like a Shirley Temple. She pushed me aside and said, “I’ll order the drinks.” And we quaffed down a couple of Stingers in the Rough.

See Shirley Temple more photos at my main website.


Matthew said...

"You go Shirley!" is right!

Interesting post today Dave, as always. I learn so much about a child star I knew so little about.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Daveland said...

Sure beats reading the "news", doesn't it? ;)