Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Temple Tuesday: All in the Family

Shirley Temple made a comeback of sorts to show business in 1958 when she returned to Hollywood (actually Burbank) to film her new television show, “Shirley Temple’s Storybook.” Commuting back and forth between her home in Atherton (just south of San Francisco), Shirley kept her actual time on set to a minimum so that she wouldn’t have to be away from her husband and three children any more than was necessary. According to Lloyd Shearer, West Coast correspondent for Parade Magazine, Shirley was “besieged by her three children” to be on the show. Shirley explained to him, “Every time I returned from Hollywood one of them would invariably say, ‘Mummy, why can’t we go on TV with you? It seems so easy. You don’t do anything ’cept talk.’” Shirley got the green light from husband Charles Black and decided to let her kids learn the unvarnished truth: acting is hard, hot, grueling work. All three children (Susan, 10 1⁄2, Charles, 6 1⁄2, and Lori, 4 1⁄2) into a plane and took them with her to Burbank so that they could make their acting debut in the “Mother Goose” episode that was set to air on December 21, 1958. It was to be the last show of the season.

Shearer was there on the day of filming and reported back to Parade:

The two girls were each given one line to learn, informed that their salary for one day’s work would be the minimal $80 each. Their brother, on the other hand, was assigned a featured role that called for one day’s rehearsal and one day’s work. His salary: $570. All three children were hustled into wardrobe and dressed in period costumes. Cracked Lori, youngest and most outspoken of the group, “These clothes are old-fashioned.” In the make-up department, 6 year-old Charley rebelled against the application of cosmetics. “I never wear lipstick at home,” he plaintively wailed. The make-up man explained that the film was being photographed in color. Bregrudgingly, Charley went along with the game. On the set, 10-year-old Susan was met by a tutor, told that according to California law she would have to do some schoolwork until director Mitchell Leisen called her.

Shirley and her two youngest were sent before the cameras. Charley was told to climb a maypole, eight-feet high. When he shinnied to the top, he was wired with a sling. A stagehand was assigned to stand under him in case of accident. Mother Shirley stood to one side, her hand clasped to Lori’s, never taking her eyes off Charley. The assistant director bellowed, “Quiet, everybody.“ The hot lights flashed on, and director Mitch Leisen nodded to his cameraman to “roll ’em.” The scene called for young Charley to look out from atop his maypole and shout, “I see him coming. It’s the Prince, the Prince.” Charley recited his lines blandly. Director Leisen smiled. “One more time, Charley,” he coached. “Only this time, with feeling. I want you to get all excited when you say, ‘It’s the Prince, the Prince.’” Charley shook his handsome head, again underplayed the line. Director Leisen was up on his toes. “It’s the Prince, the Prince,” he shouted as if he were shouting “Fire!” “Do you hear me, Charley? ‘It’s the Prince, the Prince.’” Charley nodded. “That’s just what I’ve been saying,” he calmly explained to Leisen, “It’s the Prince, the Prince.” The veteran director motioned to Shirley who came over and said, “Charley, now listen to me. When you say, ‘It’s the Prince, the Prince,’ Mr. Leisen wants you to call it out, to announce it. You’ve got to act excited, pleased, happy.” Said Charley, “I’m getting tired sitting up here, Mama.” “You’re the one who said he wanted to be on television,” Shirley countered. “Let’s go home,” Charley said. Eventually, Shirley’s son recited his lines to the director’s satisfaction.

It was then his sister Lori’s turn. As the camera moved in for a two-shot of Shirley and daughter, Lori turned her back to the lens. “You can’t do that, darling,” her mother said. “You’ve got to face the camera.” “Those lights get in my eyes,” Lori complained. “Take those lights away.” Patiently mother explained that lights were necessary equipment for picture making. Another “take” was begun. This time Lori closed her eyes. As Shirley started to remonstrate, petulant Lori stomped her right foot. “Those lights are hot, Mommy. They make me sweat. If they don’t take the lights away, I don’t wanna play.” Shirley bent down, maternally lifted Lori, cradled the child in her arms. Leisen called a “break.” By day’s end all of Shirley’s three children had performed their jobs creditably. Shirley not only felt proud of her trio but of herself as well. “I wanted them to learn,” she pointed out, “that acting is hard work. I wanted them to realize that in show business — I guess in any business — nobody gives you something for nothing. I think they learned that today and I’m glad.”

See more Shirley Temple’s Storybook photos at my main website.


DBenson said...

The "Babes in Toyland" episode opens with Shirley and the kids addressing the audience in modern dress (in the show proper Shirley plays a raucous comic witch, and seems to be enjoying herself). Don't know if that was before or after this; the eldest makes a scripted quip about the show appealing more to little kids.

A handful of episodes were released on DVD, including that one. I remember seeing the Baird Marionettes version of Winnie the Pooh as a tyke, but none of the others.

Daveland said...

The Babes in Toyland episode was shown two years after Mother Goose on 12/25/1960 when the show was retitled "The Shirley Temple Show."

Fifthrider said...

This only punctuates what a phenomenal actress she was as a child, never mind adult. Too bad her kids had to learn the hard way, but at least they learned.