Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Temple Tuesday: A Lot of Bull

When Shirley Temple signed on at MGM in January 1941, the publicity machine wasted little time in promoting its newest star. None other than Clarence Bull was enlisted to give Shirley the glamour treatment, as seen by the portraits shown here. For a bit more about Bull, here’s an excerpt from the 2008 book Glamour of the Gods by Robert Dance and John Russell Taylor:

Clarence Sinclair Bull’s long association as a photographer with the studio that would become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began when producer Samuel Goldwyn hired him in 1919. Managing to survive the commotion of the consolidation of Hollywood in the early and mid-1920s, Bull found himself at the helm of MGM’s stills department when the studio was formed in 1924, and stayed there until retiring in 1961. The enormity of MGM’s output of films in the 1920s—they advertised a new feature every week—saw Bull’s domain grow. He was responsible for managing MGM’s staff of photographers and the large support crew of technicians needed to develop, re-touch, print and collate the hundreds of thousands of prints distributed annually by MGM’s publicity department. At least one photograph from the 1920s shows Bull with twelve stillsmen who juggled the task of shooting photos on as many as a dozen films that might be concurrently in production. At MGM, like the other studios, these men—and it was an almost exclusively male profession—worked six days a week and often long hours each day. Generally one photographer was assigned to a production and, as filming was underway, he would document each scene using an 8 x 10 view camera. These cameras not only had lenses with sharp resolution, but contact prints could be made from the negatives quickly and in enormous quantities. The stills made for each film were numbered sequentially and gathered together for a book. Stills photographers also created the images used for poster art, lobby cards and other forms of advertising conceived by imaginative publicity chiefs and their staffs.

The first photo was numbered 5241; the one below 5245:



For SJR, I knew you’d want to see this detail:

Often, movie studios would allow their stars to wear gowns provided by the costume department when they were to be seen in public at events. This would ensure that the stars looked their best for the paparazzi! Shirley wore the gown seen above to the February 8, 1941 Greek War Relief Benefit at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Back row: Frank Morgan, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Dick Powell, and Reginald Owen. Seated: Madeleine Carroll, Samuel Goldwyn, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Shirley Temple, and Myrna Loy. , 

Back to Bull…the photo below was stamped #5267:

The accompanying caption is extremely interesting:

SHIRLEY TEMPLE…Young veteran of the screen, poses for her first portrait sitting after signing her contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The youngster will start work on two pictures for the studio “Barnacle Bill,” with Wallace Beery, and “Babes on Broadway,” with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Here the tiny star wears a many-pleated skirt with a pique-collared jacket.

By the time the photo was released, the plans had been changed! Shirley was removed from both films, most likely because the Temples did not feel Shirley should be relegated to supporting roles. Instead, Shirley was made the lead in a low-budget picture (or at least as low budget as MGM could do!) titled, “Kathleen.” MGM’s frustration can be seen on the back of the photo. The portion of the above caption about her two projects AND the description of the outfit were crossed out; in pencil the following simple replacement was written:

The young star is now working in “Kathleen.”

Despite all the initial excitement and publicity about working at Hollywood’s most elite film studio, Shirley’s contract was canceled after the one movie.
See more teenage Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

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