NABOKV-L post 0022785, Fri, 4 May 2012 00:19:35 -0700

Subject
(re-formatted) Mrs B on Little Miss L & GG
Date
Body
I received a copy of Shirley Temple Black's autobiography "Child Star"
and, first thing of course, looked up GG in the index. The former star
writes with remarkable sang froid and wit on the zloi (in this
instance "nasty" might be the appropriate translation) review written
by GG which I posted in part recently. The hornpipe GG found so
titillating in Captain January actually replaced an original hula
dance which made "the Mothers Clubs of America ... gasp in horror"
and caused the studio to replace this "immoral dance" with a
hornpipe. Apparently the Mothers were mollified, but, as Mrs B writes,

"You can't please everyone. Writing for the London Spectator in his
August 7, 1936 review, film critic Graham Greene characterized Captain
January as " ... a little depraved, with an appeal interestingly
decadent.... Shirley Temple acts and dances with immense vigor and
assurance, but some of her popularity seems to rest on a coquetry
quite as mature as Miss Colbert's and on an oddly precocious body, as
voluptuous in grey flannel trousers [the hornpipe costume] as Miss
Dietrich's."

It turns out, that it was not this review, but a later one written by
GG on a later film that caused all the scandal and legal ruckus. The
film was Wee Willie Winkie and GG's review, this time in Night and
Day, was considered so shocking at the time that it could not be read
aloud in open court. Mrs Black tackles the matter head on but I don't
feel I need to. Anyone interested will find the whole story on pages
184-186 of Child Star. However I will give you a few tid-bits:

"... already two years ago she [Miss Temple] was a fancy little
piece ... watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes,
with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade
across the mask of childhood ... middle-aged men and clergy-men
respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and
desirable little body ...."

A lawsuit ensues and lawyers for the studio and Little Miss L's
parents proclaim the offending magazine "a beastly publication." I
found Mrs B's mature reflections of interest:

Blundering, perhaps, but not beastly. Patterned after the erudite New
Yorker, it was a fleeting jewel of literary intellect and critical
humor. Among distinguished contributors it could boast Elizabeth Bowen
(theatre), Evelyn Waugh (books), Malcolm Muggeridge, and as co-editor,
Greene himself ...."

The trajectory of our Lo from child coquette to the emotionally mature
Mrs Richard Shiller is certainly matched by the parallel trajectory of
Little Miss L to the mature Mrs Charles Black. Mrs B quotes GG
referring to her as "that little bitch Shirley Temple." He had no idea
who he was dealing with. I don't think HH ever figured it out either.

C Kunin

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