Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple, R.I.P.

The child star of all child stars passed away Monday night, still "only" 85.  Like other boomers, I first saw Shirley Temple via TV airings of her old movies during the 1950s, then followed her later, surprising, career as a GOP fundraiser and diplomat under several Republican presidents. right up to George H.W. Bush.   But my closest connection to her came as one of the featured celebs in my book, The Campaign of the Century (which, ahem, won the Goldsmith Book Prize).  The book explores the riotous and highly influential campaign for governor of California in 1934 waged by muckraking writer Upton Sinclair--leading one of the great populist movements ever, EPIC (for End Poverty in California).

He swept the Democratic primary and would have won the race if not for the groundbreaking union of big business leaders, conservative GOPers and Dems, religious leaders, and most of the Hollywood moguls.  Irving Thalberg even went out and created the first attack ads for the screen--faked anti-Sinclair newsreels.

Anyway:  the book also shows how Shirley Temple, then the country's most popular film star, was wooed by the right-wing moguls to get her--at age five--to come out against Sinclair and endorse Frank Merriam, the dull incumbent.  It's a pathetic, if funny, tale and ultimately she, sort of, did go along with that.  "It may hearten the cause of conservatism," a wire service reported, "to know that Shirley Temple has decided, after grave deliberation, that she disapproves of the Sinclair EPIC philosophy and is backing her opposition with a day's salary, even if she can not with a vote." Unstated was that this day's pay was not a request but a demand from the studio. Jean Harlow had recently caved in the same manner.

And so a lifetime as a key Republican was set...Shirley re-appears as a lively character in the new musical based on my book, Campaign of the Century.

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