A day late and a dollar short is the most apt description of my participation in the world. Fortunately, the kid sister needed a ride to the airport last week and my subsequent propinquity to Santa Monica, CA coincided with the last day of Love, Shirley Temple: The Exhibit. As it turns out, the whole thing is about a lot more than 7Up and grenadine.
With Los Angeles as one of only five stops, the exhibit is sort of a traveling auction preview; it is the world's last chance to see the priceless collection of Shirley Temple's personal archives of "movie costumes, dolls, and childhood memorabilia" all in one place. While small, the exhibit was crammed full of dimpled, 1930's nostalgia and moments of sincere disbelief that only a masking-tape line on the carpet separated me from my baser, "snatch-and-grab" tendencies.
I'm sure they have their reasons, but it seems a low-level tragedy for the Temple-Black heirs to separate such a comprehensive collection. In all honesty, though, I had no idea that this collection even existed. As it happens, Temple's mother stipulated in her studio contracts that the family would retain all of the costumes from Temple's productions. The result is a wonderland for fans of Shirley, old Hollywood, and the history of cinematic costumery.
|Few things make me happier than seeing a costume illustration paired|
with the genuine article, like this stunning piece from Captain January.
|Having been carefully stored for the last eight decades, the costumes are preserved|
in near-mint condition, including this little antebellum dream from The Littlest Rebel.
|The costume and the matching doll from Little Miss Broadway|
|The Curly Top outfit embroidered with ducks|
is almost the same size as Shirley's mini-me
|And yet another matched set|
Everywhere one turned, there were more and more matinee memories. I circled each room about ten times each to make sure I didn't miss anything.
|Costumes and a signed self-portrait from Heidi|
|Shirley's hula ensemble from Captain January|
|A frothy little number from Baby Take a Bow|
|These satin pajamas with appliqué bunnies as seen in Curly Top were so cool!|
|I appreciate authentic 18th-Century costuming almost as much as I appreciate|
18th-Century costuming as interpreted by the designers of Hollywood's golden age!!!
This beautiful robe à la française and court shoes were featured in a scene from Heidi.
As promised, the exhibit included more than costumes. Letters, paintings, toys, record players, and other effect of young Miss Temple were carefully incorporated into the costume installations.
|Perhaps none so grand as this life-sized doll of a traditional Japanese bride,|
gifted to Shirley by a wealthy Japanese couple living in Hawaii at the time
of her first visit to the islands.
|A gas-powered, roadster-style minicar which the security staff wouldn't |
even let me try to fit into...I wasn't even going to go anywhere...I swear.
|All the cowgirl trappings and the western-styled dolls to go along for the ride|
|I was particularly excited by the letters/photographs she exchanged with |
the Roosevelts, her honorary police chief badge, her childhood paintings,
her birth certificate, and her collection of celebrity autographs (including
The exhibit was certainly a joyful exercise in nostalgia overload, but my favorite part of it all was the eavesdropping. I entered the hall at the same time as a group of seniors who had just been dropped off by bus. As they hobbled, wheeled, and "walkered" their way around the costumes, their eyes twinkled. I was tickled by the chorus of "oohs" and "ahs," overjoyed at every memory shared of afternoon movies, tap-dance classes, dolls, and Shirley Temple scrapbooks.
|In Shirley Temple, they saw their own life stories.|
It probably sounds corny, but it is no overstatement to credit a three-year-old girl with helping the world cope with the many indignities of the Great Depression. The pint-sized dynamo captured the heart of the nation, taking audiences for an escapist adventure on the Good Ship Lollipop and beyond!
|One of the most iconic pieces in the collection is the plaid dress worn by Temple in a scene from Bright Eyes.|
"On the Good Ship Lollipop" - Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes (questionably colorized)
If you believe in that sort of thing, it is kind of nice to think of Shirley Temple-Black looking down upon us. And while, as one of Heaven's newest ambassadors, she probably has more critical issues at hand, we hope that she is getting a thrill out of all the abiding love and good wishes still on Earth for Shirley Temple.
|"Heaven looking upon Earth" by Shirley Temple|