In the 1930s, Shirley Temple was America's sweetheart, a hugely popular child star with enough personality and charm to hold even the Great Depression at bay. With her dimples and curls, she became an enduring icon of Hollywood's softer side, although her box office power faded as she grew up. After a short-lived marriage to actor John Agar in the late 1940s, Temple retired from films, married Charles Black, and reinvented herself as a political figure and ambassador. Still, the image of the precocious musical star lives on in books, dolls, and the popular imagination, and her movies continue to appeal to little girls and classic film fans today. Born in 1928, Temple died on February 10, 2014, at the age of 85, but you can still see her in her prime in these ten classic movies, which represent some of her best performances.
1) "Little Miss Marker" (1934) - In this early starring role, Temple plays a child who is left in the care of a bookie and ends up stealing his heart. Adolphe Menjou costars as Sorrowful Jones, and Alexander Hall directs.
2) "Bright Eyes" (1934) - Temple plays an orphan who is sent to live with a wealthy couple; David Butler directs a cast that includes Jane Darwell, Jane Withers, and James Dunn.
3) "The Little Colonel" (1935) - In the first of two Civil War era films, Temple stars as the daughter of a Southern belle and a Union supporter. Lionel Barrymore plays her disgruntled Confederate grandfather, and the rest of the cast includes Hattie McDaniel, Bill Robinson, Evelyn Venable, and John Lodge. Temple would return to similar territory with "The Littlest Rebel" (1935), with Bill Robinson also returning to dance with the tiny star.
4) "Curly Top" (1935) - Back in her usual orphan guise, Temple plays one of two sisters taken in by a wealthy man, who then falls in love with the elder girl (Rochelle Hudson). The supporting cast includes Jane Darwell, Rafaela Ottiano, and Arthur Treacher.
5) "Stowaway" (1936) - As the orphaned daughter of missionaries in China, Temple spends this picture finding herself a new family, with Robert Young and Alice Faye as the replacement parents she has to bring together. Eugene Pallette, Arthur Treacher, Willie Fung, and J. Edward Bromberg make up the supporting cast, and William A. Seiter directs.
6) "Wee Willie Winkie" (1937) - Temple makes one of her darkest films with legendary director John Ford in this loose adaptation of a story by Rudyard Kipling. Victor McLaglen wrings tears as a soldier whose heart warms to the little girl, while Cesar Romero has a memorable role as an Indian rebel.
7) "Heidi" (1937) - Allan Dwan directs this adaptation of the beloved children's book by Johanna Spyri, in which Temple shines as the title heroine, an orphaned girl left to live with her grandfather in the mountains. Jean Hersholt costars as the grandfather, while Arthur Treacher, Mary Nash, Sig Ruman, and Marcia Mae Jones appear in supporting roles.
8) "The Little Princess" (1939) - In another literary adaptation, Temple plays one of her signature roles as Sara Crewe, who begins life in comfort and wealth but is thrown into poverty when her father goes missing in the Boer War. Cesar Romero, Mary Nash, Arthur Treacher, and Anita Louise appear in memorable supporting roles.
9) "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) - Temple stars in one of her better known teen roles as a young girl smitten by the charms of Cary Grant in this comedy from director Irving Reis. Myrna Loy plays Temple's successful older sister, while Rudy Vallee appears as Grant's romantic competition for Loy's attention.
10) "Fort Apache" (1948) - Temple returns to a John Ford film for this excellent Western, which also stars Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and Temple's then-husband, John Agar. Ford regulars like Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen round out the cast.
For even more movies starring Shirley Temple, try "Captain January" (1936), "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (1938), "The Blue Bird" (1940), and "Since You Went Away" (1944). Learn more about Temple by watching the video at the top of this article.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.