During the bleak years of the Great Depression, the lovable Shirley Temple became a symbol of happiness and hope for audiences around the world. In 1934, 20th Century Fox film songwriter Jay Gorney was taken with the dimpled, flaxen-haired star of a short film that preceded the feature at a local Los Angeles theater. As he was leaving, Gorney was surprised to recognize Temple and her family at the same theater, and soon the young actress was signing her first contract with Fox. By the end of the year, Temple would be featured in seven films, and would become the top-grossing box office star in the world.

Meanwhile, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company approached the Temple family with its Shirley Temple doll concept, and sculptor Bernard Lipfert was tasked to create its unique mold. After seeing more than 20 variations, both the Temple family and Ideal’s staff were satisfied, and the first composition Shirley Temple doll was created.

The earliest prototype was made from composition with three different wig options—red, blond, and brunette. A more generic version of the doll was also marketed without using Temple’s last name. In October of 1934, Ideal applied for a patent, and the Shirley Temple doll was officially announced in an issue of the retail industry magazine “Playthings.”

The updated design came in four sizes, with hazel eyes and curly, strawberry-blonde hair. The product’s only marking read “COP IDEAL N&T Co.” which was imprinted on the back of the doll’s head. Shirley Temple dolls came complete with a polka-dotted dress like the one she wore in “Stand Up and Cheer,” along with an official tag and celluloid button.

At $3.00 each, even the smallest Shirley Temple dolls weren’t cheap. Yet the toys were a hit, and soon Ideal commissioned designer Mollye Goldman to create a variety of outfits based on Temple’s film roles. Shirley Temple fans soon had an assortment of organdy dresses to choose from, many in cute sailor striped or polka-dotted styles.

These mini-versions of the child star quickly became Ideal’s best-selling product, and were made in nine different sizes. Other companies created knockoffs and found creative ways to skirt copyright law. Beginning with its “Little Colonel” doll, Madame Alexander purchased the rights to the books on which Temple’s films were based and marketed their dolls using these titles.

Over the years, Ideal modified its product, slimming the face mold, altering her coloration, and embossing the Shirley Temple name on both its body and head. Extensive lines of c...

After a nearly 20-year hiatus, the company released a slightly more grown-up Shirley Temple doll made from vinyl in 1957. Temple became closely involved with the production and promotion of Ideal’s new series, and two years later helped launch its first “Shirley Temple Playpal” doll, which was a full three feet in height.

In 1960, the first Shirley Temple Collectors Club was established. From the '60s through the '80s, new Shirley Temple dolls were regularly distributed by companies like Montgomery Ward and the Danbury Mint, aimed primarily at nostalgic adult collectors.

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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls

Source: Google News

How Shirley Temple Helped FDR
The Atlantic, April 16th

She rescued 20th Century Fox from near-bankruptcy and moved mountains of merchandise, from Shirley Temple dolls to Bisquick and Puffed Wheat. And the global celebrity did it all—onscreen and off—with an assertive flair that showcased her uncanny ...Read more

Shirley Temple birthday party features rare collection
Casper Journal, April 16th

The Shirley Temple doll her mother carefully treasured since age 17 is now hers. It sparked her interest in dolls and the child movie star, Robinson said, looking across a room full or memorabilia she's preparing for a Shirley Temple birthday party...Read more

best coming to doll show
The Press, April 15th

Our club project this year was Shirley Temple, which will be on display, so there will be about 20 Shirley Temple dolls made by members over the year," she said. "Our theme for the show is Easter Parade which involves a lot of easter bunnies, bonnets...Read more

Book Review: 'The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression' by John F. Kasson
Wall Street Journal, April 11th

Mr. Kasson devotes an entire chapter to Temple as an American commercial commodity, discussing mainly the popular Shirley Temple doll and the line of relatively expensive dresses that carried her name. There was in fact much more: sheet music, coloring ...Read more

New books go to heart of star power of Shirley Temple, John Wayne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 9th

By 1935, Kasson notes, Shirley Temple dolls accounted for one-third of all dolls sold in the United States. And Temple's dimples and curls spawned Shirley look-alike contests around the country. But where "The Little Girl Who Fought the Great...Read more

CornerShot: Sharing birthdays with Shirley Temple
Roanoke Times, April 8th

The years passed and the doll was stored away in a trunk. One day, while going through the trunk of memories, I found Shirley. I took her to a woman who restores dolls. She gave her a new Shirley wig, cleaned her and applied some finishing touches. I...Read more

Celebrating the history of a little doll
Leominster Champion, April 2nd

Nancy Bilotta, a Shirley Temple collector, and Pinder were connected on Facebook, and Bilotta said she had a collection of Temple dolls, so the two women put together an impressive exhibit for all to enjoy. Bilotta, back in 2009, donated two Shirley...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: A valuable Temple doll is Shirley authentic
Post-Bulletin, March 21st

Shirley came at the right time during the Great Depression to save 20th Century Fox Pictures from going into bankruptcy. She also brought cheer to mothers who dressed their daughters in department store Shirley Temple-style clothing or they purchased ...Read more