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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls
Source: Google News
I know a story: Shirley Temple fan recalls 'Heidi'LancasterOnline, November 20th
We played with Shirley Temple paper dolls, drank from blue glass mugs with Shirley's picture on them, and had a dress like Shirley's. Many years passed, television came, and we would call each other when we saw that “Heidi” was on TV. We'd watch it ...Read more
Doll exhibits from High Point get new life at museum in SpencerHigh Point Enterprise, August 31st
The exhibits — which include two dollhouses, a huge collection of Shirley Temple dolls and the Madame Alexander “Wizard of Oz” doll collection — can now be seen at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum, which is located in downtown Spencer near the N.C. ...Read more
Barbie meets Shirley Temple at Florence doll shopSCNow, August 30th
Twelve members make up the Pee Dee Doll Club, and with this year being the pearl anniversary, members displayed their favorite dolls, all draped in pearls. A tribute was also made to Shirley Temple, who died earlier in the year. Attendees at the doll...Read more
Shirley Temple and The Great DepressionRochester Democrat and Chronicle (blog), May 8th
On her seventh birthday, coincidently the day Captain January appeared in theaters, department stores ran Shirley look-alike contests and advertised the movie in their toy departments--stocked with Shirley Temple dolls and toys. Theaters ... Gary Cross...Read more
Here's Help! to preserve, collect Shirley Temple dollsFlorida Today, April 19th
I hope you will be able to help me find someone that is interested in a vintage (1934-35) 22-inch Shirley Temple doll. Since she passed away a few months ago, I would like to get the doll to an antique dealer or consignment shop to sell. If anyone is...Read more
Antiques & Collectibles: A valuable Temple doll is Shirley authenticPost-Bulletin, March 21st
These dolls have open-and-close eyes, a smiling, open mouth with teeth, and Shirley's famous head of curls. From 1957 to the mid '60s, the dolls were made of vinyl. The 1980 Ideal Shirley Temple doll was not quite as nice in appearance as the early...Read more
Shirley Temple doll stirs memoriesToledo Blade, March 15th
In a weird sense Shirley Temple's contemporaries believed she was a friend and one of us, so we sang her songs and danced in our own way. Those of us who were lucky enough to have a doll in her image kept it close by for every pretend performance...Read more
Shawnee shop collects, sells Shirley Temple dollsKSHB, February 11th
If you're looking for anything Shirley Temple, a Shawnee business has you covered. The Doll Cradle, located near Johnson Drive and Nieman, has a huge display of vintage Shirley Temple dolls and memorabilia. They collect and sell all sorts of pictures, ...Read more