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
Shirley Temple Inspired Two Generations of Girls With Her TalentChicagoNow (blog), March 4th
We talked about lots of things, past and present, and the subject of Shirley Temple's recent death came up. Mom and Shirley were contemporaries, born in the same month, a couple of years apart. Mom had a Shirley Temple doll, a piano sheet music book of ...Read more
Letter: Lasting memories of a Shirley Temple childhoodGloucester Daily Times, March 2nd
Later, a friend sewed for my Shirley Temple doll a full Girl Scout “Brownie” uniform with a tiny brown felt cap. We loved those dolls. In my playtime, Shirley and I were Brownies together. In our house one memorable September, we had Shirley Temple...Read more
Collectors Corner: Shirley TempleEcommerceBytes, March 1st
Fans could read Shirley Temple books, play Shirley Temple sheet music ("Animal Crackers in My Soup" and "On the Good Ship Lollipop" were her most famous songs), and play with Shirley Temple paper dolls. And, of course, there were the tea sets, ...Read more
Shirley Temple reached out, gave hope to struggling Utah girlksl.com, February 17th
“I was 8 years old and I wanted a Shirley Temple doll for Christmas. I woke up that morning to a phone call. It was from the real live Shirley Temple Black. She just wished me and my family a merry Christmas,” Dyches said. The phone call was an even...Read more
Shirley Temple is gone, but her doll lives onMorning Sentinel, February 14th
The Shirley Temple dolls flooded the markets, filled the shelves in every department store toy department, and found a resting place in the bedrooms of little girls, and big ones, all over the world. My little sister wanted one for Christmas, because...Read more
Big in China? Shirley Temple's oddly current vogueLos Angeles Times, February 12th
Shirley Temple dolls were also hot sellers in the early 1990s, and many people in Asia associate her with the Mentholatum brand of ointment, thanks to an image on the company's tins that bears a striking resemblance to the young star. Online, her...Read more
Shawnee shop collects, sells Shirley Temple dollsKSHB, February 11th
SHAWNEE, Kan. - 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 ...Read more
Shirley Temple Black, Hollywood's Biggest Little Star, Dies at 85New York Times, February 11th
It is no surprise that Shirley Temple dolls were the best-selling dolls of the decade (and are valuable collectibles now). In many of her films she was a living doll, adored by entire groups of men: aviators in “Bright Eyes,” a Yankee regiment in “The...Read more