Shirley Temple is a rare example of a child star who also has quality teen roles and a successful adult life away from film. Here are my favorite films of hers, from her childhood and teen years.
The Little Princess (1939) stars ten-year-old Shirley Temple as Sara, the daughter of a wealthy British officer who leaves her at a girls boarding school while he goes off to fight the Second Boer War in 1899. The strict school mistress is more impressed with Sara’s wealth than her pleasant personality. Sara is generous and friends with everyone, even the servant girl.
During Sara’s lavish birthday party, the school mistress receives word that her father is missing in action and his wealth has been confiscated. Immediately Sara is forced to return all the gifts, give all her possessions to the other students to help pay for her room and board, and is sent to sleep in the cold attic and live as a servant. (Start at 4:38)
Watch her amazing acting ability as the days go by and she grows tired and hungry. Her spirit crumbles and she yearns to take that apple from the dresser of the snobby girl who enjoys seeing her suffer. Her only friend is the other servant girl, and the Indian servant from the neighboring home.
Shirley Temple is an accomplished dancer and singer, and in this movie she shows her ballet talent in a dream sequence in which she is a little princess, hence the title.
Sara does not believe her father is dead, and wanders around the veteran’s hospital looking for anyone who knows her father. These scenes at the hospital show the excellence in directing by Walter Lang. Watch and admire how he shows the pride and pain in these British soldiers, the honor and reverence towards visiting Queen Victoria, and the frantic search as time is running out. And when the school mistress realizes she will have to answer for how she treated Sara, her final scene is simple and perfect.
In The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) Shirley Temple plays teenager Susan. In reality, Shirley was 19 and married! But this comedy is still funny after all these years, and we get to see gorgeous Shirley Temple acting as the straight man against frantic love-interest Cary Grant and serious big sister Myrna Loy.
Susan is clearly too young for Richard (Cary Grant), but a psychologist convinces Richard to play along with her fantasy until it fades. Watch Richard and Susan at the high school basketball game.
Now Richard has decided to play along, and even adapts some teen clothing styles and lingo. Susan is delighted! Her big sister Margaret, not really.
Eventually Susan realizes that she likes high school boys, and Richard realizes he loves Margaret, and all is well. Fun movie! Talented actress!