brother can you spare a dime?

The Great Depression ended in every film. If it ever existed. Yes we could thank Shirley Temple for that. The great template that the American entertainment complex gave us, and keeps on giving us. To learn to love kids, and go soft on the rich; Jaime Diamond and Blankfein are grumpy and unloved. We can laugh the pathology away anyway with the sitcoms. Not to exclude Rockwell, but Temple was the great American symbol of disavowal. The refusal to see what was plainly a tragedy. How big money power in America, the Wasp reactionary capitalists could deny a psychotic and fetish obsessed attachment to money and ingeniously- with the help of the Lippmans and Bernays style psyche shapers. ie: poverty is freedom- figure out how to synthesize these values in the fabric of the commodities it creates such as cinematic imagery and narrative. In the 1930′s Shirley was that ideological weapon.

---James 'Jimmy' Dunn once again plays opposite of little Shirley for the third and final time in Bright Eyes. Their previous two films together were Baby Take a Bow & Stand Up and Cheer but this one is by far their best. Temple’s trademark song On the Good Ship Lollipop (which actually takes place on a grounded plane) was first performed during this picture too. Written mainly as a vehicle for Temple's rising status, Bright Eyes had an incredible cast of supporting actors and actresses too. Dunn, who plays the aviator Loop Merritt, has a real dynamic with Shirley in this picture that was missing from their previous encounters onscreen and the old curmudgeon Uncle Ned Smith (Charles Sellon) was simply delightful as well.--- Read More:

Shirley was at the conjunction of those forces that mitigated reality through fantasy, even predating the later role taken up by Disney. Children were undernourished, and like today the rich were unwilling to part with their dough through increased taxation and work to solve the crisis despite the rhetoric to the contrary. Hollywood has always had a subservient and obedient relation to capitalist ideology; the industrial entertainment complex, the song and dance decoy team relying on formula and the harmless to keep the unwashed at bay.  Shirley was a tool for shaping public attitudes, part of a brilliant scheme to make a profit from the spectacle of compassion without actually being engaged with the issue of starvation and death. It was a manipulation of the ideology of charity. Perfectly Veblen in that charity was conspicuous waste designed to serve the status of the wealthy. Temple and  her burden of love arose at the exact time when the wealthy would not give- with the exception of ridiculous charity balls- and there was no public sources, the safety net, to help.

President Hoover had called children ” cheerful human electrons” and Shirley Temple was to short circuit public anger, and anxiety. Acts of softening. After all, a comical underclass, minstrel show style African Americans were to be seen as lovable and not angry. After all, they could dance their trauma away. Perfectly, Shirley was often and orphan, motherless, the legacy of unemployed parents, part of the marginal and dispossessed and if in the role of social superior was always tender and affectionate towards Black servants. Like in the movie The Help. Some things never change, we just repaint the same canvas in different ways. The Morgan and Rockefeller dynasties invested heavily in the studios and they wanted bear and they got it. And they got the Code as well. As Eckert writes:

Through the mid-depression years of 1934 to 1938 Shirley Temple was a phenomenon of the first magnitude: she led in box-office grosses, single-handedly revived Fox and influenced its merger with 20th Century, had more products named after her than any other star, and became as intimately experienced here and abroad as President Roosevelt. Her significance was then, and has been ever since, accounted for by an appeal to universals—to her cuteness, her precocious talents, her appeal to parental love, and so forth….

---T: Richard Barthelmess in William Wellman's Heroes for Sale (1933) Credit: Film Forum B: Warner Baxter and Shirley Temple in Stand Up and Cheer (1934) Credit: Photofest/Film Forum--- Read More:

… if it were not for the resistance one anticipates to a serious study of Shirley Temple, and especially to a study that regards her, in part, as a kind of artifact thrown up by a unique concatenation of social and economic forces. One anticipates resistance because Shirley was, first of all, a child (and therefore uncomplex, innocent of history) and, secondly because the sense of the numinous that surrounds her is unlike that which surrounds culture heroes or political leaders in that it is deeply sentimental and somehow purified….

---He performed on the black circuit for years before moving to Keith and Orpheum circuits, but never wore blackface like some white and many black singers and dancers did. He moved into film during the early talkies, gaining international fame for his scenes with little Shirley Temple. He was the one who taught her to tap dance. There are many examples of his dancing from the Thirties and beyond on YouTube, but none from the vaudeville era. --- Read More:

…But this very numinosity, this sense of transcendental and irrational significance, if we measure it only by its degree, should alert us to the fact that we are dealing with a highly overdetermined object (in the Freudian sense of an object affected by more than one determinant). A search for external determinants, however, initially faces a difficult paradox: there is no evidence in any of Shirley’s films or in anything contemporaneously written about her that she was touched by the realities of the depression. For instance, in the mid-thirties, when twenty million were on relief, Shirley awoke in the morning singing a song entitled “Early Bird” ; in the brutally demanding business of film-making, she thought everyone was playing games; and as for economics, Shirley thought a nickel was worth more than a dollar….

---Eckert:We have already noted that one of her functions was to pass between needy people—to be orphaned, exchanged, adopted. She always wound up in the possession of the person who needed her most. And he who possessed her owned the unique philosopher’s stone of a depressed economy, the stone whose touch transmuted poverty to abundance, harsh reality to effulgent fantasy, sadness to vertiginous joy. All of this works as a displacement of the social uses and the efficacy of money. Read More: image:

…All of this would be intimidating if it were not that external determinants often cannot be perceived in a finished object, whether that determinant be the repression that produces a pun or the sweated labor that produces a shirt. And Shirley in film and story was as highly finished an object as a Christmas tree ornament. Some contemporary libels against her which depicted her as a thirty-year-old dwarf or as bald headed, and the irreverencies of critics who called her a “pint-size Duse” or the moppet with the “slightly sinister

ertoire of tricks” show that the surface was often too perfect to be accepted and that deceit was suspected. But libels are not theories, and everything written about Shirley was ultimately helpless to explain her—or to exorcise her. Read More:

---Temple continued through the Depression, and the result was an unmitigated success in the eyes of New Deal liberals. Temple raised the spirits of Americans during troubled economic times and is widely credited with helping to defeat those bad, bad Nazis in World War II by figuratively and literally melting their hearts. Conservatives, however, argue that Temple might have actually prolonged the Great Depression by forcing Americans to spend what little money they had on Shirley Temple movies and by distracting top policymakers and businesses from noticing that a tremendous amount of people were out of work.--- Read More:


She was a genius with an I.Q. of 155. She did not mark her books, scrawl on wallpaper or break her toys. She did not cry, even when physically injured during the shooting of a scene. Doctors and dentists wrote her mother asking for the secrets of her diet and hygiene: her mother responded that there weren’t any. Her relations with her parents were totally loving and natural. She had no concern for, or sense of, herself, and was consequently unspoilable.

If her mother were not so straightforward a woman, and if there were not independent corroborators for some of these facts, one would have to presume that Shirley was not real—that she was a rosy image of childhood projected like a dialectical adumbration from the pallid bodies and distressed psyches of millions of depression children. But she was real. Her biographies are not, as with most Hollywood stars, cosmeticized myths, but something on the order of fundamentalist “witnessings.” Read More:


Animal Crackers in my Soup

Once Mother said “My little pet
You ought to learn your alphabet!”
So in my soup I used to get
All the letters of the alphabet
I learned them all from A to Z
And now my Mother’s giving me

Animal crackers in my soup
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop
Gosh, oh gee! but I have fun
Swallowing animals one by one…

---And for this work, accomplished with joy and ease, Shirley received $10,000 per week and over 3500 letters thanking tier for the pleasure she gave. The disparity between Shirley’s work and the reality of most depression working experiences was ludicrous. And the frequency and consistency of descriptions of the sort just quoted indicates that the disparity was also mesmerizing, much like the disclosure in 1932 that J. P. Morgan paid no income taxes.--- Read More:

…In every bowl of soup I see
Lions and tigers watching me
I make ‘em jump right through a hoop
Those animal crackers in my soup

When I get hold of the big bad wolf
I just push him under to drown
Then I bite him in a million bits
And I gobble him right down!

When they’re inside me where it’s dark
I walk around like Noah’s Ark
I stuff my tummy like a goop
With animal crackers in my soup!

Animal crackers in my soup
Do funny things to me
They make me think my neighborhood
Is a big menagerie

For instance, there’s our Janitor
His name is Mr. Klein
And when he hollers at us kids
He reminds me of a lion

The grocer is so big and fat
He has a big mustache
He looks just like a walrus
Just before he takes a splash!

Eckert:Shirley’s acts of softening, interceding and the rest are spontaneous ones, originating in her love of others. Not only do they function as condensations of all of the mid-depression schemes for the care of the needy, but they repress the concepts of duty to give or of a responsibility to share (income tax, federal spending). The solution Shirley offers is natural: one opens one’s heart, a la Gifford and Young, and the most implacable realities alter or disperse. We should also note that Shirley’s love is of a special order. It is not, like God’s, a universal mana flowing through all things, but a love that is elicited by need. Shirley turns like a lodestone toward the flintiest characters in her films—the wizened wealthy, the defensive unloved, figures of cold authority like Army officers, and tough criminals. She assaults, penetrates and opens them, making it possible for them to give of themselves. All of this returns upon her at times forcing her into situations where she must decide who needs her most. It is her agon, her calvary, and it brings her to her most despairing moments. This confluence of needing, giving, of deciding whose need is greatest also obviously suggests the relief experience.

So strongly overdetermined is Shirley’s capacity for love that she virtually exists within it. In Freudian terms she has no id, ego or superego. She is an unstructured reification of the libido, much as Einstein in popular myth reified the capacity for thought.Read More:

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