But since it has been 80 years since she was America’s leading boxoffice attraction, her appeal may require some explanation to the kids. Think of it this way: Shirley Temple had the exact same effect as a cat video, back in the day when people had to go to the theater and pay a nickel to LOL.
(Back then it was just “L.” The out loud was a given.)
Shirley Temple went viral at age 5. As with cat videos, people saw her and chuckled and told their friends. It was Temple’s cute dimples and gosh-darn-look-on-the-sunny-side attitude that made Americans smile in 1935. And during the Great Depression, that was saying something.
Who could resist her? She and Bojangles Robinson were a great pair, as long as we can (for this moment) overlook the alarming racial angles from Hollywood in those days. If it took Shirley Temple to get Robinson’s tap-dancing on the screen, it was worth it. And she was a quick study.
No less an authority than President Franklin Roosevelt said, “During this Depression, when the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”