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The Cure For Grumpy Old Men: A Curly-Headed Tap Dancing Waif With Dimples

August 7, 2014

I recently illustrated an essay called, In My Clothes. In it, the author looks back on her life, using the clothes she was wearing at the time as a reference point.

Interesting idea– more on that assignment in a future post.

The essay contained the following passage:

But I like Shirley Temple. Here is a child who notices her dimples, and uses them to her advantage. She uses them to promote world peace, and to make old seamen smile again. No one can resist her innocence and tap dancing abilities.

Which prompted the following illustration. Since the essay was about clothes, I used a paper doll motif to add some humor.

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caricature of movie child star Shirley Temple tap dancing in sailor cap and sailor suit Captain January cartoon character resembling Popeye watching in his underwear next to paper doll sailor clothes

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Shirley Temple (1928-2014) was one of the biggest box office stars of the 1930s. In fact, she was the top box office star for four straight years, 1935-38.

She usually played a waif or an orphan whose pluck and sunny disposition melted the hearts of gruff old men. One such crusty guy was the old lighthouse keeper in the 1936 film, Captain January.

Here’s a larger detail:

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detail image of caricature of movie child star Shirley Temple tap dancing in sailor cap and sailor suit Captain January cartoon character resembling Popeye watching in his underwear next to paper doll sailor clothes

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No doubt about it– Shirley was a cutie. Below: a studio portrait (left); a publicity still for Captain January; with actress Claudette Colbert, holding her honorary Oscar (the first ever awarded for juvenile performance) which she won in 1935, at age 6.

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movie child star Shirley Temple studio portrait publicity photo for Captain January with her honorary Oscar and actress Claudette Colbert

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Here’s a theatrical poster for Captain January, which also starred Guy Kibbee and Buddy Ebsen.

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Poster for 1936 film Captain January, starring Shirley Temple, Guy Kibbee, Slim Summerville, Buddy Ebsen, Sara Haden

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Just how good a tap dancer was Shirley Temple? Check out Shirley and Buddy Ebsen dancing to At The Codfish Ball, in this clip from Captain January. blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

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Have you ever watched a Shirley Temple movie?

Have you ever drunk a Shirley Temple? (yup, that drink is named after her)

Have you ever tap danced from your computer to the coffeepot and back again without spilling a drop??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:


Hey, Bertie Bott– Time To Brighten Up Your Beans!!

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Famous People And Idiots– How Many Can You Name?

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2014 3:29 PM

    My wife mentions often how impressed she is with how Shirley Temple Black took fame so well, so humbly, and so graciously.


    • August 11, 2014 9:39 AM

      Humble, gracious, famous– why you could be describing yourself, my dear fellow!

      Well, you’re famous around here anyway. Always good to see you, Jak! : )


  2. August 7, 2014 11:02 PM

    I’ve never seen a Shirley Temple movie and I’ve never drank the drink. I don’t own tap shoes but I have danced from my computer to the coffee pot and back without spilling a drop.


    • August 11, 2014 9:45 AM

      What?? You’ve danced from computer to java juicer and back without spilling a drop?? Then I’m pleased to award you a “Shirley” for being cute, spunky, perky, fun, and vivacious! You probably wear a sailor suit, too, but we won’t get into that. Thanks, TT!! : )


  3. soul . to . earth permalink
    August 8, 2014 11:17 AM

    I’ll drink a Shirley Temple to those hearty boxers you’ve drawn – what a funny detail! 🙂

    I recall watching her movies as a kid…….so cute and precocious. I wonder if she managed to grow out of the image…..hope so.


    • August 11, 2014 10:00 AM

      Ah! Drinking Shirley Temples again?? No wonder you’re always so delightfully merry, my dear Radhika! Glad you liked the boxers. They seemed right somehow for an old salt. Besides, I can’t be the only one who wears them… : )

      Shirley’s later movies (as a teenager and young adult) weren’t particularly successful, and she retired from acting in 1950. She later entered politics, and had a very successful career as a diplomat. So yes, eventually she outgrew being cute and precocious. I never did, though… : )


      • soul . to . earth permalink
        August 12, 2014 12:23 PM

        Nope, never had a Shirley Temple as I find it odd to drink (or eat) stuff named after people. I’ll drink to your….self? :O

        P.S: Don’t ever outgrow your charm and wit. Growing up is overrated, me thinks. 😀


        • August 14, 2014 9:16 AM

          Huh. Now that you mention it, it does seem weird to drink or eat stuff named after people. Guess I could never be a successful cannibal… : )

          My charm and wit?? We’re inseparable!! Kinda like The Three Stooges. Growing up is an elusive business. I never quite got the hang of it. Guess I’m destined to be a fine wine that never quite matures. You’ll join me? Excellent. Here’s lookin’ at you, my dear Radhika!! : )


  4. August 8, 2014 6:12 PM

    Great minds think alike?!!! We were talking about Shirley Temple and how talented and sweet she was just a few days ago, but I didn’t know she passed away in February. I’ve probably watched most of her films. Surprisingly I have never tasted a ‘Shirley Temple’ cocktail. To the real joy of this post though… your illustration. Just as Shirley knew how to use those dimples to her advantage, you know exactly how to use your talent to capture our eyes! Excellent Shirley – I mean your Shirley [and that poor guy]! 🙂


    • August 11, 2014 10:34 AM

      What?? We were both channeling Shirley?? I still am. And it’s making me tired. Tap dancing and being cute all the time is hard work… : )

      I’ve never had a Shirley Temple cocktail, either. They’re supposed to be very sweet– so in my case, that would be too much of a good thing… : P

      Thank you for that exquisite compliment, my dear Marina! I’m gonna be really tired now– because it’s making me tap dance with joy!! : )


      • August 11, 2014 5:44 PM

        Sending you some Godiva chocolates… that ought to slow down the tap dancing [but not the joy!!] 😉


  5. August 10, 2014 9:49 AM

    Those locks made her famous! hehe


    • August 11, 2014 10:47 AM

      They did indeed– Shirley was “shooting the curl” before the Beach Boys invented surfing!! : )

      Nice to meet you, thanks so much for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. August 10, 2014 9:10 PM

    Perky and Shirley Temple are one and the same. You couldn’t pick a better example to illustrate, Mark. (The old sea dog is cute, too.) She was adorable, loved her in “Animal Crackers.” My grandkids sang that and I just cracked up.

    To answer your question: “Have you ever tap danced from your computer to the coffeepot and back again without spilling a drop??”
    As I can’t walk AND chew gum at the same time, that would not be a feat I could muster. 🙂


    • August 12, 2014 7:51 AM

      A: Cute, Perky, Precocious, and Full Of Beans

      Q: What traits do Shirley Temple, Judy Berman, and Mark Armstrong all have in common?

      That was Jeopardy, Famous Personalities for 25 cents, and our judges will accept that answer– wholeheartedly!! Yeah, Animal Crackers– that was Shirley’s breakout hit, wasn’t it? Altho I suppose On The Good Ship Lollipop is more famous. Songs had more meaningful lyrics back then– we really must get back to that… : )

      Thanks as ever for your kind support, and if you’re chewing gum, please dispose of it properly before attempting to walk to the coffeepot!! : )


  7. August 12, 2014 10:53 AM

    I came here first thing this morning and you really put me in a dancin’ mood! You capture the twinkle in her little eyes perfectly! She must have been an awfully smart little girl to remember all that and get all the moves down perfectly. Not to mention being able to remember the lyrics and tune to that odd song they had her singing. (I don’t think I knew what a codfish was until I was 27.) What an amazing little girl she was! And what a fun post, Mark! 😀


    • August 14, 2014 9:04 AM

      Thank you, my dear Linda! I had such a good time drawing Shirley, I went out and bought a little sailor suit for myself. Now I have the most irresistible impulse to tap dance, especially down the codfish aisle at the supermarket! : P

      I guess Shirley was legendary for her self-composure and being letter-perfect. There are points during that dance routine with Buddy Ebsen where her timing is almost uncanny. I spent most of my time sitting in the corner when I was 6 years old– I was a star problem child instead of a child star… : (

      Always a great honor, thanks for making an exciting appearance here at the Armstrong Dance Studio!! : )


  8. August 14, 2014 12:44 PM

    You are great! What a gambit – The paper doll is genious!
    Thank you very much that you remind me to Shirley Temple. I remember very well how we gathered in front of TV and looked forward all day look when there was a movie with her. I remember one scene very strong. She lost somehow all her money and a secretful indic servant comes over the roof into her poor flat with galore food…..


    • August 14, 2014 5:08 PM

      Me? A genius?? I really should deny it, but I hate to contradict you, my dear Tutti… : )

      I, too, can remember watching Shirley Temple movies on TV when I was a kid. Funny how certain scenes stay with us. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the one in Heidi where thanks to help and encouragement from Shirley, the crippled girl stands up and takes her first shaky steps towards her father. Shirley had been secretly feeding her bratwurst and sauerkraut to build up her strength. I cried so hard, our rug was damp for three weeks… : )


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