Shirley Temple was the biggest child star the world has ever seen.
One of the most popular stars in the mid 30's, sales of tickets to Temple's
movies saved Fox from bankruptcy and made the child a household name, even
now 60 years later. She has been quoted as saying that she stopped
believing in Santa Clause at age 6. This happened when her mother
took her to meet Santa in a store, and the man asked for her autograph.
Unfortunately, the previous Shirley Temple movies that have been released
on DVD haven't had high quality releases. Some of the movies Fox release in colorized
versions (along with the original B&W on the same disc) but neither
of them had a high quality picture by all reports. Happily this lack
of good looking Temple films has been remedied with Universal's latest
entry to their Franchise Collection series: Shirley Temple: The Little
Darling Pack. While the image to these isn't perfect, it is very
good, and should please fans of the young actress.
This single disc collection contains two of Temple's early films, Little
Miss Marker and Now and Forever. Though these are very
different movies, they are both good films that showcase Temple's talents
even at the age of six.
Little Miss Marker:
Based on a story by Damon Runyon, Little Miss Marker has been
brought to the screen several times, including versions staring Bob Hope
and Lucile Ball (as Sorrowful Jones, 1949), Tony Curtis and Suzanne
Pleshette (as 40 Pounds of Trouble, 1962), and even Walter Matthau
and Julie Andrews (1980.) But the first time this was brought to
the screen, in 1934, is arguably the best. This version features
Adolphe Menjou, Dorothy Dell, but stars very young Shirley Temple.
Temple had been in a number of shorts and had minor roles in a couple
of features but it was her show stealing rendition of Baby Take a Bow
in 1934's Stand Up and Cheer that launched her into stardom.
Her next staring role, though it was filmed before Stand Up and Cheer's
release, was in Little Miss Marker where she shows just what a strong
performer she was, even at six years old.
Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou) is a bookie who has heard every sob
story a gambler could tell. He never gives credit, but when a guy
wants to put up his little girl (Shirley Temple) as a marker for a $20
bet, something in the young girls manner convinces Sorrowful to break his
The guy's horse doesn't come in, and neither does he. Sorrowful's
first instinct is to take 'Miss Marker' to the police, but when he reads
of her father's suicide in the paper he has another idea. He transfers
a race horse into her name so that it will be able to run in a big race
a week hence. The fix is in, and Sorrowful stands to make a bundle
if the horse can be listed with a clean owner. The down side to this
plan is that Jones is left to take care of the charming young girl
for a week with the help of his gang of boxers, cheats, crooks and con
men. Bangles (Dorothy Dell, who tragically died in a car accident
a week after this film's release), a girl friend of a business partner,
also helps out. As the week goes on, these cynical hardened gamblers
start to be won over by Miss Marker's cheerful attitude and adorable looks.
This was a cute movie that is thoroughly enjoyable. Menjou does
a splendid job as the bookie with a heart of stone that is slowly won over
by the young moppet. Some of the best scenes in the movie involve
the pair, such as the time he's trying to get her to go to sleep, but she
wants a story about King Arthur. Sorrowful reads the only thing he
has handy, a racing form, and replaces a horse's name with "King Arthur."
"Yesterday King Arthur ran the mile in...."
This movie was a great showcase for Shirley Temple. She really
was adorably cute and you could see how everyone around her would start
feeling protective of the little child. One of the many comic moments
in the film is when Miss Marker started using the slag that everyone around
her was using. Seeing her tell people to "Beat it" and "I don't want
to be no sap" is both funny and endearing.
Temple could act like few children before or since. I hadn't seen
a Shirley Temple movie for decades before I popped this into my DVD player,
and I had forgotten how natural she acted. It wasn't like she was
reciting lines that she had memorized, as most child actors come across,
but she seemed to be talking to the people she was acting with. A
very good film, and one of her early successes.
One note concerning the version of the film: The print used is from
a late 1935 reissue of the film. A minute shorter than the original
release, the credits have also been changed giving Temple top billing.
Now and Forever:
Made the same year as Little Miss Marker, this film has Temple
in a supporting role. It is really a vehicle for the stars Gary Cooper
and Carole Lombard, who do a terrific job.
Jerry Day (Gary Cooper) is a con man and swindler who likes to live
life high on the hog. Along with his girlfriend Toni (Carole Lombard)
the pair travel all over the world cheating and stealing as they go, always
one step ahead of the police.
When Jerry gets a letter from his late wife's brother concerning his
daughter, Penny, he comes up with another plan. The brother wants
Jerry to sign over custody rights so that he can adopt the girl.
Jerry is willing to do it, but only for $75,000. He sends Toni ahead
to Paris while he goes to collect the money. When he gets to his
brother-in-law's place though, he sees his daughter and gets to spend some
time with her. Her uncle is rich, but very strict, stating that Penny
needs discipline more than she needs to have fun. Jerry can't stand
to see his cute little girl trapped in such an environment and decides
to take his daughter with him.
When the pair arrive in Paris, Toni is very happy. She's tired
of running and trying to stay one step ahead of the police. She convinces
Jerry to go straight, for Penny's sake if not for hers. He makes
a noble effort, but some old acquaintances and the high cost of living
make it difficult for him.
Though this movie has a similar premise to Little Miss Marker,
a little girl winning over the hearts of crooks, the tone is very different.
This is a drama more than a comedy. It has some comic moments but
this film is much more serious, especially at the end.
Cooper really shines in this movie. Playing a confidence man trying
to go straight who just can't seem to get a break, Cooper is really in
his element. You can really feel the agony that he's under with every
moral dilemma that he faces. Lombard is also good, though her role
isn't as meaty as Cooper's.
This isn't a Shirley Temple vehicle, but the six year old star does
an excellent job. She looks truly embarrassed and ashamed when her
father discovers her swindling a kid out of his skates with some nuggets
of 'gold,' and she gives a heart wrenching performance when she discovers
that her father really did steal a necklace after he promised her that
A very good movie, though it might not be the type of films that Shirley
Temple fans are expecting. The little moppet only sings a single
song, which is cross cut with another scene, and the tone of the movie
is much more serious than most of her films.
There is one curious thing about this movie though. The credits,
both at the beginning and end of the movie, has Carole Lombard's character
listed as Toni Day, though they make it quite clear in the movie that she
isn't married to Cooper's character Jerry Day. She even brings up
the prospect of marriage in the film. I assume that the credits were
changed for a later reissue. If the studio had cold feet about two
non-married people sharing the same room, it would have been easy enough
to add a line or two before the initial release and edit out some others.
Both of these films are on a single sided DVD that comes in a white
keepcase with a clear sleeve over it. The sleeve has Shirley Temple's
picture superimposed over a large heart.
The two channel mono soundtrack was pretty good for movies from 1934.
There was a little hiss in the background but the level was low.
Of course, there wasn't a lot of dynamic range, and even the music sounded
a little flat, but that's to be expected from films of this era.
Both features come with captions for the hearing impaired in English
along with subtitles in Spanish and French.
I was very pleased with the quality of the image on both features.
These are presented in black and white, with their original 1.33:1 aspect
ratio. They images are only a little bit soft, and the contrast is
pretty good. Sometime details are lost against black backgrounds,
but this is a minor complaint. The level of detail is very good in
these films, and you can clearly see the sweat on Gary Cooper's brow at
the end of Now and Forever, for example. There is some grain
to the picture, and a very rare print imperfection. Even with these,
I was very pleased with the way these films looked.
The only extra on this disc is Shirley Temple's first film role, in
the short The Runt Page. This is a one-reeler in the
"Baby Stars" series of shorts, a bizarre idea that someone at Universal
came up with. The series involved young children in diapers acting
out scenes from hit plays and movies while adult voices were over dubbed.
This time they parody The Front Page, with Temple having a cameo
as Hildy's fiancé. A nice addition to the disc, even if the
short itself it quiet strange.
These two films are surprisingly better than I thought they would be.
I enjoyed them both, though in different ways. Little Miss Marker
is the better Temple film, but Now and Forever is a better movie.
The latter was a drama that was intense in places, and may not appeal to
all Temple fans. Though with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard co-staring,
it would be hard not to like it. The former was a more typical Temple
movie, a light comedy with the peppy young child warming the hearts of
a group of hardened gamblers and boxers. Both films exceeded my expectations
and weren't sappy or maudlin as I was expecting. These have aged
better than I thought they would, and are sure to please Shirley Temple
fans. Highly Recommended.