You might have thought of her as a living doll for her dimpled sweetness and wholesomeness. Though she was talented, she was sweet, unspoiled yet clever. The world grew up with her, and she, in turn, sang and danced her way into careers in acting, international diplomacy, and family.
Shirley Temple dolls are prized among doll collectors, not just the quintessential ideal versions, but the unnamed dolls by other companies, the saltware figures, the hard plastic and vinyl dolls, the French flirty eye editions, the paper dolls, and many, many more. For, what’s in a manufacturer’s name? A doll with dimples and sausage curls is still a Shirley to doll lovers.
In around 1970, Shirley’s family sorted through the dolls again. According to an old movie magazine that featured the story, they donated duplicate dolls again to charity, and the rest were set up at Stanford Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto, California. I visited them there that summer, and my Uncle, an artist who contributed a lot of dolls to my collection, took photos. Later, I would return as an adult and take more photos. Years later, I was lucky enough to win one of those dolls at auction. At that time, Palo Alto was a “doll destination.” Certainly, the shopping was good, but besides the Shirley Temple dolls, the Barbie Museum was also downtown.
Shirley Temple inspired many products, and her films are now everywhere. One film project in August will feature her Heidi at a local art museum. There will be dolls and other Hollywood and Shirley memorabilia on display as well. The museums are The Figge Museum and the German American Heritage Center. There is also a film called “Shirley Mania” that explores the popularity of the dolls, and the child star herself.
I met Shirley Temple at a book signing for her autobiography, Child Star. She admired my sweater, which had a little Inuit girl on it, and signed my book. She was nice, just nice. That’s the only way to describe her. She was also patient, and very beautiful. The legendary dimples were still there, too.
Her doll wasn’t the first celebrity doll, but I’m sure it’s been the most popular. It was doll collecting serendipity that R. John Wright announced he would be creating his own Shirley Temple doll, which is in the prototype stages and will be marketed exclusively through Florence and George. I can’t wait to see her, or to add her to my own family of Shirleys. Somewhere, the celestial version of The Good Ship Lollipop is sailing, and her most famous passenger is smiling down from the ship’s deck.
About the author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons. An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum. She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums.
“Dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and perhaps are the oldest toys. My passion for dolls began when I was a toddler, and it has never stopped. Explore the wonderful world of all things ‘doll’ with me.”
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