Saturday, August 15, 2009

Celebrity doll - Shirley Temple

Much has been written about this doll who is sculpted to look like her namesake who made her cinematic debut at the tender age of four. In her day, Shirley Temple's face was more recognizable than the president of the United States. From Japan, to the United States and around the world, this little girl gave us all something in common to enjoy.

Shirley Temple dolls were first made of composition material and were manufactured in the United States by the Ideal Novelty & Toy Company from 1934 - 1939. Ideal was the only company licensed to make the official Shirley Temple doll, although there were plenty of imitators. One particularly collectible Shirley was made in Japan and has painted features. They came in 6", 7" and 8" sizes. The Ideal dolls came in 11" to 27" sizes (with a 16" size made by the Reliable doll company of Canada.) The Ideal dolls are the ones that collectors are most familiar with: curly mohair wig, toothy smile, hazel sleep eyes (some eyes were flirty) and of course, Shirley's famous dimples.

Shirley came dressed in copies of outfits that she wore in her films, with the first dolls issued with the dress that Shirley wore in Baby Take a Bow. She came wearing her genuine Shirley Temple doll pin, rayon socks and oil cloth shoes.

In 1935 and 1936, a baby Shirley Temple was manufactured. They came with a composition head with shoulder plate, legs, and arms, and a cloth stuffed body. These dolls are much more rare, and are worth more to collectors, of course.

Shirley Temple dolls disappeared for a while in the 1940s as Shirley became a young woman, but some time in the early 1950s, there was a resurgence in interest in Shirley Temple dolls, as little girls who knew Shirley in the 1930s, became mothers of little girls, themselves. Shirley Temple could now be seen on television and once again, little girls wanted a Shirley Temple doll. This time however, the dolls were made of vinyl and could be purchased from a 12" size, all the way up to a 36" size. Ideal was licensed to make the dolls all the way up through the early 1980s. The most contemporary Shirley Temple dolls are made of porcelain by Danbury Mint.

Shirley Temple has been so popular through the ages, that one can also buy Shirley Temple paper dolls, books, sheet music, accessories, purses, clothing, figurines and art plates (to name a few). No other little girl has so thoroughly captured the hearts of millions over almost a century.

My Shirley Temple dolls are the Ideal dolls. One is a 27" composition doll with flirty eyes, which dates her to around 1937. I also own a 12" vinyl doll from 1957 dressed in her Stand Up and Cheer dress. Sadly, neither doll has her original pin and I don't believe the compo Shirley's Swiss dotted dress is original to her. Both dolls are marked Ideal and either Shirley Temple (compo) or ST (vinyl). I love both my Shirley Temple dolls, but in my opinion, the old composition dolls capture the look of Shirley's face the best.

Check out this old home movie from the 1930s of a little girl getting a Shirley Temple doll for Christmas. So sweet!

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