I feel a special kinship with Shirley Temple who was born 90 years ago. She was born in Santa Monica Hospital, the same hospital I was born in 26 years later. Child stars are cute, precocious, and generally quite talented but I think Shirley was uniquely gifted.
Gertrude Temple already had two sons. Throughout her pregnancy she hoped for a girl — hope was realized. At about 3 years of age, Shirley was occupying space in dance class where she was discovered.
I have all of her young childhood movies. I am cueing one right now. I am not much of a singer but that doesn’t prevent me from belting out “On the Good Ship Lollipop”.
I scrutinize her tap moves. As far as I am concerned she exhibits flawless execution. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson served as Shirley’s partner as they navigated the “stair dance” in the movie The Little Colonel. One of the most impressive tap numbers with the two dancers holding hands — a controversial scene for the time.
I did not receive dance lessons at the age of 3, 5, or even 15, I began my tap lessons in college at the age of 20. Today I teach tap classes to adults. Thank you Shirley for the inspiration, the delight of watching you, and the joy.