During the bleak years of the Great Depression, the lovable Shirley Temple became a symbol of happiness and hope for audiences around the world. In 1934, 20th Century Fox film songwriter Jay Gorney was taken with the dimpled, flaxen-haired star of a short film that preceded the feature at a local Los Angeles theater. As he was leaving, Gorney was surprised to recognize Temple and her family at the same theater, and soon the young actress was signing her first contract with Fox. By the end of the year, Temple would be featured in seven films, and would become the top-grossing box office star in the world.
Meanwhile, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company approached the Temple family with its Shirley Temple doll concept, and sculptor Bernard Lipfert was tasked to create its unique mold. After seeing more than 20 variations, both the Temple family and Ideal’s staff were satisfied, and the first composition Shirley Temple doll was created.
The earliest prototype was made from composition with three different wig options—red, blond, and brunette. A more generic version of the doll was also marketed without using Temple’s last name. In October of 1934, Ideal applied for a patent, and the Shirley Temple doll was officially announced in an issue of the retail industry magazine “Playthings.”
The updated design came in four sizes, with hazel eyes and curly, strawberry-blonde hair. The product’s only marking read “COP IDEAL N&T Co.” which was imprinted on the back of the doll’s head. Shirley Temple dolls came complete with a polka-dotted dress like the one she wore in “Stand Up and Cheer,” along with an official tag and celluloid button.
At $3.00 each, even the smallest Shirley Temple dolls weren’t cheap. Yet the toys were a hit, and soon Ideal commissioned designer Mollye Goldman to create a variety of outfits based on Temple’s film roles. Shirley Temple fans soon had an assortment of organdy dresses to choose from, many in cute sailor striped or polka-dotted styles.
These mini-versions of the child star quickly became Ideal’s best-selling product, and were made in nine different sizes. Other companies created knockoffs and found creative ways to skirt copyright law. Beginning with its “Little Colonel” doll, Madame Alexander purchased the rights to the books on which Temple’s films were based and marketed their dolls using these titles.
Over the years, Ideal modified its product, slimming the face mold, altering her coloration, and embossing the Shirley Temple name on both its body and head. Extensive lines of c...
After a nearly 20-year hiatus, the company released a slightly more grown-up Shirley Temple doll made from vinyl in 1957. Temple became closely involved with the production and promotion of Ideal’s new series, and two years later helped launch its first “Shirley Temple Playpal” doll, which was a full three feet in height.
In 1960, the first Shirley Temple Collectors Club was established. From the '60s through the '80s, new Shirley Temple dolls were regularly distributed by companies like Montgomery Ward and the Danbury Mint, aimed primarily at nostalgic adult collectors.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Lorettas Shirley Temple Dolls
Steve McQueen Film Poster Site
Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page
Vintage Dolls of the 50s
Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls
Museum of Childhood
Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery
Steves Disney Collection
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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls
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As I See It: A movie took me back in more ways than oneFreeport Journal-Standard, September 13th
Monday morning and this computer of mine seems to be all screwed up. Or is it me? When I first turned this monster on, I couldn't delete anything that was on screen and I'm not sure I can save what I am writing now. That is just what I needed in my...Read more
Family Affair's Kathy Garver Back in a Family MysteryMesquite Local News, September 12th
“I was holding my doll, Rebecca, on a paper mache mountain as the Red Sea closed,” she said. “Charlton ... “We lost two wonderful former child stars in the past year – Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney – so I think that book will be dedicated to them.”...Read more
Community-sponsored day trips and travelThe Delaware County Daily Times, September 12th
To Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., Nov. 9-15. Cost of $929 per person, double occupancy, includes seven days, six hotel nights, fully escorted tour with special step-on guides in both cities, deluxe motorcoach, local Delco pickup, free parking on...Read more
From the editorBurlington County Times, September 11th
And the Shirley Temple doll was a curiosity, and made me remember how I felt as a child to learn that Shirley Temple was my mother's contemporary, not mine. Truth is, this is just one place in Burlington County where you can spend the day investigating...Read more
Author of Shirley Temple book to visitSalisbury Post, September 6th
Temple and 1930s America,” will be at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum Saturday, Sept. 13, from 2-3 p.m.. Kasson, author and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor, will discuss his new book. The museum's collection of Shirley Temple...Read more
'Family Affair's' Kathy Garver back in a family mysteryVictorville Daily Press, September 4th
“I was holding my doll, Rebecca, on a paper mache mountain as the Red Sea closed,” she said. “Charlton ... “We lost two wonderful former child stars in the past year — Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney — so I think that book will be dedicated to them.”...Read more
Doll exhibits from High Point get new life at museum in SpencerHigh Point Enterprise, August 31st
The exhibits — which include two dollhouses, a huge collection of Shirley Temple dolls and the Madame Alexander “Wizard of Oz” doll collection — can now be seen at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum, which is located in downtown Spencer near the N.C. ...Read more
Barbie meets Shirley Temple at Florence doll shopSCNow, August 30th
Twelve members make up the Pee Dee Doll Club, and with this year being the pearl anniversary, members displayed their favorite dolls, all draped in pearls. A tribute was also made to Shirley Temple, who died earlier in the year. Attendees at the doll...Read more