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The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America Hardcover – April 14, 2014


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The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America + American Legends: The Life of Shirley Temple
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393240797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393240795
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he dedicated himself to turning the country around from the depths of the Great Depression. But he needed an indefinable something to focus the country’s attention away from poverty and fear and toward optimism and faith. That something appeared in the form of a little girl with curly hair and a twinkly smile: Shirley Temple, whose 20-odd movies between 1934 and 1940 made her one of the most beloved box-office draws in the world. It is impossible to overstate how popular Temple was as a movie star, and, as the author shows, her influence on the country was astonishing: in a very real sense, Shirley Temple helped America survive the Depression. This is a remarkable dual biography: the story of Temple’s brief reign over Hollywood, but also the story of an entire country, which took its cues from such an unlikely source. Temple pretty much retired from the entertainment business when she was in her teens, but her impact resonates to this day. A deeply fascinating book about an unlikely superstar, whose recent death may renew interest in her career. --David Pitt

Review

The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is an illuminating and highly entertaining look at the life and career of the greatest young movie star of her era. John Kasson perceptively reveals how Shirley Temple brought hope and joy to a diverse array of people throughout the world while simultaneously transforming the nature of celebrity, consumption, and childhood culture in 1930s America.” (Steven J. Ross, author of Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics)

“John Kasson delights the reader with his lively account of feel-good films starring the adorable curly-headed moppet who, with radiant smile and winsome guile, lit up the dark nights of the 1930s. A brilliant analyst, Kasson lays bare coruscatingly, too, how exploited child actors serve as ‘canaries in the mine shaft of modern consumer culture.’” (William E. Leuchtenburg, author of In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama)

“Carefully argued and gracefully written. Not since the pioneering essays of Warren Susman has any historian so brilliantly illuminated the emotional life of Americans in the 1930s. The Great Depression—not to mention Shirley Temple and Franklin Roosevelt—will never look the same.” (Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920)

“Sparkling, beautifully written, nearly impossible to put down. John Kasson moves behind the seemingly effortless smile of Shirley Temple to uncover the child labor it required, and explores the complex emotional work performed by that smile for Americans struggling to survive the Great Depression. A compelling and creative new cultural history of the 1930s.” (Karen Halttunen, author of Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study in Middle-Class Culture, 1830-1870)

“[A] look back to a moment in American society when…the movies mattered and when one magnetic star could help change people’s minds and hearts.” (Publishers Weekly)

“In a time of widespread suffering and frequent despair, this little girl touched the hearts of millions of people in our own land and others… John F. Kasson shows how her films provided therapy as well as entertainment.” (Richard Striner - Weekly Standard)

“Examines the impact of the child star not only on Hollywood, but on politics as well… Elucidating… a must-read.” (USA Today)

“[Kasson’s] insightful new book explores the politics of the time, racial attitudes, movie-going habits and the breadth and depth of Shirley Temple’s appeal.” (Elizabeth Bennett - Dallas Morning News)

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Customer Reviews

Very enjoyable, well written and interesting.
Lorelei
I would recommend this book for anyone who loves nostalgia and history.
Louise Marinelli
I purchased this book as a gift for my fathers birthday.
cindy zuniga

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is not a biography or a filmography of Shirley Temple and her movies, although it does contain plenty of information about both. The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is a history of America when Shirley Temple's movies were massively popular, a period that lasted from 1934 until about 1939.

Author John F. Kasson describes the period leading up to the Depression and the conditions that made a child star such as Shirley Temple a perfect fit for the times. He explores the politics of the time, racial attitudes, movie-going habits, and the continuing popularity of Shirley Temple through the 20th century. Even Andy Warhol was a fan.

If you believed the movie magazines, Shirley Temple was universally loved. She was a hard worker and got along with everyone. Kasson goes along with that belief for the most part, but does include the occasional tantrum or misbehavior, some of which Temple herself confessed to in her autobiography. Novelist Grahame Greene was one of the rare non-fans, characterizing her appeal as "dubious coquetry" and "dimpled depravity."

Not every movie goer was a fan though, as I learned as a child one day while watching an old Shirley Temple movie on TV. I turned around to see my mother, who had grown up in the Depression, silently mimicking Shirley. She had hated Shirley Temple and had had to suffer having her straight hair curled and had been constantly told to smile "like Shirley" throughout her childhood. Even as an adult, the sight of that saccharine moppet still made her seethe.

All in all an informative book about the Depression, Hollywood, child actors and stage parents, privacy laws (which were originally to protect public figures), and the movies that helped get America and the world through tough times.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
If I had seen this book in the new Biography Section at B&N, despite Temple's recent death I would have taken a pass. However, it was in the new U.S. History Section. Immediately, it sounded interesting. Interesting it was and is.
This book actually looks at the Depression, FDR's mission to return the country to economic stabilty and prosperity, and his overall message that HOPE wasn't far away.
I've known a bit about the Depression via my mother who grew up in the thick of things. While not destitute or feeling deprived, people came to the house trying to get a meal while riding the tracks. My grandparents lived near a rail yard close enough for the plates in the pantry to shake. Two unemployed uncles lived with them while my grandparents worked and they watched my mother and her siblings. Money was tight. Jobs were scarce and good jobs were non-existent by the time FDR took office and for quite awhile afterward. This book clearly details a Depression which was not driven by virtually unrestricted lending practices. For me, this book lifted the Depression out of a kid's mindset and provided a bounty of information which mixed a lot of elements into a vortex for disaster. I ended up getting a better understanding of what caused the big capital 'D' Depression and also walked away with a sense of what hopelessness was and how it was manifested.
The Fireside chats and FDR's attempts to lift the minds and hearts of the nation that had been badly beaten and his social and economic programs did a lot to bolster hope and soothe souls. By contrast, in California the movie industry was experiencing the same things that were going on in the country but only in a scaled down way. Studios were on shaky ground with reduced revenues as they fought off insolvency.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on April 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I read Shirley Temple Black's memoir Child Star in 1988 when it came out. Since then an entire generation has grown up without the background on ST that this new book provides. The author begins with a description of the suffering caused by the Great Depression, and made it real for me in a way no other account has. He describes FDR in contrast to Hoover; that FDR imbued the nation with hope, epitomized by his broad smile and folksy manner in his fireside chats. (It was more than that, FDR created jobs that helped ease the Depression, though it wasn't until WWII that there was enough government spending to lift the nation out of the Depression.)

What's a brilliant idea is to link FDR and the effects of the Depression with the phenomenon of Shirley Temple, whose bright smile and optimistic films were an essential part of the "fight" against the Great Depression. Kasson describes her pictures and often cites to Child Star - but I read it many years ago and the new generation never read it. While an academic, Kasson writes clearly and on the reader's level, though the intelligent reader. He describes the trajectory of her unprecedented fame, the effect she had on the nation, and how she had to move on after she became a teenager.

I recommend reading this book in conjunction with Child Star. Shirley Temple's generosity of spirit shines through in both.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gloria Hinkle on June 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived the time that is described in the book. The author is very accurate and I looked just like Shirley Temple and hated wearing those curls all the time to please my mother. I also had to take dancing lessons and lived near a Theater so I saw all of her pictures. The author told a lot of things about the depression which I didn't understand at the time but I do remember now.
I enjoyed reading about things that I did not understand when they happened.
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