In the 1930s, several economic, political, and environmental factors caused Americans to lose hope of a future beyond the extreme circumstances in which they had to survive. America prospered during the roaring ‘20s, but the stock market crash of October 1929 set off a devastating chain of events; banks and factories closed and one out of every four Americans found himself unemployed. The sudden economic collapse began the era of the Great Depression, in which millions were jobless by 1933 and countless others wandered the country in search of work, food and shelter. “The core of the problem was the immense disparity between the country’s productive capacity and the ability of the people to consume” (Nelson). The economic downturn coupled with the ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains resulted in foreclosures on farms, inflated food prices for the consumer, and the ruination of the agricultural industry. Meanwhile, the film and entertainment industry provided an escape for many Americans from the long-term struggle of the Great Depression. Shirley Temple, the dimpled, curly-haired child star dubbed “America’s Sweetheart,” was one such film star who brought hope to those affected by the Great Depression and left an enduring impression on the United States of America.
Before and during her rapid rise to Hollywood stardom, Temple’s family played an important role in her childhood. Born in Santa Monica, California on April 23, 1928, Temple was welcomed into the world by her parents and two older brothers. Mr. George Temple worked as banker while Mrs. Gertrude Temple devoted her time to nurturing her baby girl, since her two older sons, George Jr. and John, were already independent teenagers (Dubas 7-8). Mrs. Temple enjoyed music and often played the radio for her daughter. When Temple turned three, her mother enrolled her in dance classes. Temple’s natural talent for dancing surfaced soon afterwards. A Hollywood talent scout visited the dance studio two years later and signed the young Temple to Educational Studios, due to her vivacious personality and remarkable dancing ability for one so young. Her first professional role with Educational Studios was in Baby Burlesques, a series of mock Hollywood hits in which toddlers played the roles of adults (Sonneborn). Instead of exposing her daughter to the publicity and press that comes with movie stardom, Temple’s mother allowed her to express her own opinions and protected her from the pressures of fame (Dubas 30-32). As Temple was quickly thrust into a career as a young actress, her family continued to support her.
In 1934, Temple signed with 20th Century Fox Studios and began playing the type of role she fit perfectly: a confident, charming, curly-haired heroine. According to Dubas, “by the fall of 1934, Shirley was becoming a national obsession, captivating the country with a dynamic combination of personality, self-reliance and optimism- the perfect outlet for a public...