Before They Were Stars: Shirley Temple in “Baby Burlesks”

The legendary Shirley Temple passed away recently and given that she was probably the most famous child star of all time, I figured I wouldn’t be able to do a “Before They Were Stars” spotlight on her… but, boy oh boy, was I wrong about that! Before she found stardom, Shirley started out in Hollywood by acting in a series of short films called Baby Burlesks. I guess these shorts were intended to be satirical as they featured young toddlers in diapers acting out scenes normally performed by adults. Trust me, it’s even creepier than it sounds. In the first short on display here, War Babies, three-year old Shirley is caught in a love triangle with two boys fighting over her, and the second short, Polly Tix in Washington,¬†is a political satire where¬†Shirley dons bra and panties to play a call girl who seduces a senator! Temple always referred to Baby Burlesks as a “cynical exploitation of our childish innocence” and even though these shorts may have seemed like harmless innocent fun to audiences during the 1930s, anyone who tried to make something like this today would probably wind up on a sex offender list.

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