In 1934, Shirley Temple became a star with her performance in the movie “Stand Up and Cheer”. She was only six years old. For the next four years, from 1935 – 1938, she was the top box office attraction. Children and adults loved her. She was the model child.
Ideal Novelty and Toy Company produced the genuine Shirley Temple doll in 1934. It was an all-composition doll, the “very image of Shirley Temple”. It was a huge success, and soon the competing doll manufacturers came out with look-alike dolls. These dolls could not have the name “Shirley Temple,” but the names were clever and gave reference to her fame. For example, there were dolls from the Horsman Doll Company: “Bright Star” and “Shirley Little Colonel”. The Madame Alexander Doll Company produced a doll called “Little Colonel”. The Eegee Doll Company sold imitation Shirley Temple dolls, called “Little Miss Movie” and “Miss Charming”. The Arranbee Doll Company used their “Nancy” doll dressed in an organdy petal-hemmed dress, and named her “The Movie Queen”. Bouton-Woolf Doll Company made “Miss Babette, Hollywood’s Pet” to closely resemble the genuine Shirley Temple doll. Many other unnamed dolls were offered as well, frequently standing on the toy shelves of department stores side-by-side with the genuine Shirley Temple dolls.
Did the sales of these look-alike dolls cut into Ideal’s profits? Amazingly, there were buyers for both the higher-priced Ideal Shirley Temple dolls and the generally less-expensive look-alikes. For a child, owning a “Shirley Temple” doll, whether the Ideal or lesser version, meant a connection to the child star that she so adored. The doll became a reminder of Shirley’s smile, her talent, and the hope that she gave in her movies, that bad situations can turn out for good. In the decade of the Great Depression, the real Shirley Temple and the doll provided just the escape that people needed from the worries of everyday life.
Jumping to the 1950s, Ideal produced a vinyl authorized Shirley Temple doll, from 1957 – 1963. The 1930s movies were being shown on television at that time, so more children grew to love Shirley. Also, the adult Shirley Temple Black starred in two consecutive TV programs. She widely advertised the new dolls, and the dolls were very popular. In turn, other doll manufacturers produced vinyl look-alike dolls. One 19” doll from the Allied Grand Company was called “Little Miss Movie Star”. Even a life-sized (36”) look-alike was sold to imitate the Ideal Company’s life-sized “Shirley Temple Playpal” doll.