By I Wojik-Andrews
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Extra info for Children's Films: History, Ideology, Pedagogy, Theory (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 2165,)
About Temple’s popularity in general, Greene notes that it seems to “rest on a coquetry quite as mature as Miss Colbert’s and on an oddly precocious body as voluptuous in grey flannel trousers as Miss Dietrich’s” (128). Part Two: Criticism 33 Why then did the studios seek libel action against Greene in 1937 when he published the review of Wee Willie Winkie, but not in 1936 with the review of Captain January? What is different about the two reviews? I think that the Wee Willie Winkie review incurred the wrath of 20th Century Fox not just because Greene pointed out that the “mask of childhood” (Wee Willie 234) was possibly only “skin-deep” (234), but because Greene makes explicit the link between the studios, the child stars the studios own, and the profit the studios derive from those child stars.
Movie theaters were only to show uplifting films, those taken from the “best stories and plays of the world’s literature” (lxii), those that presented “high qualities, such as courage, self-sacrifice and generosity” (liii). Set against the changes that were taking place in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Commission’s report makes the following main points, each of which is based upon a thinly disguised moral politics. First, there is the recognition that cinema in general and children’s cinema in particular is firmly embedded in the national economies of nations as far-flung around the world as France, America, and New Zealand and that, precisely because of this globalization, moral matters will always sit uneasily alongside economic matters: Censorship leads to unemployment.
In the history of children’s cinema and film criticism, or at least criticism primarily directed at films starring children, Greene’s reviews, particularly the one on Wee Willie Winkie, are obviously important. First, by looking at Shirley Temple herself, Greene temporarily shifted the emphasis away from what are basically circular arguments about whether or not immoral movies produced immoral kids to how kids in films affected adults in audiences. Second, albeit unintentionally, Greene opened up a relatively new area of study: that of the adult spectator, in this instance, “middle-aged men and clergymen” (Wee Willie 234), responding to apparently flirtatious child stars, in this instance Shirley Temple.