This week we pay tribute to the greatest child actress of all time, Shirley Temple, who passed away last week, February 10th 2014, at age 85. During her vast and impactful career, Ms. Temple only made two commercial audio recordings—both of them in the role of narrator of classic Disney film stories. Her many hit songs were, however, recorded by dozens of performers, including Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.
SHIRLEY TEMPLE Tells the Story of Walt Disney’s DUMBO
RCA Victor Records – Little Nipper Youth Series Y-382 (Three 10” 78 rpm or 45 rpm set / 1949)
Reissue: RCA Camden Records CAL-1026 (12” 33 rpm / 1960 / Side One) (Side Two: “The Tootlepiper’s Circus”)
Script Adaptation: Larry Morey. Musical Direction: Paul J. Smith. Running Time: 21 minutes.
Songs: “Baby Mine” by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington; “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “When I See An Elephant Fly” by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington.
Voices include: Shirley Temple (Narrator); Paul Frees (Timothy Mouse); Verna Felton (Elephant).
The first and the last commercially available record albums Shirley Temple ever made were Dumbo and Bambi, two RCA Victor adaptations of the Walt Disney films. Reportedly, Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck believed Shirley on records might cut into the profits she earned for the studio. Some early recording execs resisted radio because they feared that, if people could get songs free on a broadcast, they wouldn’t buy records. Sound familiar?
Temple was a young married adult when she recorded the two albums. Always fond of books and reading aloud, she also enjoyed listening to records and played them during her pregnancy. Her Disney connections included the famous presentation of the special Oscar to Walt Disney for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and appearing as a princess (also tying into her NBC series, Shirley Temple Storybook) for the official opening of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Diorama at Disneyland.
Adapted by lyricist Larry Morey, the RCA Dumbo recording is a recreation of the story with alterations in the voice cast, most notably Paul Frees replacing Ed Brophy as Timothy. Four songs are included, but Paul J. Smith background music is entirely different than Oliver Wallace’s original film underscore.
SHIRLEY TEMPLE Tells the Story of Walt Disney’s BAMBI
RCA Victor Records – Little Nipper Youth Series Y-391 (Three 10” 78 rpm or 45 rpm set / 1949)
Reissues: RCA Camden Records CAL-1012 (12” 33 rpm / 1960 / Side One); RCA Records CL-50001 (12” 33 rpm / 1981 / Side One)(Side Two: “The Tootlepiper’s Zoo”)
Script Adaptation: Larry Morey. Musical Direction: Paul J. Smith. Running Time: 20 minutes.
Songs: “Love is a Song,” “Bambi,” “Little April Shower,” “Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song,” “I Bring You a Song (Looking for Romance)” by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey.
Voices: Shirley Temple (Narrator); Donald Novis (Soloist); Paula Winslowe (Bambi’s Mother); Donnie Dunagin (Young Bambi); Will Wright (Friend Owl); Margaret Lee (Thumper’s Mother); Peter Behn (Young Thumper); Stan Alexander (Young Flower); Hardie Albright (Grown Bambi); Sam Edwards (Grown Thumper); Sterling Holloway (Grown Flower).
In contrast to Shirley Temple’s Dumbo album, Bambi is not a re-dramatization of the film but one of the earliest examples of a dialogue soundtrack album. If you listen closely, you can hear the slight imperfection in the voice tracks used, as well as a slight hiss on Temple’s narration. The two elements are independent of the music tracks, all of which are separate.
This is a good opportunity to give a shout-out to the marvelous voice performance of Paula Winslowe as Bambi’s mother, a character who was at the heart of many a child’s tears. Winslowe was not widely known for this role, but she was very much a part of mid-20th century radio in a variety of programs, including co-starring with William Bendix on The Life of Riley as his wife, Peg. You rock, Paula.
The songs sound similar to the way they were performed in the film, right down to “Love is a Song” being sung as it was in the film, by tenor Donald Novis. “I Bring You a Song (Looking for Romance)” is hummed by the chorus without lyrics. Maybe it was thought to be too romantic for the kiddies. There’s also a song called “Bambi” that was either written for the film or as a promotional “inspired by” number. It’s not listed in Russell Schroder’s two Lost Chords books, but many such songs could fill additional volumes in his excellent series.
By the time Shirley Temple was on her second marriage with two more children, baby boomers were discovering her movies on television. Fox finally released compilations of soundtrack songs from her motion pictures on vinyl records. Two such collections were The Complete Shirley Temple Songbook and the two-volume Little Miss Wonderful. Most of this early material is still available today, but Bambi and Dumbo would certainly be welcome digital reissues on CD or iTunes.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Excerpts from Shirley Temple’s Disney Records
Paul Frees plays Timothy, but I’m not certain who is making Dumbo’s sounds. It does not sound like Frees. The famous Bambi sequence with Thumper and Flower is immediately recognizable as the actual soundtrack. Shirley Temple is an excellent narrator, emotive without patronizing or going over the top. Too bad she never made any susequent recordings for children. I do recommend taking a look at the Shirley Temple Storybook TV shows available on DVD.
ON THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP
Starring Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm of The Flintstones
Hanna-Barbera Records HLP-2040 (12” LP / Mono)
Released in 1965. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Producer/Arrangers: Stan Farber, Al Capps. Mastering: Joe Leahy, Dave Diller. Cover Art Direction: Harvard C. Pennington. Cover Art: Homer Jonas, Fernando Montealegre. Hand Lettering: Robert Schaefer. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Voices: Rebecca Page (Pebbles); Ricky Page (Bamm-Bamm).
Shirley Temple Movie Songs:
“On the Good Ship Lollipop” by Sidney Clare and Richard Whiting (from Bright Eyes);
“When I Grow Up” by Ray Henderson and Edward Heyman (from Curly Top);
“Early Bird” by Sidney Mitchell and Lew Pollack (from Captain January);
“Animal Crackers in My Soup” by Ray Henderson, Irving Fields and Ted Koehler (from Curly Top);
“Polly Wolly Doodle” by Sidney Clare, Buddy DeSilva, adapted from the folk song (from The Littlest Rebel);
At the Codfish Ball” by Sidney Mitchell and Lew Pollack (from Captain January);
Original Album Songs:
“Dolly with the Golden Hair,” “Rich Man Poor Man,” “ABC’s,” “The World is Full of Joy,” “My Very First Toad” by Lynn Bryson.
Additional Song: “The Lord is Counting on You” by Stuart Hamblen.
It’s interesting for HBR fans to note that both this album and Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm’s Christmas album are arranged specifically for very young children (as are the third and fourth volumes of Golden Cartoons in Song), while the songs on the other Hanna-Barbera records are take the form of pop, folk, surf and other pop tunes. I wonder if the idea was to aim the Hanna-Barbera stories at kids, teens and adults, which would explain the occasional jokes that some of us didn’t “get” until we were older.
Six songs from Shirley Temple are the hero tracks on this album, while five are new songs by HBR regular Lynn Bryson. The remaining song is “The Lord is Counting on You” the flip side of the single release of Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm’s signature tune, “Open Up Your Heart.” Both were the work of country artist Stuart Hamblen. I’ve always wondered why P&BB’s best-known song was never included on a Hanna-Barbera LP. Maybe the reason was to encourage purchase of the single.
This album has an especially striking cover by layout artist Homer Jonas, and background artist Fernando Montealegre, with lettering by Robert Schaefer – all of which are still marvels. Jonas and Montealegre’s names are signed (in tiny letters) on the bottom right.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“At the Codfish Ball”
This is one of my favorite Shirley Temple songs (the other is “I Love to Walk in the Rain.”) This song, with a “roaring ‘20s” arrangement, is the exception to the preschool style of the overall album, because it cleverly segues into a pop rhythm with special lyrics (probably by Bryson) about groovy ‘60s dances. Barbara Feldon also did a memorably trippy performance of “At The Codfish Ball” on Marty Feldman’s short-lived TV variety show.