Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two Weeks I've Come to Hate

Hate is a strong word, probably too strong in most cases, certainly overused. I may have misused it here; I wanted to express my disdain for what the bi-annual spectacle of the Olympics brings. In particular, the Winter Olympics. Two weeks of thrilling competition.  Meh.

I could say that Winter sports hold absolutely no interest for me. Or I could say that the politics and posturing of it all provide a cynical and unattractive backdrop (I'm looking at you Putin). Then there's the endless stream of people stories; overcoming adversity, years of sacrifice, the ecstasy of victory, humiliating failure, and inevitable disappointment for 95% of the participants. We are only half way through it and all and those categories are well represented.

I could say those things, but the real reason (although all the above is true) is this: the cultural wasteland that is television becomes a cultural wasteland of repeats. Few companies want to air original content on the chance their show might flop from being in competition with the games. Even the talk shows, most of them, go into repeats. Sad to say that so much of my life is prime time TV, sadder still that all my favorites are in repeats, and so soon into the season that the original showings weren't that long ago. Oh well, boo hoo, I'll have to read a book.

On a different note, this particular period has deeply saddened me. The loss of Sid Caesar and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were bad enough, but the loss of Shirley Temple (Black) is a national tragedy for people my age and older. Not old enough to have seen her in theaters, I nonetheless cut my TV teeth on frequent showings of her many movies, both in the afternoons and weekends. Although Shirley lived a long and very productive life, her passing is for most of us the death of a very endearing and supremely gifted little girl.

Through her movies, Shirley Temple carried much of the burden of supporting people during the Great Depression. She was not just precocious, she had immense singing and dancing ability, and instant rapport with her audience. Her screencraft included the ability to cry on demand, and it was heartbreaking to see her do it. She also had a quick mastery of scripts; she is said to have prompted her costars if they missed their lines.

Shirley did not have a typical childhood, but it is nice to know that her mother was not a tyrannical stage-mom. Instead, she was a constant supportive and protective presence in Shirley's life. As a result, Shirley grew up to be a mature and well-balanced young adult, unlike so many child stars both then and now.

If her studio chief had released her to do it, Shirley would have been Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. That might have been enough to help her transition into an adult star; but it was not to be. Later in life she served in Ambassadorial duties, while still occasionally appearing in different shows.

Shirley Temple Black was 85 years old when she passed, but all I can see is that little girl... rest in peace, sweetie.

Here's a link to a short article worth reading: