Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2014

Remembering Shirley Temple

By Timothy Harrison


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Captain January, played by Guy Kibbee and Helen ...

America lost one of its favorite and best known childhood actors with the passing of Shirley Temple Black this past February. In the 1930s Shirley Temple was one of America’s top box office draws and later in life she sat on the Board of Directors of the Walt Disney Company and the National Wildlife Federation and served as the U. S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. Under President Gerald R. Ford she even served a brief stint as the Chief of Protocol of the United States.

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In lighthouse circles she would be remembered best for her role in the 1936 musical comedy drama movie Captain January where she played the role of Helen “Star” Mason who is rescued from a shipwreck by Captain January, played by Guy Kibbee, who is the lighthouse keeper at the Cape Tempest Lighthouse in Maine.

Captain January proceeds to raise the little girl but never officially adopts her. Their life together is wonderful and they are surrounded by colorful characters, including Paul Roberts, played by Buddy Ebsen, who many will know from his television roles as Jed Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies, the detective series Barnaby Jones, and as George Russell, Fess Parker’s sidekick in the Davy Crockett mini-series. In Captain January, Ebsen and Temple performed a memorable dance scene called “At the Codfish Ball.”

But their happy carefree life at the lighthouse takes a dramatic turn when a local truant officer wants Star removed from the Captain’s custody, something that comes to a head when Captain January loses his job when the lighthouse is automated. At this point the movie turns into a real tear jerker and would have ended that way, but at the last minute producer Darryl Zanuck stepped in to have the ending rewritten.

The movie version of Captain January is based on the 1891 book by the same name that was written by Laura E. Richards. The first movie version of Captain January was a silent film released in 1924.

Sadly, there are generations of people who have never seen Shirley Temple’s childhood movies, but probably should. They can offer a refreshing, wholesome difference to much of what is available today. Her talent was remarkable. In 2009 Captain January was released on DVD in its original black and white version and as a colorized version. We would highly recommend it and encourage the younger generation to watch it. Who knows, they might love it.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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