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Animal Crackers

Shirley Temple

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Album Review

One of several excellent Shirley Temple collections released near the dawn of the 21st century, Animal Crackers contains enough of her best work to land it somewhere near the top of the heap. If every vestige of cuteness were to be stripped away from the title song, its phantasmagoric qualities (triggered by the lyric "animal crackers in my soup do funny things to me") could be understood to suggest the effects of opium or even hallucinogens, the province of Grace Slick and her White Rabbit. The more conventional "On Account-A I Love You" plays up the potentially annoying tendencies of a girl with a big crush on somebody — often, in Temple's films, a male adult or (worrisomely perhaps) even a man portraying her own father. "You've Gotta Eat Your Spinach Baby" seems to have materialized right around the invention of Popeye the Sailor Man, and both manifestations were used as propaganda intended to coerce young children into eating their greens. (Aside from a direct cover by Tommy Dorsey's vocalist Edythe Wright, the only swing recording to fasten upon l'epinard as subject matter that comes to mind is Julia Lee's "I Didn't Like It the First Time," a hip reefer novelty that was carefully subtitled "The Spinach Song.") Shirley Temple's primary assignment during the Great Depression seems to have been to prevent economically induced suicides by emitting a steady stream of songs saturated in highly improbable mirth. Examples included here are "You Gotta S-M-I-L-E to be H-A-P-P-Y," "Come and Get Your Happiness," and the giddy "This Is a Happy Little Ditty," whereby the adults end up seeming much sillier than Shirley. This collection does include the title theme from Little Miss Broadway, but not the tune containing the film's philosophical credo: "Be Optimistic (Don't Be a Grumpy)," which is sung onscreen by Shirley and a harmonically balanced squad of little girls. During the first half of the '30s, with unemployment and homelessness threatening to undermine the nation's infrastructure, Tin Pan Alley songwriters became obsessed with the notion of happiness. The entire topic became so suspect that Eddie Cantor retaliated by recording a cynical rant bearing the title "Cheer Up-Ballyhoo (Nertz!)," a rather acerbic response to Shirley Temple's brimming boatload of "happy" tunes.

Biography

Genre: Classics

No other child star in the history of popular entertainment enjoyed so much fame and renown as Shirley Temple — by the tender age of six, she was already among the biggest celebrities in the world. Born April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, she began taking dance classes at three, which led to her discovery by Hollywood in 1932; initially, she was tapped for a new series of children's films called "Baby Burlesks," parodies of adult features of the era designed to capitalize on the massive...
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Animal Crackers, Shirley Temple
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