What comes to mind when you think of classic films? “Dracula”? Sappy romances? “The Wizard of Oz”, perhaps? A picture of a traditional-style family eating a home-cooked meal may come to mind when pondering the classics. However, not everything is as picture-perfect as the movies … Here is a list of some of the darkest parts of Old Hollywood.
***DISCLOSURE: Some of the facts in this list may be sensitive for readers. Please read at your own discretion.***
Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale, Wizard of Oz)
Many know the Wizard of Oz for its fun imagery, sing-along-songs, and sassy Cairn Terrier stealing the show. However there was a much more sinister narrative at play behind the scenes. Fox News shared the stories of abuse that took place on set, targeting Dorothy herself, Judy Garland. The news source reported that Garland’s former husband divulged in an unfinished memoir the sexual abuse she experienced from some of the ‘munchkin’ actors. Fox quoted the book, “They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress … The men were 40 or more years old.” Garland died 30 years after the movie’s 1939 release due to drug overdose, according to CBS News.
Shirley Temple (Exotic Dancer, War Babies)
The famous child sensation, Shirley Temple, may be known for her catchy “Animal Crackers in my Soup” song, but with childhood success comes a few complications. For example, Temple didn’t really get a say in what movies she did, as she started acting as a toddler! Along with this, the actor may have not understood the double-meaning behind the scenes she did. Time did a piece touching on the peculiar adult roles Temple, and other toddlers, played in a series of short films called “Baby Burlesks.” In one of the movies titled “War Babies,” Temple played a three-year-old exotic dancer. During one scene, the star was shown dancing around with one sleeve falling off her shoulder, while male toddler actors watched, wide-eyed. As an adult, Shirley Temple herself commented on the provocative film series saying they were, “a cynical exploitation of our childish innocence.”
Baby Burlesks (1932-1933, Short Film Series)
Shirley Temple’s “War Babies” wasn’t the only controversial mini-movie to come out of the Baby Burlesks series. Last year, a Youtuber who goes by ‘Cherie Jo’ did a video unfolding the series and its content. Jo shares that, in one film, there are “little kids sucking on a garden hose in a really strange, sexualized way.” In another, the Youtuber explains a scene in which Shirley Temple is “sitting on a guy’s lap and singing about how she wants to be his wife.” Toward the ending of the video, Jo mentions that the films were intended to be humorous, then adds her own two-cents in saying, “That’s not humorous, that’s perverted.”
Many of the points Cherie Jo made were pulled from the documentary “The Lolita Riddle.” The documentary focuses on the book “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. The documentary discusses the cynicism Nabokov had toward pedophilia in his book, taking delight in “mocking suspect scenes found in Shirley Temple films”.