Shirley Temple (born April 23, 1928) began her film career at the age of three, and in 1934, found international fame in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her dancing and singing talents. She received a special Juvenile Academy Award in February 1935. Assisting her on her path to international stardom was Richmond performer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949).
Robinson was born in Richmond, Virginia, and began dancing for a living at five years of age, with his early career devoted to the African-American theatre circuit. It was not until he was 50 that he danced for white audiences, eventually appearing on Broadway.
Temple was the top box-office draw four years in a row (1935–38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll, and her image was strictly licensed and controlled by her parents and film studio. This Ideal doll was the official endorsed version though there were dozens of “look-alikes”. Her successful partnership with Bill Robinson in such films as The Little Colonel (1935) advanced both of their film careers while also breaking racial barriers – Robinson was the first African-American male to appear on film dancing with a Caucasian girl.