Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story

Completely edgeless, ABC's "Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story" steers clear of investigative bio techniques and focuses instead on pie-eyed wonder, cutesy outfits and aren't-I-sweet numbers. Auds expecting a sweeps expose on the biggest draw of her era will be reminded via overbearing sentimentality that this is a Disney presentation all the way.

Shirley Temple - Ashley Rose Orr Teen Shirley Temple - Emily Anne Hart Gertrude Temple - Connie Britton George Temple - Colin Friels Bill Robinson - Hinton Battle

Completely edgeless, ABC’s “Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story” steers clear of investigative bio techniques and focuses instead on pie-eyed wonder, cutesy outfits and aren’t-I-sweet numbers. As the main attraction, Ashley Rose Orr isn’t quite precious enough as America’s original sweetheart, trying way too hard to ape the thesp’s endearing cadences. Beyond that, auds expecting a sweeps expose on the biggest draw of her era will be reminded via overbearing sentimentality that this is a “Wonderful World of Disney” presentation all the way.

Project was produced by “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” topliner Melissa Joan Hart and her mother (sister Emily Anne co-stars), and the production techniques are the telepic’s finest asset. Re-creations of classic Temple clips, from “Old Straw Hat” to “The Good Ship Lollipop,” are well executed by director Nadia Tass, lenser David Parker and production designer Jon Dowding.

But the story — Joe Wiesenfeld adapted Shirley Temple Black’s autobiography — is non-existent: While it briefly mentions her father’s financial improprieties and the Depression-era studio system, there are few reasons to tune in if it’s dirt you seek or even a snapshot of 1930s mindsets. “Child Star” simply reiterates nonstop that Temple, who served as the consultant, was the ultimate angel.

Episodic plot centers only on Temple’s box office bonanza years — 3-years-old through her early teens — until her value dries up. For the most part, Tass and Wiesenfeld lead viewers on a “best of” voyage, highlighting elements that make her look perfect.

Most interesting “inside” moment comes when MGM’s Louis B. Mayer (John O’May) wanted to “trade” Clark Gable and Jean Harlow to Darryl Zanuck (Steven Vidler) for Temple, but Harlow’s death nullified the deal, which would have led to Temple’s starring in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Telepic also briefly brings up racism, attempting to show just how odd it was for a young white girl to appear in a mainstream feature with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (Hinton Battle) in “The Little Colonel.” While Battle shines — their staircase dance is first rate — the issues brought up feel unresolved and unimportant. It’s unfortunate his role wasn’t expanded to highlight themes that are certainly significant but utterly whitewashed here.

Considering the timeslot (7 p.m.) and the Disney umbrella, “Child Star” is exactly what fans would expect: family-friendly and harmless; it’s the meat that’s missing. While Rose, who has tackled Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun,” has the moves down — her dancing style is fluid and mature — there really is no physical resemblance to Temple at all.

Britton is simple and loving as a devoted mom (though given little to do but attend countless auditions), and Friels is solid as the doting dad bathing in riches. Most notable among the supporting players, however, is Battle, who lights up the screen with genuine excitement.

Tech credits are a mixed bag: The studio lot atmosphere isn’t thoroughly convincing (Australia doubles as Hollywood), but the costumes are tops. Temple’s most popular pics — “Little Miss Marker,” “Baby Takes a Bow,” “Now and Forever” among them — are all marqueed at some point throughout.

Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story

ABC; Sun. May 13; 7 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Australia by Hartbreak Films and Walt Disney Television. Executive producers, Paula Hart, Melissa Joan Hart; producer, Iain Paterson; director, Nadia Tass; writer, Joe Wiesenfeld, based on the book "Child Star" by Shirley Temple Black.

Crew: Camera, David Parker; production designer, Jon Dowding; editor, Maryann Brandon; music, Bill Elliott; choreographer, Hinton Battle; casting, Donna Rosenstein. 120 MIN.

Cast: Shirley Temple - Ashley Rose Orr Teen Shirley Temple - Emily Anne Hart Gertrude Temple - Connie Britton George Temple - Colin Friels Bill Robinson - Hinton BattleWith: John Diedrich, Jerome Ehlers, Ken Radley, Lucy Taylor, Steven Vidler, John O'May.

More TV

  • Mary Higgins Clark

    Reel One, Element 8 and La Sabotière to Develop Mary Higgins Clark's Crime Novels

    Montreal-based producer and distributor Reel One Entertainment has partnered with U.S. producer Element 8 Entertainment and Paris-based La Sabotière to develop an anthology series based on the novels of American crime writer Mary Higgins Clark. U.S. screenwriter and author Ilene Rosenzweig, whose credits include “Station 19” and “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” is attached as writer [...]

  • Informer

    Mipcom Roundup: All3Media and Blue Ant Sell in Asia, Lagardère Buys in Spain

    In Variety’s third Mipcom Roundup Alibaba’s streaming platform Youku gets BBC programs, Lagardère buys full ownership of Barcelona’s Veranda, Banijay rolls out Guinness World Records series, Blue Ant International sells and renews and All3Media Intl. extends into Japan and Taiwan. All3Media Strikes Deals in Japan, Taiwan All3Media has grown its footprint in Asia thanks to newly announced [...]

  • Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs

    Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs Talk European Expansion

    If there’s a perfect example of Amazon Studios’ strategy with its local-language international TV content, Japan’s “Documental” would be it. The series revolves around 10 comedians who battle to make one another laugh in an elimination-style competition. James Farrell, Amazon Studios’ head of international originals, said it was a good example of an unconventional idea [...]

  • vernon-subutex

    Studiocanal Closes North America SVOD on ‘Vernon Subutex’ with Topic (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES —  Forging what could well be a fertile relationship, Studiocanal has sold North American SVOD rights on Canal Plus Creation Original “Vernon Subutex,” and “Pros and Cons,” from Denmark’s SAM Productions, to First Look Media’s Topic. Targeting “culture cravers,” “an audience deeply involved in social, political and cultural issues of today,” general manger Ryan [...]

  • Spin the Wheel

    Endeavor Content, TF1 to Co-Produce 'Spin the Wheel's French Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Endeavor Content has closed a co-production deal for Glassman Media’s hit gameshow “Spin the Wheel” with France’s leading commercial network, TF1. The deal marks the first major international primetime commission for the show. Production is set to start in early 2020 and TF1 will air it on primetime. Glassman Media will be building an international [...]

  • Lourdes-Diaz

    AGC TV and Gretchen Goldsmith Launch New Music Reality Format, ‘The Fandom’

    A new kind of reality TV format is hitting Mipcom. AGC Television, the TV production and distribution unit of Stuart Ford’s indie content studio, AGC Studios, has joined forces with Emmy-winning executive producer Gretchen Goldsmith to produce a new hybrid format called “The Fandom.” This is the first music/reality show from AGC TV, which has [...]

  • Discovery, ProSiebenSat.1 Streamer Joyn Will Launch

    Discovery and ProSiebenSat.1's Joint Streamer, Joyn, Will Get International Launch

    Joyn, the streaming service run jointly by Discovery and German media giant ProSiebenSat.1, will roll out internationally in addition to launching a premium tier domestically later this year. At Mipcom in Cannes, ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Max Conze was asked whether the service, which offers on-demand content and linear channel feeds, would launch beyond Germany. “We definitely [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content