Little Darlings [1980]

Shirley Temple's superstardom in the 1930s was associated with Twentieth Century Fox, but before Fox locked her down she made the two films for Paramount bundled here. It was 1934, her breakthrough year, and these pictures are not quite yet the showcase vehicles Fox would assemble for their pint-sized meal ticket. In Little Miss Marker, Shirley comes under the wing of Sorrowful Jones (Adolphe Menjou in good form), as Damon Runyon's world of bookies and gamblers and soft-hearted gangsters comes to life around her. It's a heartstring-tugger of an expert kind; Shirley's final line, delivered in an operating room, should have grown men weeping on their knees. Henry Hathaway's Now and Forever casts Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard as world-traveling con artists, suddenly forced to grow up when Coop decides to take charge of his daughter. The lure of diamonds and the easy life is never far away, but rely on Shirley to keep her Daddy on his toes. The dimpled Ms. Temple plays a distinctly supporting role in this one, and her singing and dancing is limited compared to the vehicles she would command within the year. Cooper is all charm, although Lombard is stuck in something of a nag role. Still, a solid enough studio picture of the era, and a logical launching pad for the greatest child star in film history. --Robert Horton

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