Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Shirley Temple & Claude Gillingwater

As if to underscore for the movie-going public Shirley Temple’s talent for warming, indeed melting, the coldest of hearts, the 20th Century Fox Film studios teamed her in three feature-length films with everyone’s favorite old sourpuss, Claude Gillingwater:

Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)
Little Miss Broadway (1938)
Just Around the Corner (1938)

The tall, thin, dour-looking Mr. Gillingwater had been typecast early on in his movie career as a character enveloped in an austere, sometimes querulous, almost always cranky and unyielding persona. But it was no match for the little cherub. In his collaborations with Ms. Temple, he is invariably coaxed out of his crusty exterior and exposed as nothing more than the avuncular old softy little Shirley Temple knew he was all along.

Mr. Gillingwater was in his late 60s when, in 1936, he first shared the screen with Ms. Temple, then just beginning her adolescent years. Ms. Temple found him somewhat afflicted in the amount of activity his body could endure. His affliction was not entirely from age. He had suffered a severe back injury on the set of a movie he was making just weeks prior to commencing work with Ms. Temple. The pain from that injury, subsequently coupled in 1937 with the pain of losing his wife of nearly 32 years, gave Mr. Gillingwater ample motivation for playing quite well the old curmudgeon he portrayed. Despite his injury and personal loss, or his cranky disposition in front of the camera, behind the scenes, Ms. Temple found him to be a very sweet and gentle man.

The pain he was experiencing did take its toll. Claude Gillingwater took his own life in 1939, expressing in a note that he could bear the pain and debilitation he was increasingly suffering; he could not, however, bear the thought that his condition was becoming a burden on others.

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