23 June 2012

Fame Begets Parody: Morelegs Sweetrick

Marlene Dietrich & Shirley Temple (1934?)
Ah! Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Temple photographed so perfectly together that they were like the mother-daughter duo who never was. Forget Heidede! Heidi's stolen the show. If you want to see the photo to your left in print, I can tell you with certainty that it gets an entire page to itself in the McGraw-Hill edition of Sheridan Morley's biography, Marlene Dietrich, with a caption about Temple's first onscreen kiss in her role as the questionably named Morelegs Sweetrick, "a parody of Dietrich and Morocco." Tres Toddlers & Tiaras! Indeed, Temple spoofed Dietrich under Charles Lamont's direction in a 1933 short called Kid 'n' Hollywood, but it wasn't a nod to Morocco.

As you'll see below, the soundtrack announces Sweetrick's debut as lazy, big-footed Freta Snobo's (ouch! a snarky jab at Greta Garbo!) replacement to the strains of The Blue Angel's "Falling in Love Again," yet Sweetrick's costume resembles Dietrich's "Hot Voodoo" get-up from the film Blonde Venus. With a glittering top, fluffy trim, and an arrow through her head, all that Sweetrick's missing is an oversize afro. At least she compensates with a colossal diaper pin! Rather than croon a Dietrich standard, Sweetrick hiccups "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye," a signature song of Annette Hanshawwhose relaxed delivery at least didn't stray too far from Dietrich's. 

Music aside, the plot also references Blonde Venus. On the movie set, Sweetrick rejects her suitor's sugary temptations in favor of her husband and child (or, as she says it, "chee-yild"), just as Helen leaves her paramour Nick to return to her hubby Ned and son Johnny. On top of that, Sweetrick's suitor--whose military garb may be the closest link to Morocco, although it doesn't resemble anything Legionnaire Tom Brown sports--is wearing a hat similar to Helen's in her dressing room scene encounter with Nick. Offstage at the end, Sweetrick bathes a baby alongside her husband, evoking the first family scene shared by Helen, Ned, and Johnny. Speaking of Sweetrick's spouse, named Frightwig von Stumblebum, Wikipedia editors declare him a parody of director Erich von Stroheim, but the actress-director romance leads me to suspect that there's a little Josef von Sternberg in the character as well.

Thoughts? Reactions?

EDIT: A photograph of Shirley Temple as Morelegs Sweetrick is available now at Ebay!


  1. Sur la photo, le sourire de Marlene est bien plus naturel que celui de Shirley... Cette petite fille fait très professionnelle. Trop ?
    Un petit monstre, comme la voyait Dalí ?

    1. Truth be told, I find young Maria's constipated angst far more refreshing than Shirley's perkiness, but I've seen American girls look far more fake than Miss Temple. I hope you don't have anything like this in France, which even Dali couldn't have imagined!

  2. Oh dear God, I clicked on it and jumped more than when I first saw 'Alien'. I always thought Temple's singing and dancing rather ordinary. I wonder what she would have thought about shows like 'Toddlers and Tiaras'. Joseph didn't Louise Brooks once refer to her as a 'tough little slut'?

    1. Unless your name was Jack Daniel or Jim Beam, I doubt Louise Brooks had anything nice to say about you. And I love it. Because you brought that wickedly amusing quote to my attention, I'd like to share an image I found related to it. Generally, I'm no fan of precocious child stars, and if I saw a man buying a Shirley Temple DVD anywhere, my first thought would be to get a peek of his name on his credit card and search it on the Megan's Law database.