Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Miguel Covarrubias: Miss Shirley Temple Signs a New Contract

Child star Shirley Temple's parents negotiated a new movie contract for her in 1934.

After the success of her first three movies, Shirley's parents realized that their daughter was not being paid enough money. Her image also began to appear on numerous commercial products without her legal authorization, and without compensation. To get control over the corporate unlicensed use of her image and to negotiate with Fox, Temple's parents hired lawyer Loyd Wright to represent them. On July 18, 1934, the contractual salary was raised to $1,000 a week and her mother's salary was raised to $250 a week, with an additional $15,000 bonus for each movie finished. Temple's original contract for $150 per week is equivalent to $2,750 in 2015, adjusted for inflation. However, the economic value of $150 during the Great Depression was equal to $18,500. The subsequent salary increase to $1,000 weekly had the economic value of $123,000 and the bonus of $15,000 per movie (equal to $275,000 in 2015) was equivalent to a staggering $1.85 million in a decade when a quarter could buy a meal.[note 2] Cease and desist letters were sent out to many companies and the process was begun for awarding corporate licenses.
—Wikipedia entry on Shirley Temple

Retrieved January 6, 2017

Shirley Temple's new contract was big news in the world of entertainment. Vanity Fair covered the July signing in its November 1934 issue with a full-page color illustration by Miguel Covarrubias. The child star, age six, is rendered as happy and incredibly adorable, while the Hollywood studio executives who crowd around her are depicted as greedy and mercenary. All are smiling, but in Shirley it is owing to her cheerful disposition and with the executives,it is all about their avarice. Furthermore, Covarrubias goes out of his way to include a signet ring with a Star of David on the hand plying Miss Temple with an oversized piece of candy, a detail which demonstrates that at least one of the studio bosses is Jewish, reinforcing a stereotype about Hollywood power and money that persists to this day. The original artwork was sold at Christie's New York in 2014 for $15,000.



Miguel Covarrubias
Original art
Miss Shirley Temple signs a new contract
Vanity Fair, November 1934, page 33


Miguel Covarrubias
Christie's Sale 2853, Lot 100, May 28, 2014

Miguel Covarrubias
Original art
Miss Shirley Temple signs a new contract
Vanity Fair, November 1934, page 33



Here's how the illustration looked when published in Vanity Fair:
Miguel Covarrubias
Miss Shirley Temple signs a new contract
Vanity Fair, November 1934, page 33
https://photos.vanityfair.com/2014/11/08/545e2e3daa2a6274565a143b_image.jpg

Oddly, Covarrubias soon after published a nearly identical image of Shirley Temple—from her facial expression, the angle at which she tilts her head, the bows on her outfit, right down even to the placement of her individual locks of hair—also in Vanity Fair. It appeared as part of the Impossible Interviews series. Perhaps this similar appearance is owing to the illustrator having the pressure of a deadline or perhaps Covarrubias created them at the same time as alternative illustrations believing only one would be published. Frances Perkins was the Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the "interview," she voices her strong commitment to protecting Shirley with the child labor laws until she learns that Miss Temple is making $1,250 a week. The text refers to the Academy Award Miss Temple, still six, received in 1935, almost certainly dating the publication to that year.
Miguel Covarrubias
Impossible Interview:  Frances Perkins vs. Shirley Temple
Vanity Fair, circa 1935, page 33




Finally, Covarrubias also provided the cover illustration for the November 1934 Vanity Fair in which the contract-signing illustration appeared. Here President Franklin D. Roosevelt serves up the National Recovery Administration's Blue Eagle symbol for Thanksgiving in place of the traditional turkey. That just seems wrong.
Miguel Covarrubias
Vanity Fair, November 1934


Note:  Can anyone tell me in which issue of Vanity Fair the Impossible Interview illustration appeared?

Just a reminder:  Attempted Bloggery is always looking for scans or photographs of original works of art by the great Miguel Covarrubias.


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