On Shirley Temple, Bill Robinson, and Dancing

On February 22, 1935, The Little Colonel premiered, starring Shirley Temple, Lionel Barrymore and Bill Robinson. The iconic film features Temple and Robinson’s famous staircase tap dance; they became Hollywood’s first interracial dance couple. The film, based on a children’s novel,  focuses on the reconciliation of an estranged father and daughter in the years following the American Civil War.

Director Winfield Sheehan, unsure of Robinson’s ability as an actor, arranged for a contract that would be voided if he failed the dramatic test. Robinson passed the test and was brought in to both star with Temple and to teach her tap dancing. Temple and Robinson would appear in four films together.

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