Kate Livingstone: At least I was a wee star in my mum’s eyes

Kate Livingstone
Kate Livingstone

When I was wee my mother would always tell me to “sparkle” whenever I left for school in the morning. She claims it was to inspire me to do my best in class and ensure that I always took pride in my appearance.

I was never quite the star pupil during my years in education but her kind words always ensured I left the house with a smile on my face - which lasted until I walked round the corner and was confronted with the grim facade of my primary school, where we seemed to practice handwriting and multiplication tables and little else.

Imagine my surprise then when I discovered this week that another mother used to say the same thing to her daughter - except in rather more glamorous surroundings.

Shirley Temple was no longer appearing in films by the time I was born, but her celebrity was still large enough for me to understand how big a star she was to my parents’ generation.

I loved her in the few films of hers that were still being shown on TV when I was growing up, like ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘The Little Colonel’.

She died at the age of 85 on Monday and was rightly hailed as the world’s most popular child star.

Reading her obituary, I discovered that her mother Gertrude always said ‘Sparkle, Shirley’ before every take.

Gertrude was reportedly the archetypal showbiz mum. She dictated when Shirley slept, what she ate and negotiated every film she appeared in.

That’s where the similarities between me and Shirley end, however.

I was feeling a bit under the weather last week, but I know you’re not interested hearing about that.

By contrast, in October 1936, the world gasped as a bulletin flashed over the Reuters wire: “Shirley Temple has been sent to bed with a slight fever resulting from a cold.”

She really was a superstar.

But, although I might not be a screen siren, I still count myself lucky that I have a mother who always told me to believe in myself every day.

Me and Shirley had that in common, at least.