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One of Shirley Temple's later films, Adventure in Baltimore (1949) stars the former curly-haired moppet in a spirited comic performance as Dinah, a fiercely independent young woman who gets thrown out of her well-to-do girls school in 1905 for stirring up trouble with her controversial progressive ideas. When she is sent back to her parents in Baltimore, Dinah continues to cause problems, especially for her father (Robert Young), a clergyman whose aspiration to be named bishop is jeopardized by his daughter's free-thinking ways. Not only does Dinah shock the community when she paints a scandalous portrait of her boyfriend (John Agar), but she also becomes a vocal crusader for women's suffrage and equal rights, which throws the town into an uproar.
Having been the biggest child star in the world throughout the 1930s and 40s, Shirley Temple had made admirable efforts to transition into more age-appropriate roles as she grew up in films such as Since You Went Away (1944) and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947). Since 1944 Temple was under contract to famed film producer David O. Selznick after years of being a top level star for Twentieth Century-Fox. Selznick had been working to help Temple, now an attractive young woman, be accepted as an adult actress. Even though barely out of her teens, by the time Temple made Adventure in Baltimore she was already a married woman and a new mother to boot.
Also under contract to Selznick at the time was Temple's first husband, actor John Agar, which was no accident. The shrewd producer had previously featured the married couple in John Ford's Fort Apache (1948) starring John Wayne in an effort to capitalize on the public's interest in their off-screen relationship. For Adventure in Baltimore Agar was cast as Temple's boyfriend Tom. It was the second and final film that the couple made together before their divorce in 1950.
Filmed at RKO Studios, Adventure in Baltimore reunited Shirley Temple with director Richard Wallace. Wallace had also directed her in the hit 1945 comedy Kiss and Tell.
The film also marked the second time that Temple co-starred with Robert Young, who plays her father in Adventure in Baltimore. They had first worked together 13 years earlier on Stowaway (1936) in which he had played an adoptive father to her as a dimple-cheeked seven-year-old. Young found Temple all these years later to be "as confident and professional as she had been as a child."
According to Anne Edwards' 1988 biography Shirley Temple: American Princess, Temple had an enjoyable time on the production of Adventure in Baltimore. One crew member who worked on the film recalled, "Young and Shirley had a great rapport, and [Richard Wallace] played to it. Also, she was treated like a princess by both these men. I think she felt very comfortable."
Despite the film's warmth and Temple's winning performance, Adventure in Baltimore was a critical and box office disappointment. Shirley Temple would make only three more feature films in her career before retiring permanently from the silver screen.
by Andrea Passafiume