Little Miss Broadway (1938)
The Brian Sisters appeared in Little Miss Broadway with Shirley Temple.
Well, only two thirds of the Brian Sisters appeared, because Mrs Temple thought that little Gwen, with her youth and good looks, was too much competition for Shirley (Gwen was three months older than Shirley). In the end, when they heard that Gwen would be paid for not appearing, Betty and Doris agreed to do it.
They were not really happy about it, because Shirley's singing is not at all like Gwen's...
They sang the same song, Be Optimistic, twice in the film; once right at the start and again near the end.
In the first performance, right at the beginning of the film, Doris and Betty sing with Shirley on-stage at an orphanage performance with the orphans' orchestra. In this, they very successfully match Shirley's clipped phrases, but it is not at all in the Brian Sisters' normal style.
Here is the second performance of the song, which starts off with just Betty and Doris singing, without at first needing to match Shirley (who is tacet). Shirley joins in, but her voice is not a good match for the Brians. Gwen would have been very much better. Of course, they know this, and are not happy with it. Betty's expression just before the singing begins tells it all.
Shirley has a completely different, albeit delightful, style, more wavering, less tuneful and clipping the words short to avoid holding a note – Betty and Doris match her clipped words once she begins singing and it still sounds all right – Shirley has to hold a note and it is … rather unsteady.
But without Shirley there would have been no film. This film also provides a rare example of Doris and Betty 'just speaking'.
Doris remembers – “Betty and I had to sing with Shirley. She was a good actress and a great little dancer, but not much of a singer. At the recording session, Betty and I were singing as we usually did, but Shirley could not blend with us. The musical director cautioned us to '…sing it the way Shirley does'.” Which they did.
The audio of this performance plays during the DVD introductions; it is easily the most 'catchy' singing on the DVD. Betty and Doris are very good. As Doris said, Shirley was not much of a singer!
The colorized DVD of Little Miss Broadway is readily available