Friday, September 02, 2005

Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple

There's no way around it. She's just not.

Spencer and I have this wonderful exchange of mix CDs. It's the best thing two people could do, I think. You give someone a CD and they get new music and a better look into who you are. Or something like that. Anyway, one of the songs on the "Enjoy or Destroy" mix was a by the unfortunately named band Father Bingo. I know little about Father Bingo other than that it's apparently the solo project of a Philadelphia-based artist named Mark Lebovitz. And that one of Father Bingo's better known songs is called "Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple."

So from that title alone, we get what Ginger Prince isn't. Surprisingly, the internet has very little to offer on who or what Ginger Prince actually was. And I'd really like to know.

These are the opening lines of "Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple."
Somehow they got it in their heads that she would be a star
I don't think they realized that cuteness only goes so far
Try as they might, Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple
There's actually no site on the internet that lists the song's complete lyrics, which may be because the words are frequently hard to pick out from the song's instrumentation. Regardless of what is being specifically said, the song is about Ginger Prince's failed stardom.

Some of you might actually recognize this girl from her IMDb page, which I accidentally linked to a few days ago. (I research these things days in advance, don't you know.) A Google search yields little on Prince's career. I found these three promotional posters, in which you can clearly see her non-Shirley Templesque face. From what I can tell, she made some movies and appeared on stage a bit.


That first poster seems to be for a picture called "The Prince of Peace." According to the IMDb trivia for this movie, which is apparently also called "The Lawton Story," all of the actors in it were native Oklahomans. Those with the thicker accents even had to have the dialogue redubbed. All I can tell is that it's a Christian-themed musical. That, and that there's a cast member named Maude Eburne playing "Henrietta," who I bet is the unattractive maid looking character in the poster. (Doesn't she just look like a Maude or a Henrietta?) So based off what I know about "The Prince of Peace," I have to wonder of perhaps Ginger Prince was some kind of Southern twist on the Shirley Temple model? (Like, maybe instead of dancing with Mr. Bojangles, she beat him.)

There's a database of exploitation films that surprisingly has an entry for "The Prince of Peace." It also provides a little more plot description, noting that the movie concerns one small town's production of a passion play and that the film served as a debut for Prince, whose moppet qualities were employed to net a wider audience — or, if you will, trick more people into seeing it. There's also a fairly large gallery of screen grabs from the film, in which you can see Ginger Prince mugging in all her spunky, puggish cuteness.

Someone calling herself Ginger Prince also has an entry at the IBDb, the Internet Broadway Database. This actress appeared in "Ain't Broadway Grand" and Gypsy," but she couldn't possibly be the same moppet from the forties, as the dates for these plays are in the late eighties and early nineties. (On a side note, I'd like to point at that the title for "Ain't Broadway Grand" omits the question mark. This is a wise choice, I think, in that it would discourage Broadway critics from reviewing such a shitty-sounding play simply by answering "no.")

Searching for information on Ginger Prince is further hampered by the fact that red-headed Paul Scholes, a midfielder for Manchester United, is known to his fans by the nickname "The Ginger Prince." (Macho, no?)

So while I have some idea who Ginger Prince is, I'm still left wondering whatever really became of her. Maybe nothing did. And maybe the lack of many mentions of her name online says all there needs to be said about what happened to her career. Or maybe there's a part of the story I'm missing. I wonder how Mike Lebovitz ever stumbled across her and why he decided she warranted a song about her. These are the things that bother me.

This is kids' stuff
.

EDIT: I may have answered one of my own questions. Apparently "The Prince of Peace" was produced by Kroger Babb, an early director of exploitation films who also cast Ginger Prince as the daughter of an alcoholic in "One Too Many." Babb's films were notoriously tawdry and was hounded by Christian groups. In response, Babb alleged he was making a film called "Father Bingo" that would serve as an expose on the secret underground of church basement gambling. The film never was realsed and Babb had no interest in making it, so it would seem it resulted only in becoming the name of a band sixty years later. And it would make sense that Lebovitz, while researching Kroger Babb would come across Ginger Prince.

10 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:11 AM

    Hi, this is Mike Lebovitz. I found your blog entry about my song and you pretty much found out everything there was to know about Ginger Prince. Here's the song's full lyrics:

    Somehow they got it in their heads that she would be a star. I don't think they realized that cuteness only goes so far. Try as they might, Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple. Try as they might, Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple.

    (All 42 inches of the Delinquent Angel can't measure up to America's Princess.)

    What's so hard to understand? We all know the Skid Row clan won't buy into that kind of fluff. This is kid stuff. This is kid stuff. This is kid stuff. This is kid stuff.

    You're wasting your time. You're wasting your time. You're wasting your time.

    They're both cute little girls. They're both in the movies. And that's about where the similarities end.

    Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple. Ginger Prince is not Shirley Temple.

    You're wasting your time. You're wasting your time.

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  2. Dan Davis11:22 AM

    You post is a year and a half old, but I'll add this comment anyway. I was surfing the net trying to find out more about Ginger Prince as well - she's my mother's first cousin. I had heard that she was a child actor in a few B-movies in the late 40's/early 50's, and was trying to find out more info.

    I've only met her once or twice over the years. That's mainly because she has been acting in New York all her life. (As a matter of fact, you'll find that she is indeed the same Ginger Prince who appeared in "Ain't Braodway Grand" and "Gypsy.").

    I don't know much more, but thought I'd add what I could.


    Dan Davis, Baton Rouge, LA ddavis@joneswalker.com

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  3. I know very well who Ginger Prince Hall is... I took ballet and other forms of dancing from her in the late 60's in Atlanta at Southern Ballet. One of my best Family friends grew up with her. She is very talented, and has a great personality. I wonder f she knows there is a song about her?

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  4. Karen: Good to hear she's alive and well. If you ever get a chance to speak with her, do tell her. It's an interesting song, though not entirely flattering. Not exactly insulting either.

    Dan: Thanks for this note too. And apologies for the delay between when you commented and my response.

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  5. Anonymous10:44 AM

    Hi Ginger Prince is my mother-in-law. I am married to one of her two daughters, whose maiden name was Jennifer Hall. Here's what I know. After being a child star Ginger married Bill Hall an Atlanta lawyer when she was 19 or 20 I think. They had two girls and were married 11 years or so. Ginger worked as a choreographer with the Atlanta ballet. When they divorced Ginger went back into show business. (Her wanting to go back into show business may well have been a major reason for the divorce.)She worked on and off broadway for years. Yes she is the same Ginger Prince who was in Gypsy as well as numberous other productions. She also was in the original off broadway production of Steel Magnolias, originating the dolly parton role I believe. She did a lot of dinner theater in Sarasota, Florida at a place called the Golden Apple, as well as summer stock. She also was an acting teacher for many years. And yes she always had a very big personality, everyone always liked her. She now is retired and lives in New Jersey.

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  6. Anonymous8:35 AM

    I met Ginger Prince when we both appeared in Dames at Sea starring Yvonne DeCarlo at the Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario. Ginger was Ruby in the show. The show was produced by Robert Turoff of Sarasota, Fla. and The Golden Apple Theatre. Ginger was deciding to leave her husband at the time and fell in love with her leading man in Dames--Ken Prescott. Ginger divorced her lawyer husband and married Ken. They lived in New Jersey with her two daughters for a time and then in NYC. By then I was working in casting and I brought Ginger in as the reader when auditions were held for Steel Magnolias at the WPA Theatre. She was allowed to audition at the end of the day and was cast as the understudy for M'Lynn and Truvy. The role of Truvy was originated by Margo Martindale. Margo was "out" the day the show was taped for the archive at Lincoln Center so one can see Ginger in the Dolly Parton role. Ginger was a gifted choreographer. We did many musicals together at Marymount Manhattan College--She Loves Me, Plain and Fancy, Speakeasy and Carousel among them. Ginger also taught a class called Musical Theatre Techniques. The last time I saw her was at dinner at Shun Lee Palace and an event at The York Theatre. She was having a difficult time and suffering from memory problems. She stopped by my home and spoke with my husband, then seemed to disappear. I had always assumed she went to live with her daughter in Atlanta. Thanks to this posting, I have been able to locate her whereabouts in New Jersey. She was a wonderful friend and talented lady.

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  7. Anonymous10:17 PM

    I idolized Ginger Prince as a little girl in Atlanta. Ginger's parents were good friends of our family and her mother, Gladys Brown, was very special to me. We all lived in Ansley Park in Atlanta. Ginger was a good friend to my older brother, GP Foote, and my older sister, Merrilee Foote Martin.

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  8. Anonymous4:13 PM

    I have been researching Ginger Prince because my great uncle was Lee Lasses White. He wrote the words and song "Down in Oklahoma" for Ginger Prince. I am doing research on Lasses White for my children and grandchildren and would love to chat with Ginger to see if she remembers anything about him. I do not know much about my relatives on my fathers side of the family. Cheryl

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  9. I wonder if anyone has a recording of Ginger Prince singing "Down in Oklahoma." I would very much like to hear it. And does anyone know if the film _The Lawton Story/The Prince of Peace_ still can be seen? (I believe it's two titles for the same film, released in 1949 as _The Lawton Story_ and in 1951 as _The Prince of Peace_.) On one website it said that the Ginger Prince story has been removed, that the only footage still around is of the Lawton Passion Play.

    If anyone can help me with these questions, please e-mail oklahomasong@gmail.com

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  10. Ginger is now in Lillian Booth Home for Actors in NJ. She has Alzheimer's and her daughters are with her now. Most wonderfully talented dancer and actress that I had the pleasure of knowing and working with in a few productions at the Golden Apple in Sarasota. I saw her play M'Lynn in STEEL MAGNOLIAS off B'way and she was wonderful! I worked with her and her daughters in THE SOUND OF MUSIC when they were young. I love her and have wonderful memories of my time with her. "We Ain't Dead Yet", Ginger!

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