Graham Greene, Errol and Underaged Girls

22 Feb

To answer your question, GT, Michael Korda, who was Graham Greene’s friend and editor says that Greene and Errol did meet in Havana, for drinks at the Hotel Inglaterra.

They would have had much to discuss aside from politics. Greene knew a great deal about Hollywood films. Moreover, both their careers were nearly destroyed by infamous encounters with underaged girls.

In Greene’s case, however, his actions were quite calm and premediated and he was fully aware that the girl in question was nine years old.

From 1935 to 1940, Greene worked as the film critic for The Spectator magazine, one of the publications for which I write. In total, he reviewed 400 films, including two of Errol’s, (the notices of which I am trying to find in the archives.)

In 1937, in the supplement, Night And Day, Greene chose to review ‘Wee Willie Winkie’, the new Shirley Temple vehicle. I reproduce the article below. Please bear in mind that Greene was a humourist with a penchant for irony.


Night And Day, October 28th, 1937

‘Wee Willie Winkie’ (20th Century Fox)

by Graham Greene

‘The owners of a child star are like leaseholders – their property diminishes in value every year. Time’s chariot is at their backs: before them acres of anonymity. What is Jackie Coogan now but a matrimonial squabble? Miss Shirley Temple’s case, though, has peculiar interest. Infancy with her is a disguise. Her appeal is more secret and more adult. Already, two years ago, Miss Temple was a fancy little piece. In ‘Captain January’, she wore trousers with the mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich.

Now, in ‘Wee Willie Winkie’, wearing short kilts, she is a complete totsy. Watch her swaggering stride across the Indian barrack-square; hear the gasp of excited expectation from her antique audience when the sergeant’s palm is raised; watch the way she measures a man with agile, studio eyes, with dimpled depravity.

It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers – middle aged men and clergymen – respond to her dubious coquetry, her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire. ”Why are you making my Mummy cry?” – what could be purer than that? And the scene when dressed in a white nightdress she begs grandpa to take Mummy to a dance – what could be more virginal? On those lines in her new picture, made by John Ford, is horrifyingly competent. ‘



In those days, film critics did not write articles accusing studios and child stars of catering to paedophilia. The bien pensants failed to see the funny side and created an uproar. Fox sued, and, as a result, night descended on Night And Day and, for a few months, Greene’s career as a critic.

Greene was not a very nice man – well, let’s be fair, he was a bit of a shit at times, but after ‘Wee Willie Winkie’, one can forgive him everything. Besides, in all seriousity, he may have had a point. (Just being ironic again, of course. Gosh, Americans, though I love you all, can be so damn literal.)


— PW


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  1. rswilltell

    February 23, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    PW; I read Graham Greene’s visionary 1955 novel “The Quiet American” about battle for French Indo-China after WW2. The book was turned into an outstanding 1958 film with the same title was directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starred Michael Redgrave and Audie Murphy. The 2002 remake was a misfire. However the Greene who wrote the film review of “Wee Winnie Winkle” is disturbed. Ralph Schiller

    • PW

      February 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      No, he wasn’t disturbed when he wrote the article. He was writing in the ironic tradition of great English humourists.

      • rswilltell

        February 23, 2017 at 5:27 pm

        There was nothing humorous about it. In fact if he was around today he would be a prime suspect in the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder case! Ralph Schiller

        • PW

          February 24, 2017 at 7:46 pm

          I think that a little harsh, but perhaps we might compromise – for the sake of Anglo-American relations – and say that this was not his finest attempt at humour.

          • PW

            February 24, 2017 at 8:21 pm

            Actually, I never looked closely at Greene’s private life until now. I recall that he only became a Catholic in order to marry a Catholic girl, who wouldn’t go to bed with him; that he left her and their children for a string of mistresses; that he was an alcoholic and opium addict and that he allegedly seduced a teenage boy. He was also anti-Semitic and anti-American. For more, see this article.


            • Gentleman Tim

              February 25, 2017 at 5:52 am

              Well, at least there’s no evidence (yet) of him having tortured any panda bears or baby seals.

          • Gentleman Tim

            February 25, 2017 at 6:17 am

            Colonies calling, PW. Are we to read Greene’s review literally? Or Briterally?

            • PW

              February 25, 2017 at 8:01 pm

              Receiving you, Colonies. It must be tea time over there – please remember it is meant to be brewed in fresh water. The Greene article is mostly irony – the one that doesn’t press your clothes. But it is also didactic, in the Greek sense. I believe Greene did think that a dirty old man or four fancied Temple. But he did not expect the furore that followed and professed to be astonished when Fox sued, calling Temple ‘that little bitch.’ However, he should have known better than to expect Hollywood to roar with appreciative laughter. Those who practice perversion always protest the loudest. Going through stills released by Fox of their child star, I am beginning to wonder if the studio, or a studio executive, wasn’t subliminally peddling the unsavoury. I do think the still of Shirley with a riding crop, straddling a man on all fours who is wearing a harness, is more that a bit suggestive as well as inappropriate. Whoever approved that photograph – and indeed took it – needed their paedophilia examining.

              • Gentleman Tim

                February 26, 2017 at 1:29 am

                From the French Quarter, in New Orleans, site of the Battle of the Battle of New Orleans in 1812, and where police cars say NO PD on each side in 2017:

                Heavens to PW, PW. Just when we wonderful (but sometimes very revolting) former colonists over here were almost all set to forgive you wonderful (but sometimes very taxing) former imperialists over there for burning down Dolly & Jim’s White House, you have to go and taunt us to throw some tea in the water. Well, since you insist … here we go again – Tea Time!



  2. Gentleman Tim

    February 24, 2017 at 12:43 am

    Here is another, this one being from the extremely distinguished information source Petronella so very generously and impresssively brought in for all of us:…


  3. Gentleman Tim

    February 24, 2017 at 1:30 am

    Graham says he saw what he says he saw.
    … But I’m not so sure.

    Still, what he told us may be true.
    Even if, what can we do?

    I’m not sure. It isn’t plain. Shirley, I’ll have to watch again.

  4. Gentleman Tim

    February 24, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Next thing you know they’ll be adding to her child porn filmography Higham-like allegations of her having been a Nazi spy, and a throat slashing murderer.


  5. Gentleman Tim

    February 24, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Abusers abound in Hollywood and Shirley it does appear was one of its youngest and most prominent victims. There’s no tap dancing around that fact. Nevertheless, despite creeps like Arthur Freed and others who violated Temple, her remarkable talents and good-heartedness triumphed and gave so much innocent joy to the vast majority of us not cursed by or supportive of pedophilia.

    As for all of us, survival requires “clearing away the cobwebs and sorrow”. I believe Shirley excelled at doing so and inspired all of us to do so also, which explains her phenomenal, ever-enduring popularity.

    Here’s a fascinating but very troubling account of the connection between Hollywood’s exploitation of her and Nobokov’s Lolita:

    • PW

      February 26, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Yes, there you were in 1812, fighting and frustrating, as we tried to defend the world against a tyrant on the Continent. Plus ca change… you really do make some odd calls at times. Back to Shirley, some scenes in her films are definitely inappropriate – and I speak as someone who is always being politically corrected. I don’t like to see pre-pubescent girls being as tactile with grown men as she was forced to be. For that reason, I prefer the young Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, who were stars because of their exceptional vocal talents and presented in a much more wholesome manner. Shirley must have possessed almost superhuman strength of character as well as an affable and sunny nature. Most of us would not have survived what Hollywood put her through, let alone go on to lead a normal life – if you can call a career in politics normal.

      • Gentleman Tim

        February 27, 2017 at 12:03 am

        Excellent point, Petronella. You Brits were quite right to help oppose Napolean’s conquest of the Ibernian Peninsula. Good work! Less impressive, however, was your impressing American sailors to serve in your wars – including against us, the US! Next thing we know, you’ll be claiming Tommy and Jimmy were Francophiles!!

        Regarding Shirley, there’s very good evidence and argument that she was a superior entertainer to both Judy and Deanna. That’s all a matter of taste, but certainly she should not be out of hand dismissed. For one thing, she could dance circles around both Dorothy and Deanna, not to mention her absolutely phenomenal ability to efficiently recall and effectively deliver her lines, wth tremendous box office success which had little or nothing to do with peddling to pedophiles. Of course, she did have an Ultra advantage, with the Illuminati, Hoover, Kissinger, and the CIA all behind her!…

        Plus she made the cover of Sgt. Pepper in three places, more than the Mop Tops themselves, PW … Now, how does one top that!


  6. Gentleman Tim

    March 5, 2017 at 9:20 am

    All Quiet on the Eastrern Front: Shirley in Palm Springs with apparently one of the only people in Hollywood who wasn’t trying to pet her, her Pekingnese pup, Ching.

    Little Shirley dressing a bit like the usually catty Tiger’ Lil, seen here with whom she desperately wanted as her cash cow and pet.