The adorable and iconic Shirley Temple was born in 1928. The young girl helped America escape the Great Depression that followed a year after her birth. Her smile and innocence represented hope for a country that needed it more than ever. Temple had talent and dimples that charmed the world, but growing up in Hollywood came with its own set of challenges. Former child stars have a stereotype of going off the rails, but that didn’t happen to America’s sweetheart.
Temple was a little girl with a huge personality. She had a special gift that not many children possess. She was 21st Century Fox’s biggest moneymaker and even saved the studio from going bankrupt. But like all child-stars, Temple grew up. She left the spotlight to pursue a more political career. From the famous beverage named after her to why she didn’t star in The Wizard of Oz, this is how Shirley Temple became America’s little darling.
Classmates with Judy Garland
On April 23, 1928, Shirley Temple was welcomed into the world. From an extremely young age, she was headed toward stardom. Gertrude, Temple’s mom, enrolled her daughter in Meglin’s Dance Academy when she was just two. Another “Meglin Kiddie” who attended the performance academy was future starlet Judy Garland.
By age three, Temple was already auditioning. She tried out for a movie called Our Gang, but she was rejected. When she tried out again, she actually got the role; however, her mom turned it down because the movie wouldn’t give young Shirley a big enough paycheck. Nobody realized that this little girl was destined to be a huge star.
Who Approved This?!
Temple landed her first movie role in 1932’s Baby Burlesk. She was featured as a lingerie-clad “burlesque dancer.” The three-year-old was required to flirt with toddler-aged boys dressed as soldiers. Apparently, the movie was supposed to be a parody of a more adult film. It still sounds pretty messed up if you ask me.
After various minor roles, the young star finally got her major big break in 1934, when she signed a deal with Fox Studios. Six-year-old Temple was making $150 a week (almost $3,000 today), but she had to buy her own tap shoes (which seems like a sweet deal). After the success of her first three films, her paycheck shot up to $1000 a week!
In 1935, Temple was the headline star for the very first time in a film called Bright Eyes. This was the movie where the curly-haired cutie performed “On the Good Ship Lollypop,” her signature song. What most people don’t know is the ship from the title is actually an airplane.
Temple was a huge star and treated like one. Temple got her own bungalow on the Fox Studios lot. The house had four bedrooms, a garden, a picket fence, pens for her rabbits, and a wall-sized mural of Temple as a fairy princess. Wow! It sounds like she was living her best life, and she was barely seven years old.
Shirley Temple Merch
During this time, Temple’s favorite film was John Ford’s Wee Willie Winkie. The actress had kind of a cold relationship with Ford, but they later worked together in Fort Apache, and she grew close to the director. Temple even made him the godfather of her first daughter, Susan.
By the end of 1935, the adorable star was America’s sweetheart. At that point, she was making more from endorsements than from films. She was featured in advertisements for General Electric, Quaker Oats, and Packard Motors (which is odd for a six-year-old). On top of all that, Shirley Temple also had her own line of talking dolls! She was clearly on the road to a successful career.
Working with Uncle Billy
Shirley Temple was a huge fan of dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and she got to work with him in 1935’s The Little Colonel; they went on to work on four films together. The actress would call him “Uncle Billy,” while he gave her the nickname “Darlin’.” In 1936, the starlet did a hula dance for the movie Captain January, but the scene was cut because test audiences thought it was “immoral.”
Curly Top couldn’t be a more innocent film. However, it was banned from a bunch of European countries, including Denmark and Italy. The reason? Apparently, her portrayal of the energetic Elizabeth wasn’t a good influence on children. It was a huge hit in China, though!
Shirley Temple received an honorary Academy Award for her contributions to film in 1935. The six-year-old was the youngest person ever to earn an Oscar. The ceremony planners of the Academy Awards that year left Temple’s award to the end of the night; in her speech, the adorable star asked her mom if they could go home now because she was very tired.
Earlier that evening, Temple gave the Best Actress award to Claudette Colbert for It Happened One Night, making her the youngest person to present an Oscar award. Despite her busy schedule as the cutest kid in Hollywood, Temple also managed to climb the ranks of the Girl Scouts.
Her Iconic Curls
Shirley Temple is known for her many talents, but she was easily distinguished by her adorable trademark curls. This was the ‘30s, so even celebrities didn’t have a hair and makeup team on hand. Her mother styled Shirley’s iconic curls and pinned them back for her every night before bed. Temple had exactly 56 curls… in case you were wondering.
Each week, Temple’s mother earned a $250 paycheck for being her daughter’s official hairstylist. It only makes sense. Shirley Temple was a massive star, and that came with a huge salary. She made more money than the president. Needless to say, the person designing those perfect ringlets deserved some compensation.
The Struggle Is Real
Believe it or not, Shirley Temple hated her signature hairstyle; she wanted her hair to look more like her role model, Amelia Earhart. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited the young star to go swimming, but Temple had to decline because, as we know, water will flatten out those perfect ringlets.
As you might have guessed, Temple’s flawless curls weren’t natural. Back then, hair irons and curlers didn’t exist, so Temple curled her hair the old fashioned way, using hair rollers. As we mentioned, there were always precisely 56 curls, no more, and no less. Every Sunday, her mom would rinse out her hair with vinegar while reading her The Wizard of Oz.
English novelist Graham Greene wrote some pretty disturbing things while reviewing Temple’s 1937 film Wee Willie Winkie: “[Temple’s] admirers, middle-aged men and clergymen, respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and desire.”
This is obviously enough to make anyone with a conscience feel uncomfortable. I mean, this is an innocent little girl he’s talking about. The fact that he said “desirable little body” while referring to a nine-year-old girl is beyond disturbing. The underaged starlet successfully sued for libel, and Greene ran away to Mexico to avoid criminal charges.
“So Long as We Have Shirley Temple, We’ll Be All Right.”
Martin Dries, a member of the congressional House Un-American Activities Committee accused America’s sweetheart of being an agent of the Communist Party. The backlash ultimately ended Dries’ political career. He should have thought twice before accusing the most loveable child in the country of being a spy.
Dries was personally ordered to apologize to Temple by President Franklin Roosevelt. His claims were completely false. While referring to the Great Depression, President Roosevelt once said, “So long as we have Shirley Temple, we’ll be all right.” In her adult life, Temple spent a lot of her time campaigning for right-wing causes and accepting official roles in the Nixon Administration.
The Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple wanted to hang out with the big kids in Hollywood. The Brown Derby, an iconic celebrity hangout, invented a non-alcoholic drink to serve the child star. The Shirley Temple has since become a staple when it comes to virgin cocktails. The drink is made with lemon-lime soda, a maraschino cherry, and grenadine. The young star wasn’t a big fan, though; she thought it was way too sweet.
Even though she didn’t like the drink so much, she appreciated it and fought to protect her association with it. In the 1980s, a company tried to market a beverage by calling it “Shirley T. Sparkling Soda.” Since they used her name for promotion without her permission, Temple sued.
All Grown Up
National Velvet is the 1941 movie that made Elizabeth Taylor a huge star. Shirley Temple was offered the role but turned it down. Her mother thought that the pay wasn’t high enough for her daughter. But, in 1945, Temple showed the world she was not a little girl anymore when she got married.
The 17-year-old Temple married Air Corps sergeant John Agar. One of the main qualities that attracted Temple to Agar was that he was not in show biz. However, after they got together, he wanted to pursue acting, and it caused a strain on their marriage. Before divorcing in 1950, the pair starred in two movies together: Fort Apache and Adventure in Baltimore.
Her Happy Ending
After divorcing her first husband John Agar in 1950, Temple walked down the aisle once again. This time, it was with Charles Alden Black. The pair tied the knot after only two weeks of dating. Shockingly, Black admitted that he had never seen any of his wife’s movies. But that’s one of the things Temple loved about him. He saw her as a person, not as a star.
The pair stayed together until he died in 2005. Their beautiful romance lasted over half a century; the star officially went by Shirley Temple Black until she passed away in 2014. In addition to Shirley’s daughter Susan from her first marriage, she had two more kids with Black.
Shirley Temple appeared on the small screen from 1958-1961. The child movie star was all grown up and hosted her own TV show, Shirley Temple’s Storybook. The series targeted young kids and featured actors who would perform children’s stories and fairy tales. Temple even brought her own three children on the show.
Other notable guest stars included Pernell Roberts and Agnes Morehead. Shirley Temple wanted the Storybook set to be a child-friendly environment at all times. Once, a stagehand let a curse word slip on set, and Temple was less than impressed. Even though there were no children in the room at the time, Temple immediately fired him.
On-Screen Kiss Scandal
Growing up in the spotlight isn’t as glamorous as it seems. When the entire world watches a cute child evolve into an adult, they get to see the awkward ages in between. When she was about 12, Temple starred alongside Dickie Moore in the 1942 film, Miss Annie Rooney. Audiences saw Moore kiss Temple; it caused quite a stir.
It was the first time audiences saw America’s sweetheart in a romantic setting. In the public’s mind, Temple was a cheerful 6-year-old dancing on TV with those signature curls. That’s why her innocent kiss with her co-star was considered scandalous. It should be noted that this wasn’t even a real kiss. Moore just gave Temple a smooch on the cheek.
After a series of box office misses, Temple retired from acting. Despite no longer being a huge movie star, Temple had her last on-screen role in 1963, when she appeared on the sketch comedy program The Red Skelton Hour. In 1963, Temple wanted the Republican nomination for California’s 11th congressional district.
She embarked on a brand new career path. America’s little princess was now an adult with her own opinions and beliefs. At the time, many young folks were protesting the Vietnam War, and Temple ran on a pro-war platform. She wanted the United States to send more soldiers to Southeast Asia. She ultimately lost the election.
Her Next Adventure
Paul McCloskey beat Temple in the Republican primary. The following day, headlines read “McCloskey Torpedoes the Good Ship Lollipop.” Despite her failed congressional bid, her political career didn’t end there. In fact, President Richard Nixon appointed Temple to several positions.
He chose her as the delegate to the UN, Chief of Protocol for the State Department, Special Assistant to the Chairman of the President’s Council on the Environment, and Ambassador to Ghana as well as Czechoslovakia. Not bad for a former child star. For someone who grew up in the spotlight, Temple really proved she has more to offer than just her dimples.
Temple starred in That Hagen Girl alongside fellow Republican and future president Ronald Regan. The starlet considered that role to be her best work, but that wasn’t a very popular opinion. Film historians Harry Medved and Randy Lowell referred to That Hagen Girl as one of the top 50 worst movies of all time. Temple later admitted that “no one remembers [That Hagen Girl], but it allowed me to act.”
However, life as a child star wasn’t always rainbows and lollipops. When she got into trouble, her punishment was to stand in a cold puddle. If she still misbehaved, Temple was forced to go into a dark room and sit on a block of ice. Time out seems a little more reasonable. She later explained, “So far as I can tell, the black box did no lasting damage to my psyche.”
Almost Over the Rainbow
During her heyday, Temple was considered for the role of Dorothy in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. There are various reasons why it didn’t work out, and some are more disturbing than others. For one, she was under contract with Fox, and the movie was produced by MGM. Apparently, there were negotiations between Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that involved a brief trade-off.
Fox would temporarily give Shirley Temple to MGM in exchange for Clark Gable and Jean Harlow- their two biggest stars. However, after Harlow’s sudden death, the deal was called off. Apparently, Harlow suffered from kidney failure, which was directly linked to the hair dye she was using.
Apparently, producers also felt that Temple’s singing voice wasn’t good enough, so they turned to one of their contracted actresses, Judy Garland. However, Temple gave another account for why she didn’t get the role. This reason was way darker: Reportedly, producer Arthur Freed exposed himself to 11-year-old Temple, and she turned him down when she went to meet with MGM executives.
On the way home, Temple told her mother, who was in the other room with the notorious Louis B. Mayer at the time. Her mother responded to her daughter, saying, “You won’t believe what they made me do.” They both decided to stay away from MGM and continued their contract with 20th Century Fox.
An Adult in a Child’s Body
As a child, Shirley Temple’s talent was so unbelievable that many people didn’t actually believe it. The Vatican kept hearing “a persistent” rumor, that the pint-sized actress was actually a middle-aged little person. People didn’t think a three-year-old could be so gifted. As you can imagine, this was an extremely disturbing allegation.
The Vatican sent over Father Silvio Massante to investigate these strange claims. He reported that Temple was not a dwarf but just a tremendously talented little girl. But the “evidence” against her was rather odd. Although these allegations seem crazy now, the public had apparent reasons to believe this at the time.
The first indicator that “proved” Temple was lying about her age was the fact that apparently she never lost her baby teeth. Just because the public couldn’t see her missing teeth doesn’t mean she didn’t lose them like everyone else. It was all movie magic: after her teeth fell out, they were capped and fitted with temporary bridges, until her adult teeth grew in.
Although this is common practice with child stars now, people didn’t know the secret of her adult-like smile back then. What’s even more bizarre is the rumor alleging that Temple filed down her teeth to make them look like baby teeth. You can never win with these trolls!
The starlet actually lost one of her teeth due to a work-related injury. She put her hands in the cement during the sidewalk ceremony outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In a smart move, she took off her shoes and placed her bare feet in the cement to draw cameras away from her face.
However, she tripped, and her tooth fell out. To complete her “fake” image, fans thought her perfectly twirled curls had to be a wig. Temple later stated that she wished her hair was a wig. That way, it wouldn’t hurt as much when fans tugged on her hair to check if her locks were real.
Santa Is Not Real
Most of the time, young kids believe in fairies, unicorns, and other fictional characters. A child’s innocence helps their imagination run wild, making the Easter Bunny and Bigfoot seem realistic. But when we grow up and lose the purity that comes with childhood, the world becomes a darker place. The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus become nothing but an old fantasy.
As a child star, Shirley Temple had to face the real world faster than the rest of us. She stopped believing in Santa Claus at the tender age of six: “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.” Way to disappoint a child, Mister Claus!
No Stage Mom
For decades, it’s been alleged that Temple’s stardom was all orchestrated by her ruthless momager. It was reported that Gertrude forced her toddler to bring home the paycheck. According to Temple herself, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Temple told People magazine, “She was quite shy, but she always believed that if a door opens for you, go through it.”
She went on to explain, “She did not push me into anything. I loved what I did. I remember cruel mothers who would punch their children to make them cry in a scene, but my mother encircled me with affection.” So if you thought Temple was raised by the kind of mom from Toddlers & Tiara’s, you’d be mistaken.
She Was Almost Assassinated
A woman tried to assassinate young Temple in 1939, while she was singing Silent Night in a live radio show. The would-be assassin was under the deranged assumption that the ten-year-old had stolen her daughter’s soul, and the only way to unleash it would be by shooting the singer. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been.
During a 1998 news conference at the American Booksellers Association, Temple recalled the event: A woman “pulled out a rather big gun and started to point it” at her while she was performing at her radio appearance. Temple remembers police grabbing the woman and immediately removing her from the studio. Phew! That was a close one.
Kiss and Tell
During a 1988 televised interview on Entertainment Tonight, Temple admitted that Ronald Reagan was a really good kisser. In fact, the actress declared that “he was one of the best kissers.” As we mentioned, the duo co-starred in the 1947 flick “That Hagen Girl,” which flopped at the box office.
In the disturbing storyline, Temple’s character was scared that her teacher, portrayed by the future president, was her illegitimate father. It’s just as unsettling as it sounds. The pair had great onscreen chemistry, but that didn’t make the movie any better. Temple herself said that the film was “probably one of the worst movies either one of us ever made.” At least she admits it.
Not a Little Girl Anymore
Like many other child stars, Temple’s fame diminished as she grew older. Even The New York Times reported on the child stating that her once signature golden locks had turned brown. Film historian David Thomson stated that Temple had become “an unremarkable teenager.” Harsh!
After nearly four dozen movies, the public was beginning to lose interest. By that point, “she was a strong-willed, chain-smoking 17-year-old.” Temple grew up in front of the camera and was confident in pursuing other interests. Temple shocked the public when 24-year-old Army Air Corps sergeant John Agar popped the question a few days before her 17th birthday. No one wanted to believe it, but Shirley Temple was not a little girl anymore.
Sadly, body dysmorphia and eating disorders are not rare in Hollywood. Judy Garland was harassed over at MGM, particularly during the filming of The Wizard of Oz. Not only did she get hooked on drugs, but her director monitored her food intake and even got punished if she ate too much.
Temple, on the other hand, loved a good meal! She would always joke that since she was born at nine p.m., it was “too late for dinner, and so I started life one meal behind.” She went on to say on her website, “Ever since, I have tried to make up for that loss.” In retrospect, Temple is lucky she didn’t get the role of Dorothy.
Ever since she was a little girl, Shirley Temple had an irresistible face. Only a psycho’s heart didn’t melt when the curly-haired cutie started singing on the screen. Everyone knew who this Hollywood beauty was, and she had her share of admirers. It all comes with the territory, but Temple didn’t mind.
The star once told People magazine, “You can see a glint in the eye, and you know a big sloppy one is coming.” She went on to explain, “Men say, ‘I’ve loved you since I was seven years old’ and I say, ‘Well, you never contacted me.’” She always appreciated what Hollywood had given her, and she looked back at it fondly.
Turning Eight… Again
Growing up, Shirley Temple had it all. We already mentioned how she was Fox’s golden child who made the studio millions. When kids were asked who they wished they could be, polls showed that most of them said, Shirley Temple. She was talented, adorable, rich, and famous. Even I wish I was Shirley Temple.
Fox planned a huge bash for her eighth birthday, but she was actually turning nine. The studio wanted to keep her young for as long as possible. The little actress received over 135,000 presents from all around the world. She even got a baby kangaroo from Australia! I wouldn’t expect anything less for America’s darling.
Where Is Her Child Star Money?
As we know, Shirley Temple worked super hard ever since she was a baby; she was barely out of diapers when she started entertaining audiences. Although she was a major star by the age of six, her fame came from her strong determination. Although she had natural talent, Temple needed to stay focused on practicing lines, dancing, and singing.
Unfortunately, her father wasn’t very good with numbers and made some awful business deals. When Temple reached her early 20s, she had only about $40,000 left of the $3 million she had made during her childhood. Still, she didn’t hold any resentment and felt lucky that she grew up in Hollywood.
Remembering a Legend
In 2014, the little girl who graced America with her dimples and talent passed away. The 85-year-old Temple died from obstructive pulmonary disease. It seemed like a natural death, but it revealed one of her darkest secrets. It might have been the result of a lifelong smoking habit she had seemingly hidden from the press.
Even though she had smoked cigarettes since childhood, she was very careful about doing it in public. She knew she was a role model and didn’t want to hurt her image. In Temple’s defense, the extreme dangers of cigarettes were unknown when she started smoking, and, unfortunately, nicotine addiction isn’t easy to break.
All in the Family
Temple’s daughter Lori Black definitely inherited her mother’s musical talent. She eventually became the bassist for the Melvins, a well-known, influential grunge band. Unfortunately, while touring with the band, Black developed an addiction to illegal substances. Temple got her daughter the help she needed and insisted that the whole family attend therapy together to help support Lori.
Her children are all healthy and between the ages of 66 and 72. It’s crazy to think that little Shirley Temple’s children are old enough to be grandparents. No matter how much time passes, Temple will always be remembered as the curly-haired, pint-size star showing off her talent in movies. She will forever be America’s little darling.
Inspiration for All Women
If you are a Shirley Temple fan, you may already be aware that she had a mastectomy in 1972 after she discovered a malignant lump on her left breast. What you probably didn’t know was that her decision to discuss the matter publicly strengthened the courage of women all around the world.
At the time, people were shy about sharing their personal life and didn’t usually reveal information regarding their health. Temple’s openness inspired women everywhere. More than 50,000 people sent her cards and letters thanking her for her courage. At the time of her surgery, Temple said she “reached up to feel the void. It was an amputation, and I faced it.”