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Shirley Temple

Updated on May 25, 2012

When I was 14, I was the oldest I ever was. I've been getting younger ever since. ~ Shirley Temple

She was a consummate professional, overshadowing her co-stars and garnering millions of fans in th 1930s. She could sing, dance, act and knew how to work the camera - and all this when she was barely out of nappies.

Cuter than a golden syrup dumpling, child star Shirley Temple began her career at the age of three and took the world by storm as a precocious four year old in the Hollywood film Bright Eyes.

Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple

Curly Dimple

Most notable features - golden hair, adorable dimples and a round cherubic face.

Shirley's appeal was not hard to understand in Depression-era America. She was fresh, bright, happy, outgoing and bubbly and reflected a longed for optimism that the film-going public responded to.

Born in 1928 into a financially secure family in Santa Monica, California, Shirley had an ambitious stage mother who focused all her attention on her young daughter and had her taught singing and tap-dancing at a very early age, and it was from one of her dance classes that she was selected for a screen test.

Bright Eyes

The young performer made several films in the 1930s, including Stand Up and Cheer (1934), Little Miss Marker (1934) , Bright Eyes (1934), The Little Colonel (1935), Wee Willie Winkie (1937), and The Little Princess (1939).

The film Bright Eyes had been especially created to showcase the young Shirley's talents and featured the song that would become her signature tune -On the Good Ship Lollipop. It went on to become a substantial hit, selling 500,000 sheet music copies.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

America's First Sweetheart

In the 1930s Shirley temple's screen success was phenomenal. Not only did she she rescue an ailing Fox Studio but influenced its merger with 20th Century, to become 20th Century Fox.

She was also a consummate performer -well-balanced and better behaved than many of the actors on the set . She was also intelligent, with a reputed IQ of 155. . Such was her professionalism, she once tap danced all the way down a staircase singing a line of her song on each one of  45 steps. Actor Adolfe Menjou once remarked “That Temple kid. She scares me. She’s, she’s ...she’s an Ethel Barrymore at four.”

Her mother Gertrude Temple, managed her daughter with a fastidious hand. She did her hair in pin curls for every movie and each hairstyle had to have exactly 56 curls.

Recognized as the most famous and successful child star of all time, Shirley Temple spawned a stream of products that had her likeness on them. -games, cereal bowls, dolls, cups, records, mugs, hats, dresses etc . She had become an industry.

However, as the infant Shirley grew into late childhood and puberty the times changed with her and although she continued to make films, her luminous star began to fade.

Growing Up

Shirley Temple as a young lady
Shirley Temple as a young lady

Shirley's image had depended so much on her juvenile charm it was hard for film audiences to accept her as an adolescent and young woman. At ten, she had been tipped to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz but Fox refused to lend her out to MGM. Most of her later films bombed, however she did appear in two wartime hits -Since You Went Away and I'll be Seeing You. Temple officially retired from films in 1950.

In 1958 Shirley Temple tried her hand at television and launched a television anthology of live-action fairytale adaptations called Shirley Temple's Story-book. The anthology lasted only one season but Shirley continued to make guest appearances on several variety shows.

After her venture into television Shirley developed an interest in politics, running for a Republican Party seat in 1967 but lost out to anti-Vietnam Liberal Republican, Pete McKloskey. Temple has been married twice, once in 1945, to John George Agar, an Army Air Corps sergeant and fitness instructer and again in 1950, to WWII Naval hero and Assistant to the President of Hawaiian Pineapple, Charles Alden Black.

In 1969 Shirley Temple was appointed Representative to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations by then President, Richard Nixon. In 1976 she was appointed Ambassador to Ghana by President Gerald Ford . In 1992, she was appointed by President George H.W, Bush as US Ambassador to Czechoslavakia.

During this period she also developed breast cancer and was one of the first celebrities to speak out publicly about her masectomy.

A life-sized bronze statue of Shirley was erected on the Fox lot in 2002, - in tribute to the little girl who had not only turned the tables for an ailing studio but had given so much pleasure to the viewing public at a time of great hardship.

A mature Shirley Temple accepts an award from the Sceen Actors Guild
A mature Shirley Temple accepts an award from the Sceen Actors Guild

Shirley Temple Dolls

Vintage Shirley Temple Dolls

Ideal Toy Company brought out the first Shirley Temple dolls in the 1930s, through to the 40's and then intermittedly up until the present time.

They can range in size from 11 inches to 36 inches and various sizes in between. Shirley Temple dolls in mint condition can fetch 1000 dollars or more...but for those who can't afford them, there are some very good reproductions on the market.

Vintage Shirley Temple Doll
Vintage Shirley Temple Doll


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