Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple (born April 23, 1928) is an American film and television actress, autobiographer, and public servant. She began her screen career in 1932 at the age of three, and in 1934, skyrocketed to superstardom in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. She received a special Academy Award in February 1935, and blockbusting super hits such as Curly Top and Heidi followed year after year during the mid to late 1930s. Licensed merchandise that capitalized on her wholesome image included dolls, dishes and clothing. Her box office popularity waned as she reached adolescence, and she left the film industry at the age of 12 to attend high school. She appeared in a few films of varying quality in her mid to late teens, retiring completely from the silver screen in 1950 at the age of 21. She was the top box-office draw four years in a row (1935–38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll.[1][2]

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In 1958, Temple returned to show business with a two-season television anthology series of fairy tale adaptations. She made guest appearances on various television shows in the early 1960s and filmed a sitcom pilot that was never released. She sat on the boards of many corporations and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, and the National Wildlife Federation. In 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress, and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and to Czechoslovakia in 1989. In 1988, she published her autobiography, Child Star. Temple is the recipient of many awards and honors including Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

In 1945, 17-year-old Temple married Army Air Corps sergeant John Agar, who, after being discharged from the service, entered the acting profession. The couple made two films together before Temple divorced him on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1949. She received custody of their daughter Linda Susan and the restoration of her maiden name in the process. In January 1950, Temple met the conservative scion of a patrician California family and United States NavySilver Star recipient Charles Alden Black. She married him in December 1950 following the finalization of her divorce and retired from films the same day, to become a homemaker. Her son, Charles Alden Black, Jr. was born in 1952 and her daughter, Lori Alden Black was born in 1954.


Weighing six pounds eight ounces, Shirley Temple was delivered without complications on Monday April 23, 1928, at the Santa Monica Hospital in Santa Monica, California by Dr. Leonard John Madsen to George Francis Temple and his wife Gertrude Amelia Krieger Temple.[3]

“Animal Crackers In My Soup”

Early home influences

Mrs. Temple tried to influence her daughter’s future by prenatal association with music, art and natural beauty. During her pregnancy, she listened to phonograph records, read books aloud, and attended dance recitals and concerts.[4] In the child’s first years, Mrs. Temple read storybooks to her toddler, altering the pitch of her voice according to the character’s gender and enacted the story and characters. Her daughter began to mimic her.[5]

The early years of the Great Depression had little impact on the Temples. Their house and car were paid in full and Mr. Temple had been cautious with investments. Mrs. Temple began focusing her attention upon her daughter. She taught the tot words to favorite popular songs, noted the child was able to bring expression to the words, had perfect pitch, and could easily repeat simple dance steps.[6]

Dance lessons

Early in the 1930s, Mrs. Temple took the first steps in bringing her daughter to the screen. She was convinced her three-year-old daughter had exceptional talent,[7] and, at the prompting of her husband,[8] enrolled the youngster in the highly competitive Meglin’s Dance School in Los Angeles, California on the Mack Sennett lot (leased at the time to Educational Pictures, a Poverty Row studio) for twice weekly dance lessons[9][10] beginning on September 13, 1931.[11]

Bill Bojangles Robinson and Shirley Temple

Mrs. Temple initiated the morning ritual of styling her daughter’s lengthening and thickening hair into precisely 56 ringlets in imitation of the hairstyle worn by the young Mary Pickford. The process involved dampening the hair with a wave solution, wrapping a length of hair around a finger, securing it with a bobby pin, and gently combing the ringlet when dry.[12]

First screen audition

Shortly after Temple’s third birthday, Educational Pictures planned a series of one-reelers called Baby Burlesks to compete with the popular Our Gang comedy shorts.[note 2] Charles Lamont, a film director with Educational, conducted a talent search among the children at the Meglin School, found Temple hiding behind a piano and encouraged her to audition for the series. She did and was signed to a two-year contract in January 1932 at $10 a day for a typically four-day shooting schedule.[13][14][15]

First films

Two-reelers and first feature films

Temple appeared in all eight films in the series, and graduated to a series of Educational two-reelers called Frolics of Youth portraying Mary Lou Rogers, a youngster in a contemporary suburban family.[16] She was paid $15 a day or $50 a picture.[17] In order to underwrite film production costs at Educational, Temple and her juvenile co-stars were peddled as models for chewing gum, breakfast cereal, cigar and candy bar promotional gimmicks.[18][19]

While under contract for Educational, Temple was loaned to other studios. Her first appearance in a feature film was a conspicuous supporting role in Red Haired Alibi for Tower Productions, Inc. in 1932.[20][21] In 1933, she made several short films for Educational and was loaned for bit parts in feature films at Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros..[22][23]

“Good Ship Lollypop”

Fox Films

In February 1934, she signed a contract with Fox Films after Educational declared bankruptcy in September 1933.[24][25] She appeared in bit parts for Fox and was loaned for a two-reeler and two feature films at Paramount and a feature film for Warner Bros.-First National.[26] Fox publicists did their best to promote Temple as a wunderkind of some sort, but Mrs. Temple conducted her own interviews, often correcting the hyperbole of others and requiring interviewers to submit copy for her approval.[8]

In April 1934, Stand Up and Cheer! became Temple’s breakthrough film. Fox became aware of her charisma while the film was in production and began promoting Temple well before the film’s release. She was billed third, preparing critics and film goers to give her their undivided attention. Within months, she represented wholesome family entertainment.[27] She received widespread critical acclaim and truckloads of fan mail.[28] Her salary was raised to US$1,250 a week, and her mother’s to $150 as coach and hairdresser.[29] In June, Temple garnered more critical and popular acclaim for her performance in Paramount’s Little Miss Marker.[30][31]

Bright Eyes and Academy Award

She finished 1934 with the December 28 release of Bright Eyes—the first feature film crafted specifically for her talents and the first in which her name was raised above the title.[32][33] In the film’s one musical number, she introduced what would become her signature song, On the Good Ship Lollipop. The song was an instant hit and sold 500,000 sheet music copies. The film (more than any other Temple film up to that time) demonstrated her ability to portray a fully dimensional character and established a formula for future roles of a lovable, parentless waif mellowing a gruff older man.[34]

In February 1935, Temple received a special miniature Oscar statuette in recognition of her contributions to film entertainment in 1934.[35][36][37][note 3] A month later, she added her foot and hand prints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.[38]

Twentieth Century-Fox


When Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to become Twentieth Century-Fox in 1934, producer and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck focused his attention and resources upon cultivating Temple’s superstar status. With four successful films behind her, Temple was the studio’s greatest asset.[39][note 4] Top priority at the studio became developing projects, vehicles, and stories for Temple, and, to that end, 19 writers known as the Shirley Temple Story Development team created 11 original stories and adaptations of the classics for the actress.[40]

“We Should Be Together”


Under the development team, Temple’s films proposed a simple solution to the Great Depression’s woes: open one’s heart and give of oneself. Temple characters would melt the hearts of cold authority figures and would touch the lives of the grumpy, the wizened, the rich, the bratty, the miserly, and the criminal with positive results.[40]

Award Presentation in 2006

Temple films were seen as generating hope and optimism, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is a splendid thing that for just a fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”[41][note 5]

Most Temple films were cheaply made at $200,000 or $300,000 per picture and were comedy-dramas with songs and dances added, sentimental and melodramatic situations aplenty, and little in the way of production values. Her film titles are a clue to the way she was marketed—Curly Top and Dimples, and her “little” pictures such as The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel. Temple often played a fixer-upper, a precocious Cupid, or the good fairy in these films, reuniting her estranged parents or smoothing out the wrinkles in the romances of young couples. She was very often motherless, sometimes fatherless, and sometimes an orphan confined to a dreary asylum.[42] Elements of the traditional fairy tale were woven into her films: wholesome goodness triumphing over meanness and evil, for example, or wealth over poverty, marriage over divorce, or a booming economy over a depressed one.[43] As Temple matured into a pre-adolescent, the formula was altered slightly to encourage her naturalness, naïveté, and tomboyishness to come forth and shine while her infant innocence, which had served her well at six but was inappropriate for her tweens, was toned down.[42]


At Zanuck’s request, Temple’s parents agreed to four films a year from their daughter (rather than the three they wished), and the child star’s contract was reworked with bonuses to sweeten the deal. A succession of films followed: The Little Colonel, Our Little Girl, Curly Top, and The Littlest Rebel in 1935. Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel were named to Varietys list of top box office draws for 1935.[44] In 1936, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples,[note 6] and Stowaway were released.

“At The Codfish Ball”


Based on Temple’s many screen successes, Zanuck increased budgets and production values for her films. In 1937, John Ford[note 7] was hired to direct the sepia-toned Wee Willie Winkie (Temple’s own favorite)[45] and a top-drawer cast was signed that included Victor McLaglen, C. Aubrey Smith, and Cesar Romero.[45][46] The film was a critical and commercial hit,[45] but British film critic Graham Greene muddied the waters in October 1937 when he wrote in a British magazine that Temple was a “complete totsy” and accused her of being too nubile for a nine-year-old:

Her 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 their desire.[47]

Temple and Twentieth Century-Fox sued for libel and won. The settlement remained in trust for Temple in England until she turned twenty-one, at which time it was used to build a youth center in England.[48][49]

The only other Temple film released in 1937 was Heidi, a story suited to her maturing personality.[48] Her blond hair had darkened to ash blond and the ringlets brushed back into soft curls. Her theatrical instincts had sharpened and she suggested the Dutch song and dance dream sequence and its placement within the film.[50] After minor disagreements about the dance steps with the other children in the scene, director Allan Dwan had badges made with ‘Shirley Temple Police’ inscribed upon them. Every child was issued one after swearing allegiance and obedience to Temple.[51]

“When I Grow Up”


In 1938, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Miss Broadway, and Just Around the Corner were released. The latter two were critically panned with Corner the first Temple film to falter at the box office.[52] The following year, Zanuck secured the rights to the children’s novel, A Little Princess, believing the book would be an ideal vehicle for Temple. He budgeted the film at $1.5 million (twice the amount of Corner) and chose it to be her first Technicolor feature. The Little Princess was a 1939 critical and commercial success with Temple’s acting at its peak. Convinced Temple would make the transition from child star to teenage actress,[53] Zanuck declined a substantial offer from MGM to star Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and cast her instead in the banal Susannah of the Mounties, her last money-maker for Twentieth Century-Fox.[54][55] The film dropped Temple from number one box-office favorite in 1938 to number five in 1939.[56]


In 1940, Temple starred in two consecutive flops at Twentieth Century-Fox (The Blue Bird and Young People).[note 8] It was obvious the child star’s career was finished.[57] Temple’s parents bought up the remainder of her contract and sent her at the age of 12 to Westlake School for Girls, an exclusive and pricey country day school in Los Angeles.[58] At the studio, Temple’s bungalow was renovated, all traces of her tenure expunged, and the building reassigned as an office complex.[57]

“Swing Me An Old Fashioned Song”

Last films and retirement


Within a year of her departure from Twentieth Century-Fox,[note 9] MGM signed Temple for her comeback. Plans were made to team her with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for the Andy Hardy series, but her comeback film became Kathleen (1941), a story about an unhappy teenager, her busy, rich Dad, and her female psychologist. The film flopped and her MGM contract was cancelled after mutual consent.

Other studios

Miss Annie Rooney (1942, United Artists) followed, but it bombed.[note 10] The actress retired for almost two years from films, throwing herself into school life and activities.[59] In 1944, David O. Selznick signed Temple to a personal four-year contract. She appeared in two wartime hits for him: Since You Went Away and I’ll Be Seeing You. Selznick however became involved with Jennifer Jones and lost interest in developing Temple’s career. She was loaned to other studios with Kiss and Tell (1945, Columbia), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947, RKO),[note 11] and Fort Apache (1948, RKO) being the few good films among a string of duds.[60]

Although her 1947–49 films did not lose money, most had a cheap B look about them and her performances were colorless and apathetic.[61] Selznick suggested she move to Italy with his daughter, study the culture, gain maturity as an actress, and even change her name.[61][62] He made it clear she had been detrimentally typecast in Hollywood and her career was in perilous straits.[61] After auditioning (and being rejected) in August 1950 for the role of Peter Pan on the Broadway stage,[63] Temple took stock, admitted her recent movies had been poor fare, and announced her official retirement from films on December 16, 1950—the same day she married Charles Alden Black.[61][64]

“Shirley Temple Bedtime”

Temple-related merchandise and endorsements

Many Temple-inspired products were manufactured and released during the 1930s. Ideal Toy and Novelty Company in New York City negotiated a license for dolls with the company’s first doll wearing the polka-dot dress from Stand Up and Cheer!. Shirley Temple dolls realized $45 million in sales before 1941.[65]

A mug, a pitcher, and a cereal bowl in cobalt blue with a decal of Temple were given away as a premium with Wheaties. Successfully-selling Temple items included a line of girls’ dresses and accessories, soap, dishes, cutout books, sheet music, mirrors, paper tablets, and numerous other items. Before 1935 ended, Temple’s income from licensed merchandise royalties would exceed $100,000, doubling her income from her movies. In 1936, her income would top $200,000 from royalties. She endorsed Postal Telegraph, Sperry Drifted Snow Flour, the Grunow Teledial radio, Quaker Puffed Wheat,[65] General Electric, and Packard automobiles.[34][note 12]

Lifetime achievement award

Marriages and children

First marriage: John Agar

In 1943, Temple met John George Agar (January 31, 1921, Chicago, Illinois – April 7, 2002 Burbank, California), an Army Air Corps sergeant, physical training instructor, and scion of a Chicago meat-packing family.[66][67] Two years later on September 19, 1945, at 8:59 p.m., they were married before Pastor Willsie Martin and five hundred guests in a twelve-minute, double-ring Episcopal ceremony at Wilshire Methodist Church.[25][68][69] Two and a half years later on January 30, 1948, Temple gave birth to a daughter, Linda Susan.[25][70][71]


Agar entered the acting profession and the couple made two films together: Fort Apache (1948, RKO) and Adventure in Baltimore (1949, RKO).[71] In time, Agar tired of being ‘Mr. Shirley Temple’, he began drinking.[71][72] Temple divorced Agar on the grounds of mental cruelty on December 5, 1949,[34][71] and, in the process, received custody of their daughter and the restoration of her maiden name.[71][73][74] The divorce was finalized one year later on December 5, 1950.

1939 Radio Broadcast

Second marriage: Charles Alden Black

While vacationing in Hawaii in January 1950, Temple met thirty-year-old WWII Naval hero and Assistant to the President of Hawaiian Pineapple, Charles Alden Black (March 6, 1919, Oakland, California – August 4, 2005, Woodside, California).[75][76][note 13] Following a romance that lasted almost a year, Temple wed Black in his parents’ Del Monte, California home on December 16, 1950, at 4:30 p.m. before Superior Court Judge Henry G. Jorgensen and a small assembly of family and friends.[25][76][77] The family relocated to Washington, D.C. when Black was recalled to the Navy at the outbreak of the Korean War.[78] Temple Black gave birth by Caesarean section to a son, Charles Alden Black, Jr., at the Bethesda Naval Hospital on April 28, 1952.[25][79][80]

Following war’s end and Black’s discharge from the Navy, the family returned to California in May 1953. Black managed television station KABC-TV in Los Angeles, and Temple Black became a homemaker. Their daughter Lori was born at the Santa Monica Hospital on April 9, 1954.[25] In September 1954, Black became director of business operations for the Stanford Research Institute and the family moved to Atherton, California.[81]


Shirley Temple’s Storybook and The Shirley Temple Show

Temple returned to show biz in January 1958 with a one-season television anthology series of live-action fairy tale adaptations called Shirley Temple’s Storybook.[82] Temple opened each episode before a background of draperies and chandeliers dressed in a Don Loper ballgown (a different one for each show and none costing less than $600) singing “Dreams Are Made for Children” by David Mack and Jerry Livingston. She narrated the episodes in a singsong voice and acted in three of them.[83][84] All three of Temple’s children made their acting debuts on the show in the episode “Mother Goose”, but none pursued acting careers later in life.[85][note 14] The show attracted celebrity performers such as Claire Bloom and Charlton Heston.[86] The show was a great success with one critic declaring Temple could, if she wished, “steal Christmas from Tiny Tim“.[85]

Motivated by the popularity of Storybook, Temple persuaded the Ideal Toy Company to release a new version of the Shirley Temple doll,[note 15] made a deal with clothing manufacturer Rosenau Brothers to issue a version of the Baby Take a Bow polka-dot dress, and arranged with Random House to publish three anthologies of fairy tales under her name.[85]

Although the show was popular, it faced problems. Each episode was presented as a special in no particular time-slot and consequently the show had difficulty generating a following. Temple’s acting was criticized, story adaptations were found wanting, sets were considered little better than those in high school productions, and the series lacked the magic of special effects.[87] After its January to December 1958 season, the show was reworked, retitled The Shirley Temple Show, and returned to television in September 1960.[88][89] Unlike Storybook, the revised edition was broadcast in color every Sunday evening in a regular time-slot but it faced stiff competition from a popular western and eventually a Disney program. The show became the victim of the ratings race and was cancelled after its one season.[90]

Shirley Temple Black’s Inauguration 1976

Other television

Temple made guest appearances on The Red Skelton Show, Sing Along with Mitch, The Dinah Shore Show, and The Mike Douglas Show.[91] In January 1965, she portrayed a social worker in a sitcom pilot called Go Fight City Hall that was never released.[92] In 1999, she hosted the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars awards show on CBS, and, in 2001, served as a consultant on an ABC-TV production of her autobiography, Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.

Life after Hollywood

Shirley Temple Black in Prague in 1990, Czecho...

Image via Wikipedia

Shirley Temple Black, United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1990)

Political ambitions

Following her venture into television, Shirley Temple became active in the Republican Party in California, where, in 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in a special election to fill a vacant seat.[93][94] She ran as a conservative and lost to liberal Republican Pete McCloskey, a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.[95]

Breast cancer

In the autumn of 1972, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumour was malignant and removed, and a modified radical mastectomy performed. Following the operation, she announced it to the world via radio, television, and a February 1973 article for the magazine McCall’s. In doing so, she became one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer.[96]

International activities and ambassadorships

Temple was appointed Representative to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations by President Richard M. Nixon (September – December 1969),[97][98] and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976) by President Gerald R. Ford.[99] She was appointed first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (July 1, 1976 – January 21, 1977), and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter‘s inauguration and inaugural ball.[99][100] She was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (August 23, 1989 – July 12, 1992).[34]

The Shirley Temple Show

Corporation commitments

Temple Black has served on numerous boards of directors of large enterprises and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte, Bank of America, the Bank of California, BANCAL Tri-State, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, the United States Commission for UNESCO, the United Nations Association, and the National Wildlife Federation.[101]

Awards and honors

Temple is the recipient of many awards and honours including a special Academy Award,[25] the Life Achievement Award from the American Center of Films for Children,[99] the National Board of Review Career Achievement Award,[102] Kennedy Center Honors,[103][104] and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.[105] In 2002, a life-size bronze statue of the child Temple was erected on the Fox lot.[106]

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb, nndb,


  1. Hey just wanted to say hello. My wife and I are watching an old Shirley Temple movie right now. So I thought i would look you up on the computer. Holy Cow. This was really cool. I guess that is one good thing about the internet, you can share some great pictures and bring back a lot of memories!! Thanks for all of therm. If you ever come to Hemlock Michigan (Just west of Saginaw) I would be very happy to cook great out door BBQ!
    God Bless
    Steve and Julie Zill

    • Hi- Very nice of you to write. One day I may take you up on the BBQ! Years ago, I sent Shirley Temple a piece of sheet music that I had with her picture on it. The name of the song was, “Our Little Girl.” I sent it with a self addressed, stamped envelope. Shirley Temple lives about an hour from me in the SF Bay Area. A few days letter I received the music back with her autograph and a very nice inscription. She is a very classy lady and surely an American icon!

      Thanks again for writing. Best regards,

  2. just like to say i grew up watchin shirley temple films my mum is a great fan pitty they dont show them on television anymore. What a talented person she was

  3. just like to say i grew up watchin sherley temple just a pitty they dont show her films on tv anymore

  4. i, too, grew up watching shirley temple movies..even had a shirley temple doll…had videos subsequently for my children to watch…what a blessing!

  5. Is Miss Temple still with us and how she she doing I also grew up watching her on TV in the late 1950 . And my children also and Grandchilren too we have all love her. Hazel Matich

  6. My mom always thought that she auditioned with Shirley when she was little. She lived in Hollywood during her early years and remembered singing and dancing on the stage with a lot of blonde curly headed little girls. We shared many afternoons watching Shirley’s movies. “OH my goodness” how I still enjoy your movies. I wish you well, Shirley. Linda

  7. shirley I love you

  8. I grew up watching shirley, its had always made me very happy, we have nothing like you in Laos and Thailand. Now my little girl love watching you too. Thanks for all the great and wonderful time, watching you.

  9. I still enjoy catching a Shirley Temple movie. Even as a little kid she had great comedic timing. And as an adult she was a worthy public servant. Best wishes to her.

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