Shirley Temple Black (nÃ©e Temple; April 23, 1928Â â" February 10, 2014) was an American film and television actress, singer, dancer and public servant, most famous as Hollywood's number one box-office star from 1935 through 1938. As an adult, she entered politics and became a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia, and as Chief of Protocol of the United States.
Temple began her film career in 1932 at the age of three. In 1934, she found international fame in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. She received a special Juvenile Academy Award in February 1935 for her outstanding contribution as a juvenile performer to motion pictures during 1934, and film 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. She appeared in a few films of varying quality in her mid-to-late teens, and retired completely from films in 1950 at the age of 22. She was the top box-office draw in Hollywood for four years in a row (1935â"38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll.
Temple returned to show business in 1958 with a two-season television anthology series of fairy tale adaptations. She made guest appearances on television shows in the early 1960s and filmed a sitcom pilot that was never released. She sat on the boards of corporations and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods and the National Wildlife Federation. She began her diplomatic career in 1969, with an appointment to represent the United States at a session of the United Nations General Assembly. In 1988, she published her autobiography, Child Star.
Temple was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. She ranks 18th on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female American screen legends of all time.
Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, California. She was the daughter of Gertrude Amelia Temple (nÃ©e Krieger), a homemaker, and George Francis Temple, a bank employee. The family was of English, German and Dutch ancestry. She had two brothers, George Francis, Jr. and John Stanley. Temple's mother encouraged her infant daughter's singing, dancing, and acting talents, and in September 1931 enrolled her in Meglin's Dance School in Los Angeles. About this time, Temple's mother began styling her daughter's hair in ringlets similar to those of silent film star Mary Pickford.
While at Meglin's, she was spotted by Charles Lamont, a casting director for Educational Pictures. Although Shirley hid behind the piano while in the studio, Lamont took a shine to her, inviting her to audition, and in 1932 signed her to a contract. Educational Pictures were about to launch their Baby Burlesks, series of short films satirizing recent film and political events, using pre-school children in every role. Because the children were dressed as adults and given mature dialogue the series was eventually seen as dated and exploitive.
Baby Burlesks was a series of one-reelers; another series of two-reelers called Frolics of Youth followed, with Temple playing Mary Lou Rogers, a youngster in a contemporary suburban family. To underwrite production costs at Educational, Temple and her child co-stars modeled for breakfast cereals and other products. She was lent to Tower Productions for a small role in her first feature film (The Red-Haired Alibi) in 1932 and, in 1933, to Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros., for various bit parts. After Educational Pictures declared bankruptcy in 1933, her father purchased her contract for $25.
It was while walking out of the viewing of her last Frolics of Youth picture that Fox Film songwriter Jay Gorney saw Temple dancing in the movie theater lobby. Recognizing her from the screen, he arranged for her to have a tryout for the movie Stand Up and Cheer! Arriving for the audition on December 7, 1933, she won the part and was signed to a $150/week contract guaranteed for two weeks by the Fox Film Corporation. The role turned out to be a breakthrough performance for her. Her charm was evident to Fox heads, as she was ushered into corporate offices almost immediately after the completion of the Baby Take a Bow song and dance number she did with James Dunn. On December 21, 1933, her contract was extended to a year at the same $150/week with a seven-year option and her mother Gertrude was hired on at $25/week as her hairdresser and personal coach. Released in May 1934, Stand Up and Cheer! became Temple's breakthrough film. Within months, she became the symbol of wholesome family entertainment. In June, her success continued with a loan-out to Paramount for Little Miss Marker.
Following the success of her first three 1934 movies, it soon became apparent to the Temples that the amount of money she was being paid was not commensurate with the amount of money her films generated for the studios. Her image also started to appear on numerous commercial products without approval and without compensation. In an effort to get control over the corporate piracy of her image and to negotiate with Fox, Temple's parents hired the lawyer Loyd Wright to represent them. On July 18, 1934, Temple's contract was raised to $1,000 a week and her mother's salary was raised to $250 a week, with an additional $15,000 bonus for each movie completed. Cease and desist letters were sent out to several companies and the process was started for awarding corporate licenses.
On December 28, 1934, Bright Eyes was released. It was the first feature film crafted specifically for Temple's talents and the first in which her name appeared above the title. Her signature song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop", was introduced in the film and sold 500,000 sheet music copies. The film demonstrated Temple's ability to portray a multi-dimensional character and established a formula for her future roles as a lovable, parentless waif whose charm and sweetness mellow gruff older men. In February 1935, Temple became the first child star to be honored with a miniature Juvenile Oscar for her 1934 film accomplishments, and she added her foot- and handprints to the forecourt at Grauman's Chinese Theatre a month later.
20th Century Fox
Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to become 20th Century Fox in 1935. Producer and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck focused his attention and resources upon cultivating Temple's superstar status. With four successful films to her credit, she was the studio's greatest asset. Nineteen writers known as the Shirley Temple Story Development team created 11 original stories and some adaptations of the classics for her.
Biographer Anne Edwards writes about the tone and tenor of Temple films under Zanuck, "This was mid-Depression, and schemes proliferated for the care of the needy and the regeneration of the fallen. But they all required endless paperwork and demeaning, hours-long queues, at the end of which an exhausted, nettled social worker dealt with each person as a faceless number. Shirley offered a natural solution: to open one's heart." Edwards points out that the characters created for Temple would change the lives of the cold, the hardened, and even the criminal with positive results. Edwards quotes a nameless filmographer: "She assaults, penetrates, and opens [the flinty characters] making it possible for them to give of themselves. All of this returns upon her at times forcing her into situations where she must decide who needs her most. It is her agony, her Calvary, and it brings her to her most despairing momentsÂ ... Shirley's capacity for loveÂ ... was indiscriminate, extending to pinched misers or to common hobos, it was a social, even a political, force on a par with democracy or the Constitution." Temple films were seen as generating hope and optimism, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."
Most films Temple starred in 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 marketedâ"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. 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. As Temple matured into a pre-adolescent, the formula was altered slightly to encourage her naturalness, naÃ¯vetÃ©, and tomboyishness to come forth and shine while her infant innocence, which had served her well at six but was inappropriate for her tweens (or later childhood years), was toned down.
In the contract they signed in July 1934, Temple's parents agreed to four films a year from their daughter (rather than the three they wished). A succession of films followed: The Little Colonel, Our Little Girl, Curly Top (with the signature song "Animal Crackers in My Soup"), and The Littlest Rebel in 1935. Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel were named to Variety's list of top box office draws for 1935. In 1936, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples, and Stowaway were released. Curly Top was Temple's last film before the merger of 20th Century and Fox.
Based on Temple's many screen successes, Zanuck increased budgets and production values for her films. By the end of 1935, Temple's salary was raised to $2,500 a week. In 1937, John Ford was hired to direct the sepia-toned Wee Willie Winkie (Temple's own favorite) and an A-list cast was signed that included Victor McLaglen, C. Aubrey Smith and Cesar Romero. Elaborate sets were built at the famed Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., for the production, with a rock feature at the heavily filmed location ranch eventually being named in honor of Temple and becoming known as Shirley Temple Rock.
The film was a critical and commercial hit. but British writer and 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 admirersâ"middle-aged men and clergymenâ"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.
Temple and Twentieth Century-Fox sued for libel and won. The settlement remained in trust for Temple in an English bank until she turned twenty-one, when it was donated to charity and used to build a youth center in England.
The only other Temple film released in 1937 was Heidi. Midway through the shooting of the movie, the dream sequence was added into the script. There were reports that Temple was behind the dream sequence and that she was enthusiastically pushing for it but in her autobiography she vehemently denied this. Her contract gave neither her or her parents any creative control over the movies she was in. She saw this as the collapse of any serious attempt by the studio to build upon the dramatic role from the previous movie Wee Willie Winkie.
The Independent Theatre Owners Association paid for an advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter in May 1938 that included Temple on a list of actors who deserved their salaries while others, such as Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford, were described as "whose box-office draw is nil". That year Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Miss Broadway and Just Around the Corner were released. The latter two were panned by the critics, and Corner was the first Temple film to show a slump in ticket sales. 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 successfully move from child star to teenage actress, Zanuck declined a substantial offer from MGM to star Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and cast her instead in Susannah of the Mounties, her last money-maker for Twentieth Century-Fox. The film was successful, but because she made only two films in 1939 instead of the usual three or four, Temple dropped from number one box-office favorite in 1938 to number five in 1939.
In 1939, Temple was the subject of the Salvador DalÃ painting Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time and she was animated and was with Donald Duck in The Autograph Hound.
In 1940, Temple starred in two consecutive flops at Twentieth Century-Fox, The Blue Bird and Young People. 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 country day school in Los Angeles. At the studio, Temple's bungalow was renovated, all traces of her tenure expunged, and the building reassigned as an office complex.
Temple had her own radio series on CBS. Junior Miss debuted March 4, 1942, with Temple in the title role. The series was based on stories by Sally Benson first published in The New Yorker. Sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Junior Miss was directed by Gordon Hughes, with David Rose as musical director.
Last films and retirement
Within a year of her departure from Twentieth Century-Fox, MGM signed Temple for her comeback, and made plans to team her with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for the Andy Hardy series. The idea was quickly abandoned, with MGM teaming Temple with Garland and Rooney for the musical Babes on Broadway. Fearing that either Garland or Rooney could easily upstage Temple, MGM replaced her with Virginia Weidler. As a result, Temple's only film for Metro became Kathleen in 1941, a story about an unhappy teenager. The film was not a success and her MGM contract was canceled after mutual consent. Miss Annie Rooney followed for United Artists in 1942, but it too was unsuccessful. The actress retired for almost two years from films, throwing herself into school life and activities.
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, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and Fort Apache being her few good films at the time.
According to biographer Robert Windeler, her 1947â"49 films neither made nor lost money, but "had a cheapie B look about them and indifferent performances from her". Selznick suggested she move abroad, gain maturity as an actress, and even change her name. She had been typecast, he warned her, and her career was in perilous straits. After auditioning for and losing the role of Peter Pan on the Broadway stage in August 1950, Temple took stock, admitted her recent movies had been poor fare, and announced her official retirement from films on December 16, 1950.
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. 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, General Electric and Packard automobiles.
Myths and rumors
At the height of her popularity, Temple was often the subject of a number of myths and rumors, some of which were propagated by 20th Century Fox/Fox Films. In addition to forging her birth certificate to make her a year younger, Fox also publicized her as a natural talent with no formal acting or dance training. As a way of explaining how she knew stylized buck and weave dancing, she was enrolled in the Elisa Ryan School of Dancing for two weeks.
One persistent rumor that was especially prevalent in Europe was the idea that Temple was not a child at all but rather a 30-year old dwarf due in part to her stockier body type. So prevalent were these rumors that the Vatican dispatched Father Silvio Massante in part to investigate whether or not she was indeed a child. The fact that she never seemed to miss any teeth led some people to conclude she had all her adult teeth. Temple was actually constantly losing teeth throughout her tenure with 20th Century Fox, most notably during the sidewalk ceremony in front of Grauman's Theatre, where she took off her shoes and placed her bare feet in the cement to take attention away from her face. To combat this, she wore dental plates and caps to hide the gaps in her teeth. Another rumor pertaining to her teeth was the idea that they were filed to make them appear like baby teeth, which was false.
Her biggest trademark, her hair, also was the subject of rumors. One rumor that circulated was that she actually wore a wig. On more than one occasion, fans would yank at her hair to test this theory. As she would later state, she wished all she had to do was wear a wig. The actual nightly process she went through in the setting of her curls was actually tedious and often grueling, with once a week vinegar rinses burning her eyes. Rumors also spread about her hair color, namely that she was not a natural blonde, but this was untrue. During the making of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, news spread that she was going to do extended scenes without her trademark curls. During production, she also caught a cold which caused her to miss a couple days. As a result, a false report originated in Britain that all of her hair had been cut off.
Marriages and children
In 1943, 15-year-old Temple met John Agar (1921â"2002), an Army Air Corps sergeant, physical training instructor, and a member of a Chicago meat-packing family. On September 19, 1945, when Temple was 17 years old, they were married before 500 guests in an Episcopal ceremony at Wilshire Methodist Church in Los Angeles. On January 30, 1948, Temple gave birth to their daughter, Linda Susan. Agar became a professional actor and the couple made two films together: Fort Apache (1948, RKO) and Adventure in Baltimore (1949, RKO). The marriage became troubled, and Temple divorced Agar on December 5, 1949. She received custody of their daughter and the restoration of her maiden name. The divorce was finalized on December 5, 1950.
In January 1950, Temple met Charles Alden Black, a WWII United States Navy intelligence officer and Silver Star recipient who was Assistant to the President of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Conservative and patrician, he was the son of James B. Black, the president and later chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric, and reputedly one of the richest young men in California. Temple and Black were married in his parents' Del Monte, California, home on December 16, 1950, before a small assembly of family and friends.
The family relocated to Washington, D.C., when Black was recalled to the Navy at the outbreak of the Korean War. Temple gave birth to their son, Charles Alden Black, Jr., in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 1952. Following the 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 became a homemaker. Their daughter Lori was born on April 9, 1954. Lori went on to be a bassist in the grunge band the Melvins. In September 1954, Charles, Sr. became director of business operations for the Stanford Research Institute and the family moved to Atherton, California. The couple remained married for 54 years until his death on August 4, 2005, at home in Woodside of complications from a bone marrow disease.
Between January and December 1958, Temple hosted and narrated a successful NBC television anthology series of fairy tale adaptations called Shirley Temple's Storybook. Temple acted in three of the sixteen hour-long episodes, and her son made his acting debut in the Christmas episode, "Mother Goose". The series was popular but faced some problems. The show lacked the special effects necessary for fairy tale dramatizations, sets were amateurish, and episodes were telecast in no regular time-slot, making it difficult to generate a following. The show was reworked and released in color in September 1960 in a regular time-slot as The Shirley Temple Show. It faced stiff competition from Maverick, Lassie, Dennis the Menace, the 1960 telecast of The Wizard of Oz, and the Walt Disney anthology television series however, and was canceled at season's end in September 1961.
Temple continued to work on television, making guest appearances on The Red Skelton Show, Sing Along with Mitch, and other shows. In January 1965, she portrayed a social worker in a sitcom pilot called Go Fight City Hall that was never released. 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.
Motivated by the popularity of Storybook and television broadcasts of Temple's films, the Ideal Toy Company released a new version of the Shirley Temple doll and Random House published three fairy tale anthologies under Temple's name. Three hundred thousand dolls were sold within six months and 225,000 books between October and December 1958. Other merchandise included handbags and hats, coloring books, a toy theater, and a recreation of the Baby, Take a Bow polka-dot dress.
Life after Hollywood
Following her venture into television, Temple became active in the Republican Party in California. In 1967, she ran unsuccessfully in a special election in California's 11th congressional district to fill the seat left vacant by the death of eight-term Republican J. Arthur Younger from leukemia. She ran as a conservative and lost to law school professor Pete McCloskey, a liberal Republican who was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.
Temple was extensively involved with the Commonwealth Club of California, a public-affairs forum headquartered in San Francisco. She spoke at several of the meetings through the years and served as its president in 1984.
Temple got her start in foreign service after her failed run for Congress in 1967, when Henry Kissinger overheard her talking about Namibia at a party and was surprised that she knew anything about it. She was appointed Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly by President Richard M. Nixon (September â" December 1969), and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 â" July 13, 1976) by President Gerald R. Ford. She was appointed first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (July 1, 1976 â" January 21, 1977), and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter's inauguration and inaugural ball. She served as the United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (August 23, 1989 â" July 12, 1992), having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush. She was the first and only female US ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Temple was a personal witness to two crucial moments in the history of Czechoslovakia's fight against Communism. Temple was in Prague in August 1968, as a representative of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies and was actually going to meet up with Czechoslovakian party leader Alexander DubÄek on the very day that Soviet-backed forces invaded the country. DubÄek fell out of favor with the Soviets after a series of reforms known as the Prague Spring. Temple, who was stranded at a hotel as the tanks rolled in, sought refuge on the roof of the hotel. She later reported that it was from here she saw an unarmed woman on the street gunned down by Soviet forces, a sight which stayed with her for the rest of her life. Later, after she became ambassador to Czechoslovakia, she was present during the Velvet Revolution, which brought about the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia. Temple played a critical role in hastening the end of the Communist regime by openly sympathizing with anti-Communist dissidents and later establishing formal diplomatic relations with the newly elected government led by VÃ¡clav Havel. She took the unusual step of personally accompanying Havel on his first official visit to Washington, riding along on the same plane.
In 1972, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was 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.
Temple served on numerous boards of directors of large enterprises and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, 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.
Shirley Temple died on February 10, 2014, at the age of 85. She was at her home in Woodside, California, surrounded by family and caregivers. Her family stated only that she died of natural causes. The specific cause, according to her death certificate released on March 3, 2014, was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A lifelong smoker, she avoided revealing her habit in public to avoid setting a bad example for her fans. She is survived by her three children, Susan, Charlie Jr. and Lori, granddaughter Teresa and great-granddaughters Lily and Emma.
Awards and honors
Temple was the recipient of many awards and honors including a special Juvenile Academy Award, the Life Achievement Award from the American Center of Films for Children, the National Board of Review Career Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. On September 11, 2002, a life-size bronze statue of the child Temple by sculptor Nijel Binns was erected on the Fox Studio lot.
On March 14, 1935, Temple left her footprints and handprints in the wet cement at the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. She was the Grand Marshal of the New Year's Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, California three times in 1939, 1989, and 1999.
On February 8, 1960, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in films.
In February 1980, Temple was honored by Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, along with U.S. Senator Jake Garn of Utah, actor James Stewart, singer John Denver, and Tom Abraham, a businessman from Canadian, Texas, who worked with immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens.
- List of former child actors from the United States
- List of oldest and youngest Academy Award winners and nominees
- Official website
- Shirley Temple's Website
- Shirley Temple at the Internet Movie Database
- Shirley Temple at the TCM Movie Database
- Photographs of Shirley Temple
- Shirley Temple Rock at the Iverson Movie Ranch
- Wee Willie Winkie at the Iverson Movie Ranch
- Iverson Movie Ranch: History, vintage photos.