The life story of Shirley Temple

At a time of this depression, when people’s spirits are lower than ever before, it is wonderful to know that for only 15 cents you can go to the cinema to see the smile of this beautiful girl and forget everyday problems, at least for a moment – said US President Franklin D. in 1935. Roosevelt, alluding to the then most famous child’s face on the movie screen, Shirley Temple.

The incredibly talented actress, singer and dancer was born on April 23, 1928. The star of children’s films was born in the California city of Santa Monica in a family of three. George Temple’s father was a banker, and Gertrude’s mother was a housewife. At the age of only three, little Shirley began to show a talent for singing and dancing.

This is the life story of Shirley Temple!

How did it all start?

As early as 1931, her mother enrolled her in a dance school in Los Angeles, where she was spotted by film agents, and then little Shirley was very quickly engaged in films. Soon everyone knew who the cute little girl with the blue curls, the wide smile and the playful eyes was. After dance school, Shirley got her first acting engagement in the series “Baby Burlesks” in “Educational Pictures”, where she imitated stars like Marlene Dietrich with other talented children.

Thanks to her ambitious mother, Shirley signed a contract with “20th Century Fox” and thus became one of the few actresses who gained fame before she turned six. – Ever since the first film I made under the auspices of “20th Century Fox”, I knew how to leave a mark so that people would remember me. I enjoyed it all the time, so at no point in the recording did I have a problem doing anything. I knew how to remember my sentences, how to be completely concentrated and how to follow the director’s instructions – said the actress.

– When I asked my mother why people run after me and shout that they love me, she answered me coldly that my work makes them happy. I will always remember those words – Shirley once pointed out, who impressed the audience in 1934 with her first film “Stand Up and Cheer!” and a performance of the song “Baby, Take a Bow”. Shirley made seven more films that year and thus earned a special Oscar for her outstanding contribution to the film industry. Then she became the first child to ever receive that kind of recognition.

– The word happiness does not need any explanation. Being lucky in life also does not need further explanation. I’m lucky and that’s all – the actress said about herself.

National pride

At that time, Shirley became an institution and a national pride. They started making Shirley Temple dolls, various toys bore her name, she even got a line of shoes and clothes.

– At the age of six, I stopped believing in Santa Claus. My mother took me to Santa’s in his corner in a shopping center, and he asked me for an autograph – she said.

Everyone was making money on her behalf except her. Namely, her name was used for many purposes, but no one paid her copyright. When they realized that their daughter was underpaid for her character and work, the parents hired a reputable lawyer, Lord Wright. After that, her fees were increased from 50 to a thousand dollars a week, and her mother, who was her hairdresser, had her salary increased by 250 dollars a week, with Shirley having to receive an additional 15,000 dollars for each completed film.

– Time is money. Wasted time is wasted money, and all that leads to trouble – claimed Shirley. The conditions in which the children then acted in Hollywood and the way they treated them, would be severely punished today.

– In two years, I knew how to make 26 films. The children who were restless on the set, including me, had to stand on the icy floor to calm down as punishment. When that didn’t work either, they knew they were putting us sitting on ice blocks that we called black boxes. Fortunately, black boxes did not destroy my mental health – Shirley revealed. Despite the unpleasant struggle of the parents for their daughter’s earnings during the Great Depression, which shook America at the time, Shirley did not stop lowering her success. The song “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, which she performed in the movie “Bright Eyes”, has sold more than 500,000 copies.

– I sincerely loved what I was doing, from the very beginning. I remember that there were many evil and cruel mothers of my colleagues and friends who pinched their children to make them cry on the set for the needs of a scene. My mother surrounded me with love. And that was enough for me – she admitted in one of the interviews.

Fascination with a young actress

Shirley Temple’s fascination with talent was enormous. Daryl F. Zanuk, producer and studio director of 20th Century Fox, focused all her attention on her to gain star status.

Many said that Shirley was the greatest value of her studies. As many as twenty writers gathered in the studio called “Shirley Temple Development”, were only in charge of writing screenplays for films starring the famous girl. That team wrote 11 original stories and classics exclusively for her. In accordance with the status of a star, Shirley, thanks to the producer Wyfield Shehan, got her own small town as part of her studies.

Winfield built a four-room bungalow for the girl with a garden, a fence, a tree and a swing, as well as a cage with rabbits. The wall of the living room of the bungalow was painted with a mural on which she was depicted as a character from a fairy tale, with a golden star on her head. Shirley also got a bodyguard, John Griffith, and at the end of 1935, Francis Clami Clampt became her teacher, because she was educated in the “Fox” studio.

– I was showered with love from all sides and very young. I started working at the age of three, and that was normal for me then. I thought that everyone would start working then – she explained.

– I think I was just lucky. During the Great Depression, people needed someone to cheer them up, and those were mostly dogs and girls like me. I don’t think something like that will happen again – she admitted.

– When I saw someone in work shoes as a child, I knew that person was working. I was always worried about people who wore neat, shiny shoes – Shirley added. The number of films she made for a year was impossible to keep track of, so her parents managed to manage not to make more than four films a year, and her weekly salary increased to 2,500 dollars. In 1937, she recorded “Heidi”, another cinema hit, and daily shootings exhausted the then nine-year-old girl. In the following years, little Shirley became a teenager, so accordingly, her team tried to make films appropriate for that age. Although everyone wanted to keep the children’s whimsy and carefreeness, Shirley became more and more serious over time, but that did not, at least not for a while, jeopardize her film career. – I’ve always acted like a boss. As a child, I loved to give orders – she admitted.

Color film

Her first color film was “The Little Princess”, and $1.5 million was spent on its shooting. Shirley was still popular, both on the movie screen and as a muse for many artists, such as the painter Salvador Dalí. At the age of 12, the parents, on the basis of a contract concluded with a film studio, enrolled their daughter in an exclusive school in Los Angeles, and the luxury bungalow in the studio was converted into a large office where she occasionally came.

– At the age of 14, I felt the oldest. After that, I was getting younger and younger – she claimed.

– For a while, I liked the idea of being with my peers at school much more than making movies. I guess I missed real friends – she complained.

The great popularity of the actress was incredible for some, so the media began to come up with conspiracy theories related to Shirley. In one of them, they claimed that Shirley, as a girl, does not really exist, but it is a 30-year-old actress of dwarf stature who, in order to gain as much popularity as possible, presents herself as a girl.

Then some assumed that Shirley was wearing a wig, and some claimed that it was impossible for a girl to have all her teeth all the time at an early age. Certain media even came up with the idea that her teeth were immediately extracted and placed artificially, and the truth was that Shirley lost her baby teeth like her peers, but for the purposes of the film she wore specially made dentures. Some went so far in their misinformation that they even demanded that the Vatican investigate whether Shirley was really a child.

Many claimed that Shirley was not a natural blonde, but that she dyed her hair from a young age. Also, while filming “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, she fell ill and did not come to the set for a few days, which was enough for the media to publish the story of how her hair fell out, which is why she cannot continue filming.

Fans would approach her and pull her hair to check if she was right. Her mother has always taken care of her hair. She would wash her hair with vinegar and soap, then wrap it in linen cloths to get ring curls, and during that time her father would read “The Wizard of Oz.”

– I was too small to be burdened by the stories that were circulating about me at the time. When I read them today, I smile really well – she revealed on one occasion. – Men used to tell me that they loved me when they were seven years old, so I knew to ask them why they never called me then. Women often approached me shouting, “Do you know what I have?” Then I would answer, “I know, the original Shirley Temple doll.” The same story was constantly spinning in a circle – told the actress who at that time became the most wanted and most famous Hollywood star after Clerk Gable, and for a while she was more photographed than President Roosevelt.

– I wanted to become everything in life, from an FBI inspector to a seller of delicious pies. I wanted it so much that they brought a man who made pies to my studio, and I drove them in carts around the set and sold them. I was eight years old and it was great because everyone bought pies from me, and I ate them for free – recalled the star who also had her own show on radio and television.

– If I could start from the beginning, I would repeat everything once again and I would not change anything in my life. I would probably pay someone now to do everything I had the opportunity to do – she said. After some time, Temple left the film studio where she grew up and became a star, and signed a contract with “MGM”, where she shot several series, including the only film “Kathleen”, whose plot follows an unhappy teenager. But, unlike the previous ones, her film was not a great success.

Getting married

The actress then broke off a short collaboration with MGM and signed a new contract with “United Artists”, where she made another unsuccessful film – “Miss Annie Rooney”. After that, she did not act for a while, but dedicated herself to education and charity work.

– I am not proud of any of my films as an adult, except for “The Hagen Girl”, which no one remembers, but it was he who gave me the opportunity to really act again, after many years – admitted the actress who got married for the first time at just 17, for actor John Agar with whom she made the films “Fort Apache” and “Adventure in Baltimore”.

– I wanted to be the first girl in the class to get married.

From the seventh grade, I recorded which of the older students got engaged or got married. “Marriage has always been in my head,” she said.

The couple had a daughter, Linda Susan, in 1948, and in 1950, just five years after the wedding ceremony, in front of 500 guests, they divorced and Shirley was given custody of Linda.

– My first marriage just happened. I was too young for him – Temple admitted.

That same year, the 22-year-old Temple met Charles Alden Black, a businessman and officer in World War II, whom she married the same year, this time in a ceremony in front of a small circle of people at Charles’ family home in California.

– That’s how Shirley Temple opened the door to Shirley Temple Black. The former has never harmed the latter. What’s more, she helped her a lot – they were great friends.

There is nothing greater than true love – she said.

The couple moved to Washington, where Temple gave birth to a son, Charles Alden Black Jr., in 1952, and a daughter, Lori, two years later.

A new career

– I had three careers in my life – I was an actress, wife and mother. I am proud of my first career, but also of the other two – she commented wittily. In addition to these careers, Temple also tried her hand at politics. Namely, after joining the Republicans, in 1967 she ran for president of the party in California, after the then president, J. Arthur Younger, died of leukemia.

– I had a lot of fake life, I wanted to do something real, live in the real world – she said.

Shirley was the ambassador to the United Nations for three years, so she often traveled outside of America, and for some time she worked as the UN representative in Ghana.

– Most people in Ghana didn’t know I was an actress. They only knew me from the work I did at the UN – she claimed.

For some time, Temple Black was also a member of the foreign affairs of the United States, which dealt with the problems of African refugees. From 1989 to 1992, she was ambassador to the then Czechoslovak Republic. After that, she actively participated in international affairs – among other things, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Diplomatic Studies as well as the National Committee for US-China Relations.

– I work 17 hours a day and I am responsible for 108 members of the embassy – said the actress at the time, for whom acting was no longer a priority.

– Don’t you think that politicians are also actors? When you stand in front of a hundred people and you are not ashamed at all, it means that you can be a very good politician – Shirley pointed out.

Health problems

Shirley was first in many ways. Apart from her incredible success at just three years old, she was the first child to win an Oscar, first on the list of most famous stars, the most photographed person, and at 44, she was the first public figure to talk about breast cancer for which she was urgently hospitalized to underwent a mastectomy.

As women at that time did not speak publicly about that malignant disease, Shirley wanted to change that a lot, so she went public in order to encourage other sick women as well.

– My doctors are convinced that the cancer has been removed from my body. The only reason I talk about it in public is the desire to warn other women to pay attention to any lumps or irregularities on their body. If the cancer is detected in time, there is a cure for it – she said at the time.

Her appearance in the media met with great public support, because after years of silence, someone appeared who became a role model for many sick women.

– They removed my left breast and I faced it myself. I want it to become a normal thing in our society. It is not a shame to be sick, it is a shame not to talk about it and not to inform the public about how the disease can be prevented – she revealed.

After that, Shirley received more than 50,000 letters of support, and it was her statements about the disease that opened the way for many famous women who later became ill. Following in the footsteps of Shirley, they wrote books about it, including the campaign of former First Lady Betty Ford as well as Margaret Happy Rockefeller, the wife of the Governor of New York.

Shirley’s lasting contribution to women’s health, they pointed out recently in a magazine on women’s health, praising her not only as the first public figure to speak and write openly about breast cancer, but also her contribution to encouraging the women’s health movement.

Before Temple spoke publicly about her illness, women came to the hospital not knowing what awaited them, and after a routine operation, they would wake up without a breast thinking that they had only come for a biopsy. The reason for that was that the doctors, but also the society, thought that the woman could not submit the information that she had to undergo a mastectomy. Such an opinion began to change thanks to Shirley.

– I had to prevent that. I couldn’t listen to women all over the world, as well as close friends, how they are not familiar with what they have in their body and how it is treated – she explained.

The last years of life

Shirley’s second husband died in 2005 from the consequences of bone cancer, just when the couple was supposed to celebrate the 55th anniversary of their marriage.

– Charles was my support and the biggest critic in everything I did. I miss him immensely – she said after his death. After Charles’ death, Shirley remained living in their family home in Washington, where she passed away on January 10, 2014.

The cause of death was announced in the media two months later, when the family announced that she had died of a chronic lung disease. She was a smoker for many years, but she never pointed it out in public because she did not want to be a bad example to many fans.

– We said goodbye to the extraordinary actress who contributed immensely to the film culture, and above all, we say goodbye to the beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and adored wife who enjoyed 54 years with her husband and who she missed immensely after her death – she announced family after death.

The actress was remembered by many as a playful girl with a wide smile and blue curls. Many remember her for the unprecedented success she gained at the age of three, as well as the fact that she opened the doors of Hollywood to the younger generations, but she was also an example of how everything is possible when it is really wanted.

– I have only one piece of advice for those who want to achieve something in life and receive recognition for their work: start on time, start early – Shirley pointed out.


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