Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Movies

Ten things you probably didn't know about Shirley Temple

See also

Late Monday night, Feb. 10, the world lost an iconic actress, singer, and dancer when Shirley Temple died of a heart attack at 85 in her California home. When many think of Shirley Temple, they imagine a bright-eyed, spirited little darling with curly hair and an endearing smile..or maybe just the beverage. Regardless, Shirley Temple, had a life that far exceeded her childhood acting career and many of her achievements, though not widely known, are worth acknowledging.

Shirley Temple began acting at the young age of 3 and retired completely from films at 22 in 1950. She peaked in her performance career before her thirteenth birthday, and though her later work didn't attract the attention and acclaim as films like "Bright Eyes" or "The Little Princess", she remained an small, eternal light that shone through the Depression, giving hope to film-goers across the country.

However, Shirley Temple remained an active public servant throughout the remaining 64 years of her life. Whether appearing in pop culture, running for public office, or raising breast cancer awareness, there is still much that fans don't realize about the child star from her signature style and career through her lesser known adulthood.

Childhood Achievements
Childhood Achievements en.wikipedia.org

Childhood Achievements

Shirley Temple began acting at 3 and retired completely from films at 22 in 1950. She got her start in "Baby Burlesks", a short film series satirizing recent film and political events using preschool children. In her 1988 autobiography, Temple described "Baby Burlesks" as "a cynical exploitation of our childish innocence" adding it was, "the best things I ever did."

At the age of 6, she became the first child star to receive a miniature Juvenile Oscar for her 1934 film accomplishments and was the youngest ever presenter at the Oscars. Temple added her foot and hand prints to the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre a month later. She currently ranks 18th on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female American screen legends of all time.

Those Curls
Those Curls simple.wikipedia.org

Those Curls

Shirley Temple's mother, Gertrude Temple, began styling Shirley's hair in her signature curls at the age of three. She modeled the look after silent film star Mary Pickford, and came to work as her coach and hairdresser at $150 a week. Gertrude Temple supposedly did her hair in exactly 56 pin curls for each movie.

The Beverage
The Beverage en.wikipedia.org

The Beverage

The classic non-alcoholic beverage, Shirley Temple (aka Kiddie Cocktail), was created in Shirley's honor in the 1930s, so that she could join her company in a cocktail. The exact place of origin is still disputed, though it is believed to be either at Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen's or at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

A Shirley Temple consists of ginger ale and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry. Variations include orange juice, a lemon slice, and lemon-lemon lime substitute for ginger ale.

For the alcoholic version of this beverage, patrons play off Shirley's married name and ask for a Shirley Temple Black (or, "A Shirley Temple...and make it Black"). This beverage is made by replacing ginger ale with alcoholic ginger beer and adding rum.

Politics
Politics it.wikipedia.org

Politics

As an adult, Shirley Temple Black was very involved in politics and was became active in the Republican Party in California in 1967.

In 1969, President Nixon appointed Temple Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly. Five years later, President Ford appointed her United States Ambassador to Ghana. Henry Kissinger referred to her as "able and tough" in this role.

Shirley Temple Black was appointed the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States on July 1, 1976 and thus was in charge of arrangements for President Carter's inauguration and inaugural ball.

President Bush Senior appointed Shirley Temple Black the United States Amabassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

She had a thing for military men
She had a thing for military men en.wikipedia.org

She had a thing for military men

Shirley Temple met Army Air Corps sergeant John Agar in 1943, and they were married two years later. Agar eventually became and actor and starred alongside Shirley in two movies, "Fort Apache" (1948) and "Adventure in Baltimore" (1949). The two had a daughter, Linda Susan, but eventually divorced in 1949.

A year later, Shirley met another military man, WWII United States Navy intelligence officer and Silver Star recipient, Charles Alden Black. Black was recalled to the Navy during the Korean War and the two had a son (Charles, Jr.) and daughter (Lori) surrounding his return. Shirley and Charles Black remained married for 54 years until his death on August 4, 2005 of complications from a bone marrow disease.

Cancer
Cancer it.wikipedia.org

Cancer

Shirley Temple was diagnosed in breast cancer in 1972. The tumor was removed and a radical mastectomy was performed. She announced her battle overcoming breast cancer through radio, television, and magazine articles, making her one of the first women to speak openly about breast cancer. She significantly raised breast cancer awareness and made a point of encouraging women to be brave and aware. She is quoted as saying,

“My doctors have assured me that they are 100 percent certain the cancer is removed. The only reason I am telling you this is to convince other women to watch for any lump or unusual symptom. There is almost certain cure for this cancer if it is caught early enough.” 

Television
Television en.wikipedia.org

Television

Shirley Temple spent 1958 hosting and narrating a television series of fairy tale adaptations called "Shirley Temple's Storybook." While the show gained a level of popularity and even featured her son in an episode, the series struggled due to poor sets and special effects and the lack of a regular time slot. Just the same, the popularity of the show led Ideal Toy Company to release a new version of the classic Shirley Temple dolls and Random House published three fairytale anthologies under her name. Other merchandise such as handbags, cats, coloring books, and more were big sellers at the time as a result of "Shirley Temple's Storybook."

"The Shirley Temple Show" was canceled in 1961, but Temple continued to make televised guest appearances.

Not Everyone Was a Fan
Not Everyone Was a Fan flickr.com

Not Everyone Was a Fan

In response to "Wee Willie Winkie" (1937) (allegedly Temple's personal favorite), British film critic Graham Greene called Shirley Temple a "complete totsy" and accused the 9-year-old of being too nubile in the film. He added,

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.

Temple and Twentieth Century-Fox sued for libel and won, eventually donating the settlement to charity and building a youth center in England.

Lost Roles
Lost Roles it.wikipedia.org

Lost Roles

It's no secret that Shirley Temple's childhood success did not transfer past her teen years. However not many know of the roles she almost portrayed. She was chosen for her role in "Susannah of the Mountains" (1939) rather than that of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), a role now famously portrayed by Judy Garland.

She auditioned for the role of Peter Pan on Broadway stage in 1950, and nearly teamed with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for "Babes on Broadway" (1941), but MGM felt that Garland and Rooney would upstage Temple. Shirley Temple's mother also turned down "Panama Hattie" (1942), "National Velvet" (1944), and "Barnacle Bill" (1941) because she felt they would not showcase Shirley properly.

Pop Culture Appearances
Pop Culture Appearances Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Pop Culture Appearances

Shirley Temple is subject of Salvador Dalí's painting, "Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time." (1939)

She also appears on cover of The Beatles's "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967) album. She and her daughter Lori visited The Beatles backstage at The Cow Palace at the start of their 1964 North American tour. When the Beatles requested her permission to use Shirley's image on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", she was the only celebrity who insisted upon hearing the album before granting permission.

[Pictured: Shirley Temple Black accepts Life Achievement Award during the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California]

Bonus: Girl Scout!
Bonus: Girl Scout! flickr.com

Bonus: Girl Scout!

That's right, Shirley Temple was a girl scout. It is unclear exactly when she was an active member, but she is listed among the performing arts "famous formers."

Advertisement