Shirley Temple Black: 10 things to know about Curly Top
Shirley Temple Black, the dimpled curly-haired scene-stealer, warmed hearts from the start. She died this week at age 85 at her home near San Francisco, and though Temple Black went on to lead a storied life well outside Hollywood, there are still a few facts that some readers may not know. Here’s a sampling:
Watch out Hollywood, I’m here: At 3, Temple made her on-screen debut, but it was a strange one. She and a handful of other toddlers starred in the 1932 parody series “Baby Burlesks.” The toddlers wore diapers and barely there lingerie, playing hookers and World War I soldiers. Temple later described the series as “a cynical exploitation of our childish innocence” in her 1988 autobiography. But she also said the programs were “the best things I ever did.”
Make me (extra) pretty, mama: Temple’s mother, Gertrude Temple, a woman who had her own desires for a career in entertainment, enrolled her daughter in dancing lessons when she was barely 3. But when her daughter shot to fame, she was right there with her. Temple’s mother styled her daughter’s hair in pin curls for each feature film. Every hairdo had exactly 56 curls, no more, no less. Temple told The Times in 1989 that her “super mother ... kept my head on straight.”
This girl’s got value, baby: 20th Century Fox helped launch Temple’s career, and she helped bring the company out of an economic slump. To protect its investment, the studio insured its rising star with specialist insurance market Lloyd’s of London for $795,000. Temple was just 7 at the time. The contract also carried two specifications: Temple could not bear arms during war or become injured while intoxicated.
Excuse moi? Novelist Graham Greene reviewed films for the British magazine Night and Day. When he examined Temple’s 1937 film “Wee Willie Winkie,” he took a shot at Temple and her “admirers.” Greene called them “middle-aged men and clergymen” who “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 was 9 at the time, and her squad of publicists sued Greene and the British magazine Night and Day for libel. Temple’s team won $12,000 in damages.
I’ll have what she’s having: In the 1930s, Temple was so beloved that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the midst of the Depression, said “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” In the same era, a non-alcoholic drink came to fruition called the Shirley Temple. Made with ginger ale, grenadine syrup and orange juice, the beverage was topped with a maraschino cherry and slice of lemon -- and has been slaking the thirst of preadolescents at family weddings ever since.
A lady doesn’t kiss and tell: Temple’s first on-screen kiss engendered some hoopla. She starred in the 1942 comedy-drama “Miss Annie Rooney” as a modest girl who falls in love with a rich young man, played by Dickie Moore. He bestowed a kiss on her left cheek when she was 14.
‘There’s no place like home’: Temple was nearly cast as Dorothy in MGM’s 1939 fantasy “The Wizard of Oz.” But the role went to Judy Garland instead. To this day, there are varying reports about the casting. One account claims that MGM believed Temple’s singing abilities were inferior to Garland’s. Another says Temple’s studio, 20th Century Fox, refused to loan their moneymaker to MGM.
Say it ain’t so!: When Shirley met her second husband, Charles Black, a San Francisco businessman, he admitted that he’d never seen any of her films. The pair met in Honolulu and remained a couple until his death from complications of a bone marrow disease in 2005. “He was an intensely interesting and fascinating man to me,” Temple Black once said. “I fell in love with him at first sight. It sounds corny, but that’s what happened.”
Refocusing her efforts: When her career as an actor waned, she shifted to politics. Temple unsuccessfully ran for a U.S. congressional seat in 1967. From 1969 to 1970, she was a U.S. delegate in the United Nations General Assembly, and later was appointed ambassador to Ghana in 1974. Upon her appointment to the Ghana position, Temple said, “I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat [in Ghana]. My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies.”
Forever young: The whole idea of Temple’s youth was so precious to 20th Century Fox that the studio took the 6-year-old’s birth certificate and shaved off an entire year. It wasn’t until her 13th birthday that Temple discovered the truth. Temple once said, “When I was 14, I was the oldest I ever was ... I’ve been getting younger ever since.”
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