Creator: Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple (April 23, 1928 — February 10, 2014) is arguably the most famous child actress in film history. She was the top box office draw for four straight years, 1935-38, a record no other child star has come close to.

Her specialty: tap dancing orphans who strike it rich. Rarely do her parents actually die onscreen as in Bright Eyes, which is ironically one of her darker films despite the "Good Ship Lollipop" song. She was very popular during the desperate times of The Great Depression, but her brand of sugary goop is likely to cause Diabetic overload today. So successful was the formula that 20th Century Fox changed the titular character from Wee Willie Winkie to a girl. Expect a suave man about town, a lemon-faced aunt, and a Cool Teacher to also make an appearance.

A triple threat at age 10, she was most often paired with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, one of the few times that a black man got a free pass during the days of The Hays Code (which didn't allow interracial pairings). You'd be hard-pressed to find a more winning picture of values dissonance than these two. Temple and Robinson became close friends and were considered something of a Dream Team in their day, yet the on-screen relationship was clearly not an equal one. Dynamic duo or capitalist tools? Your mileage may very. Poor Shirley also had a memorable blackface scene in the The Littlest Rebel, a film which manages to out-cringe even Al "My Mammy in Alabammy" Jolson, one of her contemporaries.

Temple's career trailed off as she approached adulthood, partly because she wasn't offered any good roles, and possibly because audiences weren't too comfortable with Shirley "Dimples" Temple being replaced with a very foxy young lady. She retired from show business at age 21. After leaving the stage, Temple entered politics, serving terms as chief of protocol and the U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

Temple died at the age of 85 in February 2014.

For some reason, characters based on her tend to be Spoiled Brats, despite Shirley not really being prone to misbehaving in films or real life. She was, however, chided by her mother for being "brattish" in 1938 when she hit Eleanor Roosevelt with a slingshot.

Be careful not to confuse her with Darla Hood.


Shirley Temple films listed on this wiki include:


This actress provides examples of:

  • Blackface: At one point in The Littlest Rebel, Shirley's character dons blackface to disguise herself as a slave. In Dimples, Shirley herself doesn't wear blackface, but her character participates in a Show Within a Show based on Uncle Tom's Cabin with white actors in blackface playing the black characters (Shirley's character is playing Little Eva, naturally).
  • Cheerful Child: Ms. Temple's usual role.
    • Shirley's mother wanted her to be able to play sassy little brats, maybe even Enfants Terribles, and Shirley herself wanted to play more Action Girl type roles, but the studio (20th Century Fox) wouldn't allow either one.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: A mild example: she couldnít carry a tune and her singing voice was rather mediocre, but she didnít sound much worse than your average child, and it just made her come off as adorable.
  • The Danza: In four of her early films.note 
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: In Poor Little Rich Girl, Temple's character, Barbara, is forced to eat spinach, and says something along the lines of this. Barbara even performs a song on the radio based around this.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: With the exception of The Little Princess, all of Shirley Temple's 1930s films were shot in black-and-white. Almost all of them are available in color now. Some were colorized twice, first in the 1980s and again in the early twenty-first century. Typically, the DVD/Blu-Ray lets you choose between watching the original black-and-white version and a colorized version.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: "You mean ol' pumpkin!" She should have offered some ointment for that burn.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: She often (but not always) played these in her films.
  • Hole in Flag: Her ambassadorship to Czechoslovakia coincided with the Velvet Revolution, when the country peacefully transitioned from communism to democracy. In fact, she was the second-to-last U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia before it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Didn't know that, did you?
  • Pretty in Mink: She wore a white rabbit fur coat in one movie, and that's been the most common real fur choice for girls' coats since.
  • The Red Stapler: Temple set a lot of trends for girls, notably the hairstyle.
    • And the first name "Shirley", which was originally a boys' name (among others, the name is given to one of Anne's sons in Anne of Green Gables). To this day, Shirley is a time capsule name dated to the peak of Temple's popularity that makes it very difficult for a woman to lie about her age.
  • Regal Ringlets
  • She Is All Grown Up: Her later films, like Since You Went Away and The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer. Audiences of the time didn't take it well.
  • Strawman Political: A lot of people hate her for her Blackface scene in The Littlest Rebel even though she was seven at the time of filming and seven year olds, especially in that era, can only really do what adults tell them to do. There was a massive flare of Tumblr hatedom at the time of her death because of her partaking in blackface.
  • What Could Have Been: She was considered for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz before the part was given to Judy Garland. Temple was age-appropriate, while Garland was a good six years older than the Dorothy of Baum's novel.
    • The reason Garland was chosen over Temple was due to the fact that, back in those days, creative talent had to sign long-term contracts with specific film studios that usually forbade them from taking work from elsewhere (penalties for moonlighting were harsh). Oz was an MGM film, but Temple was signed to 20th Century Fox, who refused to release her. Also, there was the little issue of Oz being a musical and Shirley's poor singing ability.