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Creator / Shirley Temple

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Hollywood Years

"I've been blessed with three wonderful careers: motion pictures and television, wife, mother, and grandmother...and diplomatic services for the United States government."

Shirley Temple Black (born Shirley Jane Temple; April 23, 1928 February 10, 2014) was one of the most famous child actors in film history. During The Golden Age of Hollywood, she was the top box-office draw for four straight years (193538), a record no other child actress has come close to challenging. Though to be fair to the little ladies who came later, it should be pointed out that subsequent generations of child actresses didn't have all of the advantages and opportunities that Shirley's era of child actresses did.

While Temple was very popular during the desperate times of The Great Depression, her brand of sugary goop is likely to cause diabetic overload for viewers today. Her specialty: tap-dancing orphans who strike it rich. (Rarely do her characters' parents actually die onscreen as in Bright Eyes, which is ironically one of her darker films despite introducing her iconic song "On the Good Ship Lollipop".) Expect a suave man about town, a lemon-faced aunt, and a cool teacher to also make an appearance in one of her films. So successful was the formula that 20th Century Fox changed the title character of Rudyard Kipling's Wee Willie Winkie to a girl just so they could cast her in the lead for their film adaptation.

A triple threat at age ten, Temple was most often paired with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, one of the few times that a black male actor 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 a good team in their day, yet the on-screen relationship was clearly not an equal one. Poor Shirley also had a memorable blackface scene in The Littlest Rebel, a film which manages to out-cringe even Al "My Mammy in Alabammy" Jolson's The Jazz Singer for its offensiveness to modern sensibilities.
DC Years
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 in 1949 at age 21. However, from 1958 to 1961, she was the host and narrator for an NBC children's anthology of fairy tales called Shirley Temple's Storybook, and would occasionally play parts in episodes. Her children also played parts in some episodes. Her daughter Lori later became a bassist for Melvins.

In later years, she talked about the child abuse that occurred on the set of the Baby Burlesk short films: misbehaving children would be locked in a cupboard with a big block of ice, and left to freeze. When she was 12, an MGM producer exposed himself to her in his office; not knowing what was going on, she just laughed.

After leaving the stage, Temple entered politics, serving terms as chief of protocol and the U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia. In 1988, she released her autobiography, Child Star: An Autobiography.

She became Shirley Temple Black in 1950 when she married businessman Charles Alden Black. They remained married until he died in 2005.

Temple died at the age of eighty-five in February 2014 as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from a lifetime of smoking. She was among the last of the stars from The Golden Age of Hollywood to pass on.

Temple lent her name to a popular non-alcoholic cocktail made with ginger alenote  and a splash of grenadine syrup to give it the characteristic pink color, garnished with a maraschino cherry and sometimes oranges or other citrus fruits. The drink was traditionally held to have been invented for the express purpose of being served to her during her peak years (i.e. when she was a minor). Ironically, even though this drink is popular with children, Shirley Temple hated it for its "saccharine sweet, icky" taste, and additionally in her adult years for being endlessly served the thing by bartenders the world over (That said, the drink named after her having the exact same qualities as her movies seems especially appropriate.)

For her achievements in acting and as an ambassador, Google honoured her with an animated doodle on June 9, 2021.

For some reason, any character based on her is nearly always a Spoiled Brat, despite Shirley not really being prone to misbehaving in films or real life. Her mother wanted her to be cast in bratty or snarky roles, but the closest she ever got was Mytyl in The Blue Bird. She was, however, chided by her mother for being "brattish" in 1938 when she hit Eleanor Roosevelt in the rear with a slingshot. Her own preference would have been Action Girl roles.

Be careful not to confuse her with Darla Hood.

Shirley Temple films listed on this wiki include:

Temple's work provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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, the latter handled by Legend Films. Typically, the DVD/Blu-Ray lets you choose between watching the original black-and-white version and a colorized version presumably as a way to appease purists who aren't exactly pleased with colorized footage.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: In Little Miss Broadway: "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.
  • 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.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Shirley Temple's characters are usually the ones who make the villains have a change of heart, because she is so innocent and well meaning. See the ode to Shirley in Curly Top:
    You're just so full of sunshine
    Folks agree
    You could supply the world
    With Vitamin D!
    Two eyes that make
    The heavens proud to be blue
    Angel cake
    It's just a copy of you!
  • Kids Hate Vegetables: The musical number "You Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby" from Poor Little Rich Girl has Temple's character objecting "on behalf of the kids of the nation" to having to eat the title vegetable. It became a minor hit.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: The studio lied about her age, saying she was younger for ages.
  • Perpetual Smiler: She started school and her teachers asked her mother what was wrong with her, because she was smiling all the time.
  • 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.
  • Public Domain: The Little Princess, due to Fox failing to renew the copyright. As a result, it can be seen for free on the internet. The same goes for Captain January, reportedly due to a legal loophole. All of her other movies still have their copyrights.
  • Regal Ringlets: She was famous for her curls; one of her films was even called Curly Top.
  • 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.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: Besides licensed products featuring Temple's likeness, her popularity had also spurred tons of unauthorised goods with her face on it, such as "an army of unlicensed dolls, clothing and oddities came marching onstage" and even cigars with her likeness printed on the bands. While she was in retrospect appalled by the "elusive commercial scoundrels" unfairly cashing in on her childhood fame, she concluded in her autobiography that it made no financial sense to go after the counterfeiters considering the costs of litigation and the economy of the time. They did however go after a few high-profile cases, one of them being Ideal filing a $100,000 patent infringement suit against a certain Lenora Doll Company. Temple herself was named as a co-plaintiff befitting her celebrity status during the height of her popularity.