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From age 7 to 10 (1935 through 1938) Shirley Temple was the number one box office star. You may wonder how that happened. Just look at the posters and you will see how this happened. Shirley was popular during the height of the Great Depression. She was absolutely the most beautiful little girl who could sing, dance and act. She became a gold mine for her studio when she began her career in 1932. She retired from films in 1950.
My personal favorite Shirley Temple movie is Captain January. When she cried “Cap, oh Cap”, the whole audience cried with her. Her effervescence, personality, looks and talent made her a star and she became a legend as a child.
What is ironic and quite humorous is that during the time of her fame, there were several rumors that were going around about her:
- That she wasn’t a child, that she was a dwarf.
- The Vatican sent Father Massante to investigate whether Shirley was a child.
- That she wore a wig.
- Actually Shirley wished she wore a wig. She had to endure weekly vinegar rinses, which burned her eyes and she constantly had to have her hair set to keep those curls.
- People wondered why Shirley wasn’t loosing teeth like most children do.
- In truth, Shirley wore dental plates and caps to hide the gaps in her teeth.
Shirley Temple was born in 1928 and her career began in 1932 at age three. In 1935 she received a Juvenile Academy Award for her contribution to film. She was the most successful child actress of all time. During the time of her reign, there were dolls, dishes and clothing that were part of the Shirley Temple packaging for the public. As she reached adolescence, her popularity waned. She was a child star and people wanted her to stay a child star.
I believe Shirley would have liked to continue her career as she got older and she did make a few movies in her early teens and twenties but she retired from films at the age of 22. She was a beautiful young woman, but people wanted “little Shirley” and they wanted The Good Ship Lollipop. This happens a great deal for child actors. Elizabeth Taylor was able to make the transition but she never had the fame that Shirley had at such a young age. Shirley Temple as a child had the power to melt your heart and for the public this spelled the end of Shirley’s career as she got older.
She was a beautiful teenager and woman, but ultimately her iconic child image ended her career early because the people wanted “little Shirley”.
Shirley Temple was actually a hero. She fought breast cancer at the age of 44 and opened the lines of communication for other women to come forward so that perhaps one day a cure could be found.
In 1958 she narrated and hosted a television series based on fairytale adaptations. As an adult, she entered politics. She became a diplomat to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia. She became the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States.
Shirley Temple had a remarkable career and life. She did it all. Acted, sang, danced and entered politics. She was an extraordinary performer and a wonderful woman. She left a lot of good memories and she left her legacy.