Shirley Temple is best-known for her roles in films such as The Little Princess and Heidi. She started acting and singing at the tender young age of three. She may very well have been considered the first “triple threat,” bringing her acting, singing, and dancing talents to the forefront, landing her first gigs when she was five.
Widely recognized for her golden curls and her bubbly personality, Shirley Temple was nothing short of a superstar, paving the way for other child performers for years to come.
But did she ever get married? How much was she worth at the height of her fame? Those facts and more below as we explore some facts you don’t know about the first child star.
Temple Absolutely Loved Food
Temple wasn’t shy when it came to trying new things, especially when it came to food. The actress would absolutely be considered a “foodie” in today’s day and age — it was no secret that she loved to eat.
There is one particular “joke” that Temple would often share that made everyone realize just how much she appreciated a good meal. Because she was born at night, she would always say that she “started life one meal behind,” because she was “too late for dinner.”
“Ever since, I have tried to make up for that loss,” she once said, according to her official website.
Temple Married Actor John Agar In 1945
Shirley Temple fell in love with actor John Agar and married him in 1945. The two exchanged vows at the Wilshire Memorial Church in Los Angeles. Previously a member of the United States Air Force, Agar got into acting after meeting Temple, his second wife.
His debut film was John Ford’s Fort Apache in 1948. Agar starred alongside John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and, of course, Shirley Temple. Temple filed for divorce from him in 1949. Agar, who suffered from emphysema, passed away on April 7, 2002.
Fun Fact: Agar was the victim of a death hoax back in 1972 thanks to the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Temple Was Married To ‘Soul Mate’ Charles Black For 55 Years
People who knew Temple personally would tell you that she was a hopeless romantic — she simply loved being in love. That’s probably not too surprising knowing her personality. She married her second husband, Charles Black, in 1950. The couple met in Hawaii while Temple was on a trip with her family.
Temple and Black, a formal naval officer, were very much in love and remained so for 55 years. When Black passed away on August 4, 2005, Temple was devastated. At the time, she refused to delete his voicemails, saving them as a way to hear his voice again and again.
Her Perfect Curls Took More Effort Than You Know
Temple won the hearts of millions and her hair full of curls made her one of the most recognizable stars ever. But it wasn’t like she fell out of bed with a perfect head of hair each morning.
Temple’s mother would spend quite a bit of time putting Temple’s hair in pin curls for each and every movie that she did. And there’s even more of a science to it than that! Each hairstyle had exactly 56 curls — and each one was near perfect.
Temple’s hair was a trend in and of itself. Girls were simply obsessed with curling their hair just like Temple’s from the 1930s through the 1970s!
She Once Pulled A Prank On First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
Temple wasn’t a troublemaker by any stretch, but one small prank got her in quite a bit of trouble! Temple was at a barbeque at Eleanor Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park, New York, back in 1935 when it happened.
A then-10-year-old Temple was playing with a slingshot, practicing some tricks that she learned after filming The Littlest Rebel. Temple ended up hitting Mrs. Roosevelt in the tush with a pebble! She recalled getting a good spanking from her mom after that incident.
“I’m still a good shot,” Temple told People Magazine several years later.
She Wasn’t Too Good With Money
Temple made millions of dollars throughout her career — and back in the day, even one million was a lot of money. However, Temple wasn’t great at keeping things in order and she ended up losing quite a bit of her earnings due to bad business deals.
By the time she was in her early twenties, Temple had just over $40,000 to her name. It has been estimated that she earned some $3 million during her years working as a child star. Even still, Temple was able to recover just fine. She had an estimated net worth of $30 million at the time of her death.
Temple Almost Landed The Role Of Dorothy In ‘The Wizard Of Oz’
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved films of all time. And while most people can’t imagine what the movie would have been like without the talent of Judy Garland, Shirley Temple was actually in talks to land the role of Dorothy.
Temple met with producer Arthur Freed before the cast was confirmed. There are a few different explanations out there, but the most believable is that there was a conflict between movie houses. Reports suggest that 20th Century Fox refused to lend Temple to MGM to get the movie done so, ultimately, Temple was forced to give up the role.
She Stopped Believing In Santa Claus When She Was Six
Parents tend to have a pretty hard time keeping the ‘ole Santa Claus secret going, and with social media and other technology, it’s even more difficult to convince children that Santa is real these days. Sadly, the surprise was ruined for Temple when she was just six years old.
At the time, Temple was with her mom at a department store. Like every child, Temple wanted to get her photo taken with Santa and she wanted to tell him what was on her Christmas list. That particular Santa was completely starstruck by Temple and couldn’t help but ask for her autograph.
Her Career Took Off In The 1930s
Everything (career-wise) happened relatively fast for Shirley Temple. She starred in “Baby Burlesks” short-subject series, “War Babies” in 1932 and landed her first major role just two years later. Carolina was released in 1934, the same year that Temple inked a seven-year deal with Twentieth Century-Fox.
The amazingness of the year 1934 didn’t end there. Temple was honored with a miniature Oscar at the annual Academy Awards ceremony.
And her success only went up from there. From 1935 through 1938, Shirley Temple was the “number one box-office draw in America and Britain,” according to CNN.
She Was The United States Representative To The United Nations
Shirley Temple was an American through and through. She even had a career in politics! President Richard Nixon named Shirley Temple the United States Representative to the United Nations. Years later, President Gerald Ford named her the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. When Ronald Reagan became president, Temple served in the State Department. And when George H.W. Bush was Commander in Chief, Temple held the post of Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
In 1967, Temple decided to run for office. She ran as a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in California. Unfortunately, she lost to Congressman Pete McCloskey by approximately 19,000 votes.
She Really Does Have A Drink Named After Her
We’re willing to bet that you’ve at least heard of the drink the Shirley Temple, if you haven’t actually tried one. The non-alcoholic beverage is made by mixing grenadine and lemon-lime soda and is topped off with a maraschino cherry (or two, if you’re lucky).
The drink was actually created by bartenders at the Royal Hawaiian Resort in Waikiki, a favorite vacation destination of Temple’s. Interestingly enough, famous Hollywood eatery the Brown Derby restaurant also lays claim to the concoction. Either way, the drink is one that has been enjoyed by countless diners of all ages.
She’s Best-Known For One Very Catchy Song
Shirley Temple sang “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in the 1934 movie Bright Eyes. To this day, it is the very song that people associate with the child star. The tune is often referred to as Temple’s “signature song.” The song was composed by Richard A. Whiting and the lyrics were written by Sidney Clare. It was so popular, in fact, that over 400,000 versions of the sheet music were sold over the years.
Another fond memory of Shirley Temple’s career would be her tap dancing number with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in The Little Colonel, released in 1935.
Temple Battled Breast Cancer — And Won
In 1972, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors found a malignant tumor in her left breast and Temple underwent a mastectomy as part of her treatment.
At the time, discussing such personal medical issues wasn’t common, but Temple spoke out to the world and became an advocate for women’s health in her own right.
“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 an almost certain cure for this cancer if it is caught early enough,” Temple said at the time.
Temple Was Praised By The Journal For Women’s Health In 2012
As mentioned in the previous slide, not many famous actors spoke out about ailments and personal issues in the 1970s. However, Temple’s decision to be open and honest about her diagnosis and treatment helped pave the way for women’s health organizations and other forums in which women are encouraged to be candid about their illnesses.
In 2012, The Journal For Women’s Health shared a piece on Temple, calling her the “first public figure to come forward and write about breast cancer.” Temple was also applauded for standing up for women’s rights. In her writing, she said that her doctor can “make the incision” but that a woman should “make the decision.”
Her Name Was Popular, Too
Just about everyone loved Shirley Temple for her big smile, adorable face, incredible talent, and all around charm. And while just about everyone was obsessed with her chubby cheeks and her perfect curls, others really loved her name. In fact, actresses Shirley Jones and Shirley MacLaine were both named after the child star.
The name “Shirley” is less popular in the 21st century, but it was the second most popular girl’s name in 1935 and 1936. The name remained popular through the 1940s, consistently popping up on “top 10 girl’s names” lists.
Shirley you can guess why that was the case!
She Retired From Show Business In 1950
Shirley Temple decided to hang up her dancin’ shoes (so to speak) in 1950. She wanted to focus on being a homemaker, raising three children and taking care of her husband. Temple welcomed a daughter named Linda with her first husband, John Agar. She had two more children, a daughter named Lori, and a son named Charles, with her second husband, Charles Black.
Linda became a librarian while Temple’s two children with Black followed in their mother’s footsteps; Lori is a musician and Charles Jr. became an actor, though he only has one credit to his name. He also reportedly works as a real estate agent and is thought to be a very successful businessman.
Temple Received Many Kisses Over The Years
With such an impossibly sweet face, it’s no surprise that people couldn’t resist planting wet ones all over the actress! It’s not something that most people would be able to get used to, but Temple had a great sense of humor about it. She often joked about the times that people tried to kiss her.
“You can see a glint in the eye and you know a big sloppy one is coming,” Temple previously told People Magazine. “Men say, ‘I’ve loved you since I was seven years old,’ and I say, ‘Well, you never contacted me,'” Temple added.
Temple Loved That Kids Enjoyed Her Movies For Years To Come
While many kids today don’t know who Shirley Temple is, she definitely made an impression that lasted generations. Many people who grew up watching Temple shared those films with their children and so on. That is something that Temple really loved hearing– that families were brought together by her work year after year.
“I’m delighted that kids are seeing the old films and sharing them with their parents and grandparents. I’m glad they’re so popular, too,” Temple told the Washington Post back in 1995.
In 2016, film historian Leonard Maltin told People magazine that kids who watch Temple’s movies still “respond just as strongly.”
She Was A Great Saleswoman
Although her heart was in entertaining the masses, Temple had another hidden talent; she was quite the sales lady! On her website, she recalled selling pies when she was a kid. Unsurprisingly, she was really good at it.
“It was so intense that the studio got the prop department to make a little pie wagon and they filled it with tarts. I wheeled it around the set and sold them to the crew. I was about eight years old. I always sold out, and I didn’t have to pay for them. It was a great deal,” Temple said. Who could resist a pie from such an adorable face?
Temple Passed Away In 2014
Temple lived a long life full of success, challenges, love, and adoration. She passed away at her home in Woodside, California, on February 10, 2014, at the age of 85. She died of natural causes and wasn’t believed to be sick or suffering when she passed away.
At the time, thousands of people flocked to social media to share their fondest memories of Temple, whether they knew her personally or not. It was clear that she had touched the lives of so many just by being herself, having a great sense of humor, and being an overall wonderful person.
She Was Incredibly Valuable
20th Century Fox had worked hard to launch Temple’s career, and it paid off because she helped to bring the company out of an economic rough patch. However, this meant that they wanted to protect their invested and insured here with special insurance marked Lloyd’s of London for $795,000.
Temple was just seven years old at the time. However, in her contract, there were two specific specifications. She was not eligible to bear arms during times of war or become injured while intoxicated. Clearly, she was one expensive and valuable asset.
She Was Insulted By A Film Reviewer
Graham Greene was a novelist who also reviewed films for the British magazine called Night and Day. After his viewing of Temple’s film Wee Willie Winkie, he opened fire on Temple and her “fans.”
He said her admirers were “middle-aged men,” 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.” That is an in-depth analysis and one that probably didn’t sit too well with others.
Franklin Roosevelt Loved Shirley
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was highly enamored by young Shirley Temple. During the height of the Depression, Mr. President said, “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”
Not too long after that, America invented one of the most beloved drinks. A ginger ale base with grenadine syrup and orange juice mix was born. The Shirley Temple gets topped with a maraschino cherry and a slice of lemon. The world does seem okay when you have a Shirley Temple to sip.
More Value Than You Could Imagine
20th Century Fox had Temple to thank for their resurgence in finances. Before they helped launched her career, Fox was in an economic slump. Since Temple was such an investment, they had to protect her. Fox tapped Lloyd’s of London for $795,000.
A seven-year-old was nearly ensured for $1,000,000! The contract also had a few other stipulations. They were that Temple couldn’t bear arms during the war. The other was that she couldn’t become hurt while intoxicated.
Her First On-Screen Kiss
We mentioned early about how everyone couldn’t resist kissing young Temple. Well, what about her first on-screen kiss? Her kiss unsettled many when it happened in Miss Annie Rooney, probably because she was only 14.
Dickie Moore is the actor who planted the smooch on young Temple. She played a modest girl who falls in love with a richer guy. It wasn’t a kiss you give to the love of your life; it was merely a kiss on the cheek.
At Least He Admitted It
The hopeless romantic in Temple stayed in her forever and didn’t fade because someone didn’t know who she was. Her second husband Charles Black told her that he didn’t watch a single film of Temples. She was too busy being in love to mind.
She even went on to say how she fell in love instantly with him. “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.” We’re sure she didn’t mind his oblivious ways.
Changing Her Age
The unique thing about Temple was her youthful appearance. To preserve this, 20th Century Fox went to extreme measures. The studio ended up taking the young Temple’s birth certificate when she was only six.
What they did was highly astounding. Fox shaved one year off her birth certificate. When Temple grew to age 13, she finally found out the truth. “When I was 14, I was the oldest I ever was … I’ve been getting younger ever since,” Temple said.
Fundraising For Multiple Sclerosis Society
When you’re a romantic, your heart is enormous automatically. For Temple, she had a big heart for her brother, George F. Temple. He had had multiple sclerosis, so she decided to champion awareness and fundraising for the troublesome disease.
In no time at all, she had become president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society! She didn’t stop there, however. Temple also went on and co-founded the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies. She had such a big heart.
She Called Herself A Dog
Shirley Temple is arguably top five as far as child stars go. But when you ask her, she likes to remain a little more modest about it. In fact, she compared herself to a dog in an interview once. At least the dog was a famous one.
“I class myself with Rin Tin Tin,” Temple said. “At the end of the Depression, people were perhaps looking for something to cheer themselves up. They fell in love with a dog and a little girl. It won’t happen again.”
Margaret O’Brien Reacts To Temple’s Death
Following the passing of Temple, various stars reacted to her passing. One of them was Margaret O’Brien. She was another child star coming up around the same time as Temple.
“Although there were periods of time that we would not be able to speak, we exchanged Christmas cards every year and tried to keep in touch,” said O’Brien. She then went on and said it hit her hard that Temple won’t be around to give her advice anymore.
A Line Of Dolls
A company called Ideal Toy Corporation applied for a patent on Shirley Temple dolls in 1934. The new collectible was announced in a retail industry publication called Playthings. The most popular version, made of a composite of glue and sawdust, is one that was created when Temple was still a huge star.
Later versions were made of vinyl and porcelain. The vinyl dolls stand up to three feet tall and are known to collectors as “playpals.” Mint-condition dolls in their original packaging can fetch up to $1,000 to $2,000, but they are difficult to find in such good shape.
The Autobiography: “Child Star”
Shirley Temple-Black released an autobiography in 1988. Titled Child Star, the book discusses her early life and relationship with her parents, entering show business, and her marriages. It ends in 1954, so it doesn’t include anything about Temple-Black’s career as a diplomat.
The Washington Post gave the book a lukewarm review: “[Temple-Black] worked hard at being one as she worked hard at her acting, and she is still doing it, which makes this book a cheerful, beguiling work, but not a very revealing one.”
She Survived An Assassination Attempt
During a live radio performance of “Silent Night” in 1939, a deranged woman tried to assassinate Shirley Temple. The would-be killer believed that Temple had stolen her daughter’s soul, because she (Temple) was born in the same hour that the girl had died.
Oddly, Temple later wrote of the incident, “The tale seemed understandable to me.” As Matt Weinstock later observed in a New Yorker article, it’s difficult to imagine a modern child star enduring an attempt on their life with such a calm and sympathetic response.
Shirley Temple got her very own radio series from March 4 to August 26, 1942. Airing on CBS, “Junior Miss” was based on stories written by Sally Benson for the New Yorker.
The program was sponsored by Procter & Gamble and aired on Wednesday evenings, with a production cost of $12,000 per week. There were later versions of the show, starring other actresses, as well as a television program in 1957.
There Were Some Box-Office Flops
Even Shirley Temple experienced some lows in her professional career. She starred in two box-office flops, both with Twentieth Century Fox and both in 1940. The first, called The Blue Bird, was a fantasy film response to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. Although it didn’t perform well at the box office, The Blue Bird received two Academy Award nominations.
Young People was a musical drama. As Temple’s contract with Twentieth Century Fox had already ended when the film was released, many people believed it would be her last movie. Her performance received good reviews although box-office results were disappointing.
She Was A Source Of Comfort To Anne Frank
Shirley Temple was born just a year before Anne Frank, who saw the movie star as a source of comfort as she and her family hid from Nazis during World War II.
In a touching obituary for Temple that was published in the Orange County Register, Peter Larsen had this to say: “Anne Frank, when she retreated to her family’s hiding place, put up pictures of Shirley Temple and said it made her room look much more cheerful.”
Shirley Temple Worked With Ronald Reagan In Movies
Well before their time working together in politics, Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan starred in a film together. 1947’s That Hagen Girl featured Temple as a small-town teenager who is rumored to be the illegitimate daughter of a prominent former resident, played by Reagan.
The rumors aren’t true, and in the end the two fall in love and are last seen boarding a train together, possibly to get married. That Hagen Girl was not well received among critics.
Black Helped Her Musician Daughter Lori Quit Heroin
Shirley Temple Black’s daughter Lori, sometimes known by the stage name Lorax, is a musician and photographer. She played bass for punk bands, including Clown Alley and the Melvins, for years. Lori is pictured above (right) with the Melvins in a photo dated 1991.
While touring with the bands, she became addicted to heroin — which her mother helped her quit. After she was clean, Lori quit the music scene and became a photographer.
She Hosted A Show Called “Shirley Temple’s Storybook“
From January 12, 1958 to December 21, 1958, Temple hosted and narrated a children’s series called Shirley Temple’s Storybook. The television show featured family-friendly stories such as Mother Goose. Temple’s three children each appeared on the show, in the last episode of the first season.
Temple once fired a stagehand for using a curse word while he worked, although no children were present at the time. The rest of the cast was stunned by the move.
Bill Clinton’s High Praise For Shirley Temple Black
In 1998, then-president Bill Clinton paid tribute to Shirley Temple Black at the Kennedy Center Honors. He had this to say: “Shirley Temple had the greatest short career in movie history and then gracefully retired to, as we all know, the far less strenuous life of public service.”
Clinton continued, “In fact, she has to be the only person who both saved an entire movie studio from failure and contributed to the fall of communism. From her childhood to the present day, Shirley has always been an ambassador for what is best about America.” Above, Black is pictured sitting nearest first lady Hillary Clinton.