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From child movie prodigy to White House chief of protocol

From child movie prodigy to White House chief of protocol

He was the first child star in Hollywood and in the world. Shirley Temple (1928-2014) mpaved the way for child prodigies of cinema that came later. Her case is almost unique, since despite the fact that her acting career ended when she reached adolescence, Shirley knew how to reinvent herself and, as an adult, she changed course and dedicated herself to politics.

His mother Gertrude was a frustrated dancer who charted his destiny for him even before he was born. since long before getting pregnant, I dreamed of having a a girl who would achieve the success that she had not been able to obtain. This is how his love for music infected him since he was a baby and he achieved his mission: at one year of age, little Shirley walked, and at both of them, she tried her first dance steps.

Her precociousness and sympathy were enough for a talent scout to choose her for filming a couple of short films, with just three years. That was the beginning of his career as a Hollywood star, but at a cost that, years later, would expose the perversity of the big movie studios.

Shirley Temple - She Had Her First Film Deal At Age Three.  Photo: Ap

Shirley Temple – She had her first film deal at age three. Photo: AP

Exploitation system

With the fashion of child actors on the rise, who were between three and five years old, Shirley also had to work under a system of exploitation that I did not hesitate to sit the little ones in a large ice cube if they didn’t do their scenes well.

“It did not cause me psychological damage for life,” Shirley Temple recounted years later in her autobiography Child Star. In addition to various colds and otitis, the actress claimed that this “training” had instilled discipline in her and had stuck her head in the show business.

Before she turned ten, Shirley had already made about 30 movies, almost all a box office success, so much so that the 20th Century-Fox studio managed to recover from bankruptcy thanks to the little girl with the eternal curlers. In the midst of the 1930s depression in America, a cute figure like Shirley’s was a burst of hope.

To learn her texts, her mother read them to her every night, while doing her famous loops. They say they were 56 curls in hair that, at that age, was already dyed to have a lighter shade than her original hair.

Shirley Temple: Hollywood'S Highest Grossing During The 1930S.

Shirley Temple: Hollywood’s highest grossing during the 1930s.

They gave the girls their name

Her fame was so impressive that for several years, the name Shirley was the preferred name to enroll girls who were born in the United States, and they dressed and styled them like the little star.

Too a doll was made with his image and there was even someone who invented the Shirley Temple cocktail, without alcohol. What would be an influencer todaybut from a black and white movie screen.

The fanaticism for the child prodigy was such that the letters of her admirers throughout the country reached her by the hundreds a day, as well as gifts and souvenirs. When he celebrated his sixth birthday, he received 167,000 presents that, immediately, were donated to charities.

In her autobiography, Temple also recounted that her childhood friends were not children her age but celebrities such as Gary Cooper and Orson Welles, then partners in film studies. But also, she was the favorite of all those who worked behind the scenes who constantly pampered her.

Shirley Temple, A Movie Life.  Photo: Ap

Shirley Temple, a movie life. Photo: AP

Her life as a child star was quite exhausting. In the midst of that reality so different from that of the rest of the boys of his age, Instead of going to school, Shirley went to a movie set where it moved like a fish in water.

Differences with the rest

A few years later, he also realized, for the first time, the injustices of real life when she found out that her regular cast partner, actor Bill Robinson, during a live performance in another city, had been accommodated in a common room, along with the crew, while she was in a suite. And that’s because Robinson was black.

In her pre-teens, when she turned 11, 20th Century-Fox, the production company she had saved from ruin, canceled her contract. Shirley was growing up and She was no longer the mischievous babe who won the sympathy of the whole worldOr, that is, it was no longer a business.

However, contrary to what has happened throughout history with other children who start working in childhood and do not find space in their adult lives to continue their careers, Shirley was not too disturbed by the change. Temple concentrated on going to school and, thinking with the same precociousness that characterized her, that what followed was to marry.

Before Her Tenth Birthday, Shirley Temple Had Made 30 Movies.  Photo: Ap

Before her tenth birthday, Shirley Temple had made 30 movies. Photo: AP

“I wanted to be the first girl in my class to get married,” she confessed in her memoirs. And before she was 18, she did, and married actor John Agar. With his fame still fresh, the party was an overflow of fans, with destruction and scandal.

A lie revealed

At that moment, something revealing also happened for the actress. With the documents in hand, necessary to celebrate her wedding, Shirley realized that both her mother and 20th Century-Fox, they had lied to him about his age and she was actually two years older than her fans and herself believed.

The attempt to resume her career, already as a young adult, did not have the same effect on the public and before the box office failure of a couple of films, Temple she preferred to dedicate herself to her new life as a wife and a housewife.

However, his married life had some setbacks and at age 22, he divorced Hagar. A year later, she remarried, with Charlie Black, who was her husband until his death, 55 years later. Since then she called herself Shirley Temple Black.

Shirley Temple.  From Child Prodigy To Chief Of Protocol In The White House.  Photo: Reuters

Shirley Temple. From child prodigy to chief of protocol in the White House. Photo: REUTERS


All the work accumulated during her childhood star years had paid off financially, but her family was not a good steward, and of the three million dollars earned over a decade, Shirley sHe only had fifty thousand dollars in his bank account.

However, Temple was not put off by that, more focused on raising a family, her obsession at the time. With a daughter from her previous marriage, the actress had two other children with Black and it was at this time that, in a complete turnaround in her life, became interested in politics.

Thus, in the late 1960s, he joined the ranks of the Republican Party, in the campaign for the future president. Richard Nixon. Years later, he appointed her to a position as a delegate to the United Nations.

Shirley Temple With President Richard Nixon.

Shirley Temple with President Richard Nixon.

Following a cancer diagnosis in the 1970s, had to have a mastectomy and decided to speak publicly on the subject, something unpublished until then. Once recovered, she resumed her political activity as a diplomat and then became the first woman to be appointed White House Chief of Protocol.

In 2014, at the age of 85, died at her home in California, accompanied by her family. “If I could choose, I would reincarnate as Shirley Temple Black,” he had stated shortly before. “I can’t imagine a more interesting life.”


Reference from clarin