Shirley Temple's
Childhood
 
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Shirley Temple Black is an American motion-picture actress, considered among the most successful child stars in the history of film, she was born Shirley Jane Temple in Santa Monica, California. Shirley’s mother, Gertrude, tried to influence her life by association with art, music, and natural beauty before she was born and said in 1934: “Perhaps this prenatal preparation helped make Shirley what she is.” When Shirley was born the family owned a one story house and had two sons Jack (12) and George Jr. (7). Mrs. Temple really wanted a girl this time, and Shirley's father George (a banker) at the advice of his doctor had his tonsils out so he would have a girl! Shirley was enrolled in the Meglin Dance Studio at the age of three. She loved what she was doing and learned the steps well and effortlessly.
Charles Lamont, a director from Educational Studios visited the “Meglin Kiddies” and chose Shirley hiding under the piano for a part in a movie that the studio was about to make. Shirley Temple made her film debut at the age of three in a series of Baby Bulesks, takeoffs on adult movies and stars. In 1933, the Fox Film Corporation chose Shirley from among almost two hundred applicants, and she was featured in Stand Up and Cheer (early 1934). At age six Shirley, had a seven year contract and $150 a week. The Temples and the studio conspired to subtract a year from Shirley’s age to make her seem more precocious than she was, and a fake birth certificate was issued for April 23, 1929. It was when Shirley was actually thirteen that she really found out how old she was. Shirley became “The World’s Darling” on the screen and was copied into doll form by the Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation.
In late 1934 her contract was raised to $1,250 a week. The contract called for Shirley to be barred from the studio’s commissary to prevent her from being “petted and pampered.” A ten-room bungalow was converted into a playhouse for Shirley. The Temples had a clause in the contract that if they felt her screen work was changing her personality and keeping her from a normal girlhood they could retire their daughter. Fox cooperated for the good of its gold mine. Shirley was instructed by a private teacher Miss Frances Klampt (“Klammie”), who oversaw that the proper hours of school set by law were fulfilled and that Shirley had appropriate daily working conditions.
Known for her blonde ringlets and her appealing lisp, and recognized for her ability to sing and tap-dance, Temple became a celebrity in 1934, when she starred in the films: Now and Forever (at Paramount), Little Miss Marker (at Paramount), Baby Take a Bow, and Bright Eyes. At the end of that year she was given a special Academy Award "in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution." She put her handprints and footprints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood on March 14, 1935 after the premier of "The Little Colonel." Shirley thought fast and removed her shoes, playing with her bare feet in the cement, since she was losing a tooth. This would take away attention from her face. She signed her cement block "Love to you all Shirley Temple." She used the word "Love" in her signatures. It is reported that she "loved everybody", but it would be hard for her to sign, "your friend", since she did not know those she was writing to.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Temple was celebrated by an adoring public. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck increased budgets on her films and gave her strong supporting casts. She was a sophisticated performer who often seemed more mature than the adults around her, Temple had no difficulty upstaging her experienced costars, among them such veteran performers as Lionel Barrymore, Adolph Menjou, Sidney Blackmer, Alice Faye, Robert Young, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Durante, and C. Aubrey Smith. Among the films Temple made for Fox Film Corporation in the 1930s were The Little Colonel, Curly Top, and The Littlest Rebel, in 1935; Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples, and Stowaway, in 1936; Wee Willie Winkie and Heidi, in 1937; Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Little Miss Broadway, in 1938; and The Little Princess and Susannah of the Mounties, in 1939. At the height of her popularity, from 1935 to 1938, Temple was the biggest box-office attraction in Hollywood, and the large gross revenues from her films helped to make Fox a major film studio.
Mrs. Temple devoted all of her time to Shirley and never left her side. She managed her, kept her unspoiled and her golden curls perfect. The sausage curls were originally developed because of Shirley's hair natural tendency to frizz. Mrs. Temple set her daughter's hair faithfully each night in 56 curls. Gertrude Temple taught her daughter to always “sparkle” (code word for concentrate real hard) when in front of the camera. Shirley had a very regular schedule, awaking at seven then going over her lines for 45 minutes in bed. She ate breakfast, and arrived at the studio at 9:00 AM. She had school lessons between scenes in the morning and for several hours in the afternoon. Shirley's diet was prepared by a baby specialist, Dr. Russell Sands, it included spinach on four of the seven days. Her biggest meal of the day was at lunch. She had a good supper, played in the evening and rehearsed with her mother for the next day. The bright, cheerful, and optimistic Shirley that fans saw on the screen was the way she was in real life as well. Writer Vincent Mahoney described Shirley: "She shows a certain impish sophistication, but it can just as easily be diagnosed as the natural fiendishness of an intelligent and healthy child." Her friends were selected from neighbors and contemporaries with their parents being requested not to take them to Shirley's movies so they did not get the idea she was something special. Her stand in was Mary Lou Islieb, a neighbor and the daughter of a branch bank manager who had worked with Mr. Temple.
Fox studio insured her for $25,000 liability with Lloyds of London, a British firm, since United States companies refused. The policy specified she would not fly in an airplane or go to a war area. In January 1936, "Screen Play" magazine published her IQ as 155, bright but not a prodigy. It was estimated that Shirley's annual net salary, after taxes, from salary and endorsements was $100,000, but it was reported she received a personal allowance of $4.25 per week.
She posed for about 20 photographs a day, for fan and publicity requests, which took about an hour. Shirley was very patient. Fox, at one point, had up to 10 secretaries to handle the 10,000 letters per week coming in. She posed for various national, social, civic and community groups to publicize national holidays and to advertise her movies and promote articles bearing her name. Mrs. Temple insisted on quality for the little girls' dresses made by the Cinderella and Nanette children's dress manufacturers which bore her name. Every dress had to be modeled by Shirley. The dresses were quite expensive and were most often saved for special occasions. Whatever she did or wore or endorsed was coveted. There were paper dolls, books, sheet music, greeting cards, stationery, notebooks, and slates which used Shirley Temple designs. Many children tried to imitate her , so the vocabulary she used in her movies was heavily scrutinized.
As time went by reviewers became more critical of her films yet still praised her talents. They felt she should not be the whole show and the plots should be more than a showcase for her song and dance routines. After "Young People" (1940) her Fox contract was terminated by mutual consent.