Shirley Temple’s oldest and closest friend opens up to Closer Weekly in an exclusive interview about what the Hollywood legend’s childhood was really like and shares memories of growing up with her.
Marilyn Granas, Shirley’s closest childhood friend and movie stand-in, tells Closer that Shirley’s mother, Gertrude Temple, started her training at a very young age. “Mrs. Temple told my mother that she started training her when she was still in her crib. Her mother would say, ‘Sparkle, Shirley,’ and she would sparkle!” Indeed that sparkle came naturally, “She was extremely bright and very, very talented,” adds Marilyn.
Gertrude was also rigid about who she deemed a good-enough playmate for her daughter. Marilyn was one of the few children who made her “approved” list, and the girls spent many hours playing with her on the lot.
Shirley with her parents in 1934. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“I did feel sorry for Shirley because her childhood was so unnatural,” admits Marilyn. “She didn’t get to go to public school. She didn’t have a lot of friends or get to do kid things, like ride bikes. On the set, it was exclusively the two of us. We never played with other kids.”
Shirley became a performer at just age three, and while her early years were filled with praise and encouragement, her life was also carefully controlled and heavily orchestrated by her mother, Gertrude. Shirley’s other co-stars and friends also talk to Closer about the mother that devoted her life to building Shirley’s career.
“Her mother did not want anyone cuter or shorter than Shirley in any scene,” says Marilyn Knowlden, a costar in As the Earth Turns. “She was a very strict mom.”
Jane Withers, who played Shirley’s nemesis in Bright Eyes, didn’t win Gertrude’s approval. “I wasn’t allowed to talk to her at all except when we were in scenes together, and that always hurt my feelings,” Jane confides to Closer. “She was always invited to my birthday parties, but she never came.”
Shirley in 2006. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Shirley’s true best friend was her mother, who went over her scripts with her each night. “Shirley had a routine. They went home, she had a bath and dinner and then Mrs. Temple ran lines with her,” says Marilyn.
Whatever their missteps, Gertrude and Shirley’s father, George Temple, did the most important things right for their daughter. “They bathed me in love my whole life,” Shirley once said. Shirley not only achieved a remarkable childhood career, but grew into a levelheaded adult — married for 54 years to her second husband, Charles Black, she raised three children and became a respected international diplomat.
For more from Marilyn, including why Shirley was never able to open her birthday presents, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!