Thrust into the spotlight at a young age, Shirley Temple performed like she had been in front of the camera for years. At just 3 years old, she became a bonafide star, thanks to her mom, Gertrude Temple, who recognized her talent very early on. Shirley remains one of the most celebrated and respected actresses of all time, even after her death in 2014.
Shirley, born in 1928, began taking dance classes and practicing her singing as a toddler. Gertrude encouraged Shirley to showcase her skills, bringing her to auditions and helping her score her first roles in Educational Pictures’ short films when she was 3. The pair would run lines before bed each night to make sure the young star was always prepared.
“I was allowed to be a baby for about two years,” Shirley said in her book, Shirley Temple: American Princess, written by biographer Anne Edwards. “So I had a couple of years as a lazy baby. I thought every child worked because I was born into it.”
At just 5 years old, the California native signed a contract with Fox Film Corporation. The studio merged with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, with Shirley leading the roster of talent that gave people hope during a difficult time in U.S. history. It was only just the beginning of a lifetime of success from acting, to singing, to modeling and later, politics.
“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!” Marilyn Granas, Shirley’s childhood friend told Closer in January 2016. “She was extremely bright and very, very talented.”
In her 1988 autobiography, Child Star, Shirley revealed that not all sides of being a young actress were glamorous.
“Being a starlet was difficult, and I was a starlet from 3 and a half to 5 years of age,” she wrote. “When any of us misbehaved, we were sent one by one into the black box to cool off. [I was] in the dark with the door closed. I got a lot of earaches, styes, a lot of problems from it. The lesson was time is money. And it’s work, not play.”
Keep scrolling to learn more about Shirley’s life before, during and after finding fame.
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