Becky R. and her daughter Jane M. presented a fantastic program about Shirley Temple and dolls that were inspired by her. Becky R. brought her comprehensive collection of Shirley Temple dolls and memorabilia that she had collected beginning in childhood and throughout her adult life. Becky was a child during the depression, and was a avid fan of Shirley Temple and her movies since the 1930’s. Jane served as the speaker for this program, sharing information gleaned from her mom Becky and Shirley Temple’s autobiography. Shirley Temple passed away in February, 2014, and this program is a tribute to her.
Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928. She grew up in Santa Monica, California. At age three, her mother enrolled her in dance classes. In 1931, talent scouts visited that dance studio looking for children to star in movie shorts. Shirley’s talents were recognized and she was tapped to star in “Baby Burlesks,” copies of adult films re-made with toddlers as stars. Shirley Temple’s first film was titled “Runt Page”. Her mother always made sure that Shirley had 56 curls in her hair and helped Shirley learn her lines. “Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle!” was her mother’s famous prompt.
In 1933, Shirley signed a contract with 20th Century Fox at a salary of $150 per week. Her profitability saved the studio. In 1934, Shirley was loaned to Paramount Studio for the film “Little Miss Marker” which made her a bona fide star. Shirley was the first child star to receive the special Juvenile Academy Award in 1935. She was the nation’s favorite movie star from 1934 to 1937. In 1938, Shirley’s $10,000 weekly income was the seventh highest in the U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt said “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be alright.”
Shirley’s favorite actor and dancing partner was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Their film appearances together helped move integration forward. When the two danced together holding hands, the clips were cut from the movie shown in the South.
Shirley’s last movie with 20th Century Fox was “The Bluebird”, released in 1940. The movie did not do well at the box office, so the studio dropped her contract. Shirley did a few more films as a teenager, including “Since You Went Away”, “The Bachelor and the Bobbie Soxer”, and “Fort Apache”.
Against her parents’ wishes, Shirley got married at the age of 17 to John Agar. The couple had one daughter. The marriage was not a good one for Shirley. Her husband was a drinker and a womanizer. They were divorced after four years, with Shirley getting custody of their child.
A year later, Shirley met Charles Alden Black. They married in 1950 and had two children together. Their marriage lasted a happy 55 years until Charles passed away.
At age 22, Shirley was supposed to her film earnings put in trust for her. However, only $40,000 of the 3 million she had earned was left in the trust. But Shirley wasn’t upset. She valued her experiences as a child star and maintained her positive attitude.
During the 1960’s Shirley began her notable career in public service. She was appointed to the United Nations General Assembly by Richard Nixon. She later became an ambassador to Ghana, Chief of Protocol for the United States, and an Ambassador to the Czechoslovakia .
When Shirley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, she made it public. She was one of the very first to speak of her cancer openly which led to increased breast cancer awareness and the importance of early detection.
Shirley Temple published her autobiography, Child Star: An Autobiography in 1988. In this fascinating interview with Larry King, she talks about her book and her life.
On February 10, 2014, Shirley Temple died at age 85 of natural causes in her Woodside, California home surrounded by family and friends.
Becky’s extensive collection of Shirley Temple dolls, promotional items, and memorabilia is truly amazing! She has a wide range of dolls from several makers, along with excellent examples of Shirley Temple merchandise. Becky’s personal scrapbooks that she made as a child are filled with clippings about Shirley and document her life. Becky designed a cloth version of Shirley Temple and wrote a story about her, “Shirley Ten Dimples”, which Jane read aloud.
Ideal Toy Company was the first to license the Shirley Temple doll in the 1930’s. There were many other look-alike dolls that were produced for decades. Danbury Mint has also produced series of Shirley Temple Dolls over the years.
Thank you Becky R. and Jane M. for an outstanding program!
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Article and photos by Laura B.