Updated: Tue, 23 Apr 2013 08:45:00 GMT | By Maureen O'Hare
Birthday Special: Shirley Temple

Hollywood's original child star



Shirley Temple, child star (© Rex Features)
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  • Shirley Temple (© Rex Features)
  • Shirley Temple, child star (© Rex Features)
  • Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple doll (© Rex Features)
  • Shirley Temple (© Moviestore Collection/Rex Features)
  • Marriage of John Agar and Shirley Temple (© Rex Features)
  • Shirley Temple and Charles Alden Black (© AP)
  • Shirley Temple and family (© AP)
  • Shirley Temple with Shirley Temple dolls, 1958 (© AP)
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Before Macauley Culkin, before Judy Garland and before Drew Barrymore, there was Shirley Temple - the first cherub-faced child star to take Hollywood by storm and capture hearts around the world. Born 23 April 1928 in Santa Monica, California, the infant Shirley's singing, dancing and acting habits were encouraged by her mother Gertrude. By the age of three, Shirley was enrolled in Dance School and her mother had begun styling her hair in ringlets similar to those of silent film star Mary Pickford. Temple began her film career in 1932, hit the big time in 1934 with the movie Bright Eyes, received the very first Juvenile Academy Award in 1935, and from 1935 to 1938 was the top box-office draw four years running in a Motion Picture Herald poll.

Temple's films, often sentimental comedy-dramas in which she played a loveable, parentless waif, were perceived as generating optimism and cheer in Depression-hit '30s America. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."

However, not everyone was a fan. In 1937, the renowned writer Graham Greene wrote in a British magazine that the nine-year-old Temple was a "complete totsy".

"Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body [...] only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire".

Temple and Twentieth Century-Fox sued for libel and won.

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