Shirley Temple: five things you didn't know about child star

Feb 11, 2014

It wasn't all curls and lollipops: actress was flashed by a producer and nearly murdered on stage

THE former child actress Shirley Temple has died at the age of 85. The Wee Willie Winkie star, famous for her golden corkscrew curls, died of natural causes at her home in California. Temple was the number one box-office draw in America and Britain between 1935 and 1938 and is often remembered for singing On the Good Ship Lollipop in the 1934 movie Bright Eyes. But here are five facts about the actress that are not so well known:

She was nearly Dorothy Gale

The lead role in The Wizard of Oz propelled Judy Garland to fame in 1939, but it nearly went to Temple. She apparently lost the part after Twentieth Century Fox refused to loan her to MGM. However, in her 1988 memoir Child Star, Temple claims that one of the film's producers told her to "lose the baby fat" and exposed himself to her during their first meeting together. "Being 12 years old, the only naked person I had ever seen was me," she said, adding that she thought he looked so funny that she began to laugh. According to the LA Times, the enraged producer ordered her out of his office.

She was nearly shot on stage

The FBI were apparently called in numerous times to investigate death and extortion threats against Temple. Her closest run-in was during a live radio broadcast with the singer Nelson Eddy when she was ten years old. After a strange woman was spotted peering through her dressing room window, the police were called, who in turn called the FBI. As Temple sang Some Day You'll Find Your Blue Bird on stage, she noticed men in suits coming down the aisles. The woman from the window was in the front row and had managed to point a gun at the actress just before the FBI agents stepped in.

She backed the Vietnam War

After giving up her Hollywood career, Temple became active in the Republican Party. In 1967, upon the death of a California congressman, she ran in a special election for the vacant seat, advocating an escalation of the Vietnam War. She lost, but when Richard Nixon was elected the following year, he appointed her the US delegate to the United Nations. She was later appointed US ambassador to Ghana, from 1974 to 1976, and became the first female Chief of Protocol of the US.

She didn't believe in Santa Claus

Temple stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was six, when her mother took her to a department store to meet Father Christmas and he asked for her autograph. Nevertheless, Temple herself became a symbol of hope for America. During the Great Depression, President Franklin D Roosevelt famously said: "As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right." Even the young British princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, were said to be avid Temple fans.

She didn't want to become a cocktail

Restaurants have long been serving the sweet pink non-alcoholic 'Shirley Temple', but the actress took umbrage at drink manufacturers using her name. The cocktail – made with lemon-lime soda, grenadine syrup and a maraschino cherry – was invented in the 1930s in honour of the star, although where it was first made is still disputed. When manufacturers later tried to bottle the soft drink and use Temple's name, she retaliated with legal action. "I will fight it like a tigress," she told the New York Times. "All a celebrity has is their name."

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