When you mention Shirley Temple you will invariably recall that iconic, perennially smiling, dimpled face wreathed in golden curls. Since she passed on Monday evening, we have been inundated with hagiographic obituaries paying tribute to the child star turned unlikely diplomat. What may forgivably pass by our attention unnoticed is the story of her teenage career.
Like most teens, those few years began with an ending and ended in a beginning. In 1941 Temple’s brief tenure with MGM concluded with the failure of Kathleen. Three years later she signed with David O. Selznick who loaned her out to other studios where she proved her lasting appeal in classics like Fort Apache, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer. Pictured above is a a still from her wartime drama Since You Went Away. Thanks to Michael Dolan for the tip.
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer in particular showcased her new tentative steps towards mature roles as she competed for the affection of Carrie Grant’s titular boxer against a straight faced judge played by Myrna Loy. But ultimately it was the iconography of her face, preserved as a child’s in celluloid, that prevented her from ever really being able to reject her childhood and move on with her film career.
In 1945 she married John Agar, a soldier turned actor. She was only 17 and the marriage collapsed in just a few years in a swirl of rumors about Agar’s drinking. During that time she produced a series of movies for Selznick that went nowhere, blunting her burgeoning teenage star appeal. By 1950 she had retired from the screen altogether, turning her full attention to ventures in branding herself in advertisements and on television before eventually turning to politics later in her adult life.