Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Temple Tuesday: 96th Birthday Bonanza!

Today marks the 96th “Heavenly Birthday” for Shirley Temple Black, actress, diplomat, wife, mother, and author. One of the most infamous tales about Shirley was how her movie studio, Fox, got her mother to agree to shave a year off of her birthdate to make her antics appear all the more precocious. Above, you can see her original Santa Monica Hospital birth certificate, with the true year of 1928. Below is a shot of Shirley at age one.

For the earliest deep dark secrets about Shirley, look no further than this Important Event card, diligently recorded by her mother, Gertrude:

Gertrude also charted Shirley’s growth progress:

Shirley’s studio birthday parties at Fox were legendary. Here’s the first one, from April 1934. Is that little boy on the right actually using a toothpick while the camera is snapping his photo? Such poor manners - bet he wasn’t invited back again!

By the time of her 1936 birthday, Shirley looks a little bored with it all, despite the spectacular cake! Shirley would later recall:

Fox would have (a party) for a large number of people I didn’t know, a lot of children I’d never seen in my life and never saw again. And I was hostess. It was kind of strange. I figured it was part of the job. Fox would pay h alf the cost of the parties and my mother and father - or I - would pay the other half. Why I had to pay for the parties at all is a mystery, but that’s how it went. And there’d be two hundred kids, maybe more. I thought those parties were a big bore.

Shirley’s first stand-in, Marilyn Granas, had this recollection about the parties:

They always had lovely food and lovely prizes. Everybody got a favor and I remember one of the favors was a beautiful leather autograph book that Shirley had autographed. I’ve still got mine.

Shirley’s last studio birthday at Fox was held during the filming of “Young People.” Stand-in Mary Lou Isleib is two over from Shirley’s left.

For 1940, Shirley got not one, but TWO incredible birthday cakes! That’s what happens when you’re the most beloved child star of all time. The shot below was from her party at the studio commissary, which had a Dutch theme. Dickie Moore, Shirley’s first on-screen kisser in “Miss Annie Rooney” (1942), recalled this birthday celebration in his autobiography,  Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

The day of Shirley’s party all guests parked their cars in the main parking lot and were met by buses and driven to the commissary. There Shirley stood at the head of a long reception line, gravely shaking hands with all arrivals, telling each of us how glad she was we had come, and thanking us for the presents we had brought, which were passed along to join the growing mountain of unopened packages, most of which were later sent to an orphanage. Everyone ate cake, while mothers tried to get Hymie Fink to take their children’s pictures. There were many party favors, including a pen with a magnifying glass on one end and Shirley’s name inscribed on it.

If you’re wondering about the art on the wall, here’s a closeup:

By 1944, Shirley was working for Producer David O. Selznick. Her sweet sixteen birthday party was attended by her costars from “I’ll Be Seeing You.” L-R: Dorothy Mann, Tom Tully, stand-in Mary Lou Isleib, Guy Madison, Shirley, and John Derek.

In 1946, Shirley turned eighteen and celebrated the milestone birthday on the set of “Honeymoon” with then husband, John Agar.

Shirley’s last movie-birthday party was held during the filming of “The Story of Seabiscuit” (1949). At left is co-star Barry Fitzgerald, Director David Butler, Shirley, and John Agar.

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.


Fifthrider said...

I'm pretty sure that little boy with a toothpick was Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. Since he was born in 1927 that would make him about 7 in that 1934 picture. He's hard to spot without the Alfalfa hair spike, but those freckles are a giveaway. Chewing the toothpick just screams "looking for a fight" and by age 31, he'd find one.

Steven Derby said...

Dave, I thought you might enjoy this little history from the golden age of California in the 40's, a bit about my dad's youth & a little SHIRLEY TEMPLE story. My dad Tom had a charmed childhood and grew up in a modest home in Beverly Hills. He and his siblings attended Bevery Hills Catholic, now Good Shepherd Elementary School, could have attended Beverly Hill High but were all sent to St. Monica's High School. They knew & rubbed elbows with some famous people like the Crosby's and Loretta Young and her sisters. My dad and uncle Bill knew the young Roddy McDowall and would work on their stamp collections at Roddy's home or at my grandparent's home, working on the same dining table that I have to this day. My aunt Barbara was in class with the Crosby twins and attended birthday, tennis and pool parties at the Crosby estate. My aunt Eileen was in class with Robert Wagner. My uncle Bill dated Loretta Youngs sister, Georgiana. My dad dated June Haver's sister, Evelyn. They knew the sweet girl Betty Lynn, (later Thelma Lou, Barney's girlfriend from the Andy Griffith) from church.

In around 1944 my dad and one of his guy friends attended a young people's dance held in the beautiful Ballroom of the Riviera Country Club. They were hoping to meet some young ladies there and enjoy the night dancing. On arriving, they were surprised to see Shirley Temple, standing to the side by herself. Dad who was not shy, walked over with his friend to introduce themselves and chat. I guess the talking went on for some time, both boys a little unsure (and chicken) to ask Shirley to dance. Shirley, I guess impatient to be asked, finally said to dad, "would you like to dance"? He was a good dancer & said, "yes I would"! They had a couple of dances together. Dad said in talking to Shirley, that she was one of sweetest girls he had ever talked to. Dancing with Shirley, it was a wonderful & memorable evening for him!

PS, When I attended College, I was blessed to work as a store clerk on Main Street in Disneyland for 4 years in the early 70's. Loved each day going to the Park & wearing my Main Street costume. I always thought of the cast members there as the best of the best. I applied, unsure if I would get the job but happily, I was accepted & did my couple of weeks at Disneyland University before walking On Stage. They were the happiest years of my life!

Steven Derby

Daveland said...

Hi Steven - Thanks for your memories! Please email me at dvdpicasso@aol.com

rita-d said...

Sorry it's taken so long to post this comment! The little boy on the right who picked that unfortunate moment to perform some oral hygiene at Shirley's 1934 birthday bash is Pat McCall, nephew of journalist Peggy McCall. Pat had a monthly column in Childen's Play Mate Magazine, "Adventures in Movie-Land", with stories "told" to his aunt. Peggy was a publicist for Fox as well as a freelance writer for Play Mate and other magazines, according to IMDb. Shirley's party was featured in the September 1934 Play Mate issue, using the same pic and identifying Pat as the boy on the right. All of the guests were the children of Hollywood writers. Pat goes into great detail describing the party, including the event's photographer, "Max" (Max Munn Autrey) and that the favors were beach balls and autographed photos. The story features another pic of Shirley with the ventriloquist who entertained the kids; I've been trying to identify him for awhile—he had a dummy named Jerry, but it's not a young Paul Winchell. Of course, you may have discovered this already. Love the birthday bonanza!

Daveland said...

No apologies necessary, Rita - thanks for all the great info!!