The private school that Shirley’s mother enrolled her 2-year-old daughter in was called Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio. It was located in Los Angeles and cost 50 cents per week, which she obviously considered a good investment.
One day in 1932, a talent agent from Educational Films Corporation saw the toddler’s ability and offered a part in “Baby Burlesks.” It was not the best experience, but it launched her meteoric career.
Depression Era Cash Cow
Can you believe Shirley Temple was so famous that she was photographed more than FDR? She was such a hit with Americans that she saved Fox studios from going under. In 1933 the studio signed her for what would be her breakout film, “Stand Up and Cheer!”
Her success at Fox, which was nearly bankrupt at the time, facilitated the merge with 20th Century Pictures, saving the studio. Now called 20th Century Fox, the new studio would capitalize on the sensation of the little miracle girl.
Shirley Temple made an appearance at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on March 14, 1935. Smiling for the cameras, she pressed her hand and footprints into the wet concrete officially marking her stardom. She was the youngest Hollywood star ever to leave her prints in the rotunda at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
She was so young, that she needed help writing her name into the concrete next to her handprints. It says, “Love to you ALL,” and her name plus the date.
A Year Younger
A backroom conspiracy led by Shirley’s mother Gertrude and the studio to hide the young actresses' age began at age five. Instead of saying she was five, they said she was a four-year-old. Other efforts to mask the child’s age included keeping her skirts shorter to expose her chubby toddler legs.
Later, as a 12-year-old, though she was thought to be 11, MGM bound her chest to hide her teenage development. It was only a matter of time before it became impossible to hide her body away.
Shirley Temple had a $150 per week contract with Fox but the studio allowed her to go over to Paramount, for a fee, of course, to make a movie. This movie happened to be “Bright Eyes,” one of her most legendary films. It brought the world her enduring song, “The Good Ship Lollipop,” a syrupy-sweet catchy tune.
Shirley was 6 years old when she played an orphan in that movie and it set the scene for many other films in which she played an orphan. “Bright Eyes” made her the highest-paid star in Hollywood from 1935 to 1938.