This week (February 25 – March 3) in Hollywood history – Zeppo Marx was born (February 25, 1901); Jack Haley married Florence McFadden ( February 25, 1921); Mary Astor married Kenneth Hawks (February 26, 1928); Shirley Temple singed contract with 20th Century Fox studios (February 27, 1936); Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert win Oscars (February 27, 1935); Ruby Keeler died (February 28, 1993); Gene Tierney divorced Oleg Cassini (February 28, 1952); David Niven was born (March 1, 1910); Gloria Swanson divorced Wallace Beery (March 1, 1919); Charlie Chaplin’s body was stolen (March 2, 1978); D.W. Griffith married Evelyn Baldwin (March 2, 1936); Birth of a Nation premiered in New York City (March 3, 1915); Lou Costello died (March 3, 1959)
Highlighted Story of the Week –
On February 27, 1936, Shirley Temple receives a new contract from 20th Century Fox that will pay the seven-year-old actress $50,000 per film. Temple was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, and began appearing in a series of short films spoofing current movies, called Baby Burlesks, at the age of four. At six, she attracted attention with her complex song-and-dance number “Baby Take a Bow,” performed with James Dunn, in the 1934 movie Stand Up and Cheer. Based on the film’s success, 20th Century Fox signed Temple to a seven-year contract. She would appear in a string of films that year and the next, including Little Miss Marker, Change of Heart, Bright Eyes and Curly Top. By 1938, Temple was the number one box-office draw in America. The public loved her, and she routinely upstaged her adult counterparts on the big screen.
Temple’s career began to fade in her teenage years and in 1950, she retired from movies. That same year she married naval officer Charles Black, changing her name to Shirley Temple Black. (She had been previously married to Jack Agar. In 1967, Temple Black launched a political career, running as the Republican candidate for a congressional seat in San Mateo, California but lost the election. The following year, President Richard Nixon appointed her an ambassador to the United Nations; she worked for the State Department for more than two decades. She was the first woman to ever serve as chief of protocol, a post she held for 11 years under President Gerald R. Ford, and President George H.W. Bush named her ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989. She became a spokeswoman for breast cancer awareness after she discovered a malignant lump in her breast in 1972 and underwent a mastectomy. In 1999, Temple Black received a medal from the Kennedy Center for lifetime achievement to the United States and the world. On February 10, 2014, Temple died at her Woodside, California. Her remains were cremated and given to the family.
Check back every Wednesday for a new installment of “This Week in Hollywood History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Fade to Black Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats.